Changes to the Under Occupation Penalty (Bedroom Tax)

If you have claimed Housing Benefit continuously from before 1 January 1996 and lived at the same address and had your Housing Benefit reduced by the under occupation penalty you may be eligible for more benefit.

New exemptions

The Department of Work and Pensions has announced that an error when drafting the law means that you are exempt from the under occupation penalty if:

  • You have been continuously entitled to Housing Benefit since 1 January 1996 (breaks of four weeks or less are ignored).
  • You have occupied the same dwelling since that date (except for any period where a fire, flood, explosion or natural catastrophe made the property uninhabitable).

Inherited tenancies and inherited protection

A customer who has inherited a tenancy will also inherit this protection on taking over the tenancy from a protected person if:

  • They lived with the protected person at the time the change took place and;
  • They claimed Housing Benefit within four weeks of the change and the claim treated as made from the date of the change; and
  • They were the partner of a person protected at the time and the protected person moved out, died or were imprisoned; or
  • They were a relative of a protected person who has died.  A ‘relative’ is defined as being: a parent, parent in law, step parent, son, son in law, step son, daughter, daughter law, step daughter, brother, sister (or a partner of any of the preceding), grand parent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece.

The Department for Work and Pensions has indicated that the law will be amended so that the ‘under occupation penalty’ can be reapplied to these cases at a future date.

Further help

The council is working closely with social landlords to identify customers affected. Once a customer is identified the Benefits Service will reassess their Housing Benefit and will notify affected customers in writing when their claim has been amended.

Any customers who thinks the under occupation penalty exemption applies to them should talk to their landlord and also contact us.

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