What is the Bedroom Tax?
The bedroom tax is a charge to people who live in social housing if they have spare rooms.
The bedroom tax was brought in to force in April 2013 as part of the Welfare reform Act 2012 under the UK coalition government.
It functions as a ‘spare room subsidy’ removal of 14% of benefits paid if you have one spare room and 25% if you have more than one spare room.
The Bedroom Tax in Scotland
On 7 May 2014, the Scottish Government announced it was lifting the cap on discretionary payments to those affected by the bedroom tax in Scotland.
That means the Scottish Government sets aside money from the Scottish budget specifically to cover the bedroom tax payments of social housing residents in Scotland.
The number of households affected by the bedroom tax in Scotland is more than 70,000.
Bedroom Tax and Disability – Background File
This life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honour, is but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
The New 1996 Bedroom Tax exemption
In a good bit of news anyone who has been a tenant of the same house and getting Housing Benefit since 1996 may now be exempt from the Bedroom Tax. This means you can get any arrears paid off, get back any extra rent you have paid and may be eligible for compensation if you have been forced to move. However this may be short lived as the government are planning to legislate to close this loophole in the law.
1) The basic 2 conditions
If you have (a) lived in the same property since 1 January 1996 or before AND (b) have been in receipt of housing benefit (full or just 1p per week) then meeting these two conditions means you are exempt from the bedroom tax being applied.
This is due to the Consequential Provision Regulations 2006 (CPR2006) which also holds a few variations on the above basic 2 conditions.
2) Inherited the tenancy from your partner?
IF for example your partner was the tenant and they left or died and you succeeded to the tenancy after 1996 then you inherit the same protection from them as they are called the “previous beneficiary.”
NOTE WELL this only applies if they met the basic 2 conditions and you have been in continuous receipt of HB since you succeeded to the tenancy
3) Inherited the tenancy from your parents?
If you lived at the property on 1/1/96 and say your parent or parents died and you succeeded to the tenancy after 1996 then you also can be exempt if your parents met the basic 2 conditions and you have been in continuous receipt of housing benefit since you succeeded to the tenancy
4) If any of the above apply but you have had a single break in the continuous HB receipt of less than 4 weeks.
5) If you met the continuous receipt of HB but have been force to move because the original property became uninhabitable due to a force majeure (Act of God) event such as fire, flood, lightning, avalanche etc.
Those 5 categories appear to me to be the 5 cases the regulations state and note well all are based on the same two conditions namely the continuous receipt of HB since 1 January 1996 AND being in the same property (with force majeure exceptions.)
A Guide to the Bedroom Tax
The changes to the Housing Benefit system, popularly called the Bedroom Tax affects many people with learning disabilities. We have produced a comprehensive guide to the Bedroom Tax and what it means for you.
Legal Discrimination on the Bedroom Tax
On 31 July 2013 the High Court issued its judgement on ten claims involving disabled people who, it was argued, faced discrimination under the bedroom tax because of the amount of space and the number of rooms they realistically needed.
The Court accepted that the bedroom tax in relation to adults was discriminatory, but that this was objectively and reasonably justified and therefore lawful because discretionary payments are available to cover HB losses as a result of the bedroom tax.
Richard Stein, of law firm Leigh Day which is representing some of the families, has announced that they, along with the other lawyers acting on behalf of adults with disabilities, will appeal the judgement.
Lawyers for adults with disabilities today confirmed that they intend to appeal the ruling, arguing that the discriminatory impact of the measure on people with disabilities cannot be justified and is unlawful.
Caught by the Bedroom Tax
The Coalition Government is targeting hundreds of people with learning disabilities through its Bedroom Tax even though it says this is not its intention.
Many people with learning disabilities have their own tenancies and have Housing Association or council landlords but get support from a voluntary organisation unrelated to their house. Where they have a spare room they are not counted in the “supported exempt accommodation” category.
This category is a very limited group. Originally set up to help councils claim more housing benefit for their own projects, few voluntary sector organisation even if they owned the property and provided the care were invited to register in this category. Over the last few months there has been a rush to get eligible tenants and properties included in the books. As late as 29th March some tenants were being told that they were now included and were so excluded from the Housing Benefit reductions.
This has meant that those not covered have been overlooked and most people have thought that “supported exempt accommodation” covered more people than it actually does. A widening of this definition is urgently needed.
Recently members of LDAS went to speak to the Welfare Reform Committee about what this meant. This is Lynda’s story (pictured on right).
“I live in a nice street in the Southside of Glasgow but I was brought up in Lennox Castle, the huge learning disability hospital just outside Glasgow. This has been very hard for me and I have a lot of problems.
For the last 8 years I have lived in a semi detached house with a front and back garden. I have two bedrooms in my house. One used to be for my staff to stay over night but the council has cut my support and now it’s a spare room. I have to pay the Bedroom Tax. I don’t want to move. It’s a nice area and I get on well with my neighbours. They come in to help me when I get upset. And I might need staff at night again in the future.
It would be terrible to lose some of these things that I really enjoy. There have been times when I was never happy. If I do less now, I will be miserable again. I won’t move. I need my house. I know where I am and my neighbours help. ”
No Help for Disabled People on Bedroom Tax
Parliamentary Written Questions
Mr Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he plans to adjust the rules on the under-occupancy penalty to take account of the circumstances of disabled persons. 
Steve Webb: At present there are no plans to adjust the rules relating to the removal of the spare room subsidy.
Concerns relating to disabled tenants, including those whose accommodation has been adapted for their needs has been taken into account. Applying a blanket exemption however is not the most effective or affordable approach as this would not take account of a person’s circumstances.
Accordingly, discretionary housing payments are a far better way of dealing with this as it is more flexible and Local decision makers are better placed to make informed judgements about relative priorities and needs and to target limited resources more effectively.
An extra £25 million has been allocated to the £20 million baseline discretionary housing payment funding to specifically help those who live in specially adapted homes. The baseline funding is however available for other priority groups including those with long-term medical conditions that may create difficulties for those who would normally be expected to share a bedroom.
People living in social housing will be able to claim housing benefit for an extra bedroom if their disabilities are such that they require a non-resident carer (or team of carers) to stay overnight. This measure will however be monitored and evaluated over a two-year period which commenced in April this year. Initial findings will be available in 2014 and the final report in late 2015.