Bedroom Tax

We and Hands Off Our Homes have produced a guide for people at risk of eviction due to the bedroom tax.

There is more information about help you can get with the Bedroom Tax on the Hands Off Our Homes website

You can view our guide by clicking on the link here: Bedroom Tax Help Guide

Alternatively, it is posted in full below.

 

Bedroom Tax – Take Action Now

This leaflet is designed to offer help if you are at risk of eviction due to the Bedroom Tax.

The Bedroom Tax cuts your Housing Benefit because you are working age and are deemed to have an extra room.  This document does not apply to Local Housing Allowance claimants and Private Tenants.

 

What to do

  • Don’t Panic. Keep calm and stay put! You should not have to move.
  • Don’t cut back on food, heating or other essential stuff – your health matters most

 

If a housing officer or other official is telling you that you need to pay, you should do the following:

  • Tell them you can’t pay and why, explain what you would have to do without if you paid (food, heating, etc.)
  • Keep a note of what you and they said.
  • Keep a note of your income and what you spend money on. We don’t think you should have to justify how you spend your income – but it might come in handy later for any legal proceedings. Keep hold of bills and shopping receipts.
  • If you don’t mind moving apply for a mutual swap and/or downsize but don’t feel you need to take a property if you do not want it.
  • If you don’t want to move write to your landlord explaining why (links to family or community, close to school/doctors etc.), keep a copy of this letter

 

Am I going to lose my home?

You may have received letters, visits and phone calls saying that you are in rent arrears and you must pay or risk losing your home. These do not mean you are going to be evicted. It just means they are trying to make you pay.

To have a chance of evicting you from your home, your housing provider must give you a ‘Notice of Seeking Possession’. This is a long (6 page+) legal document. It is a formal document that informs you that your landlord are intending on taking you to Court for possession of their property.

This does not mean you will go to court. You should keep talking to your housing provider and noting down what you and they say.

If you have received a ‘Notice of Seeking Possession’ you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Don’t worry if you think you can’t afford a lawyer, you can still get free help.

Solicitors in Leeds that offer Legal Aid for help with evictions are:

 

Henry Hyams

7 South Parade, Leeds, LS1 5QE

Telephone: 0113 243 2288

 

Lester Morrill Solicitors

27 Park Square West, Leeds, LS1 2PL

Telephone: 0800 015 2331

 

Chadwick Lawrence, Solicitorsonly if your eviction also includes ‘disrepair’

8-16 Dock Street, Bridge End, Leeds, LS10 1LX

Telephone: 0800 015 0340

Telephone: 0113 225 8811

 

Zermansky & Partners

St James House, 28 Park Place, Leeds LS1 2SP

Tel: 0113 2231400

 

What happens if I am told I will have a court hearing?

If you have to go to court to defend your home, you will receive a big envelope from Leeds County Court with a possession claim and notice of a hearing (court appearance).

  • Keep talking to your housing provider explaining why you cannot pay your rent and keep a copy of any communications.
  • Contact a lawyer if you have not already. They can help you.
  • Go to the court hearing – don’t ignore it. If you are unable to find a solicitor by then there will be Duty Solicitors at Court. You should arrive at least 30 min before the hearing time to get to them so they can advise and represent you in court.
  • Get in touch with us – we want to help. We can arrange support in court for you, put pressure on your landlord and have a demo to support you.

 

 

There are also other options …. :

 

Legal Challenges

 

You can avoid the bedroom tax where:

1) You aren’t “under-occupying”.

You are allowed one room for an adult couple, one for anyone aged 16 or over, one for a disabled child (receiving Disability Living Allowance Care Component) and who can’t share a room, one for two children of the same gender aged under 16, and one for two children under 10 regardless of their gender.

Make sure Leeds City Council know the birthdates of your children.  If a child is approaching their 16th birthday, or you have two children of different genders and one is approaching their 10th birthday, you may not have to pay the bedroom tax for much longer.

If you share care with your child, your child is treated as living with the parent who provides the child’s main home.  Where there is a dispute, it may come down to who receives the Child Benefit for that child.  If you want to dispute who should receive the Child Benefit, contact the Child Benefit Helpline on 0300 200 3100.

You are also entitled to a spare room if someone in the property is an approved foster carer.

A member of the Armed Forces who is away on operations should still be treated as living in the home if:

  • they are the son/daughter or step-son/daughter of the claimant or the claimant’s partner, and
  • they were the claimant’s non-dependent before becoming a member of the Armed Forces away on operations, and
  • they intend to return home.

If somebody dies, you are also exempt from the Bedroom Tax for 12 months.

If you or your partner reach pension age, you are also exempt.

Temporary absences can be ignored for up to 13 weeks.  In certain prescribed cases, for example if the person is a hospital in-patient, a student studying away from home or a prisoner on remand, an absence can be ignored for up to 52 weeks, provided the absence is unlikely to exceed 52 weeks or, in exceptional cases, not much more than this. In all cases, the person must intend to return home after her/his period of absence and the room must not be let or sublet.

 

2) Someone in the house needs overnight care from someone who doesn’t live with them, AND that person gets DLA (Care) or PIP (Daily Living) or Attendance Allowance.

There are no other special exemptions for disabled adults – you must show you need overnight care.

If you get only the mobility component of DLA or PIP, or Low Rate Care DLA, this does not count.

 

3) The local authority has never classed it a bedroom, or it is too small/unventilated/non-private to be a bedroom

If any ‘spare’ room is particularly unsuitable to be used as a bedroom, for example because it is very small or has to be used as a passage way to another room, you can try asking the landlord to reclassify it. This could mean it no longer counts as an unoccupied bedroom for housing benefit purposes as the landlord’s classification will be a starting point. Whether or not the landlord agrees to reclassify the room, you can still try appealing against the local authority’s housing benefit decision on the grounds that the property does not have the number of bedrooms described. The size of a room may be relevant too.

It may also be possible to challenge the classification of a bedroom on the grounds that the room is not reasonably capable of being used as a bedroom in the circumstances of the occupants.

Cases that have reached courts over this point can be found here: http://nearlylegal.co.uk/bedroom-tax-ftt-decisions/

 

 

4) You continuously lived in the same home getting housing benefit since 1 January 1996, in which case the under-occupancy rules did not apply for the period 1 April 2013 to 2 March 2014

If this applies to you and you had the bedroom tax applied for the above period, get advice.

 

Claim Discretionary Housing Payments

Leeds City Council and other local authorities run Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) schemes.  You need to make an application on a specified form.  You can obtain one via a council one-stop or housing office, or by phoning 0113 222 4404.

You often only get DHP’s for a short period (3-12 months).  The government has asked local authorities to give priority to disabled tenants living in adapted properties.

There is no right of appeal against DHP decisions, however you can ask for the decision to be ‘reconsidered’ at any time, and any number of times. It is best done in writing (the address in Leeds is Leeds Revenues and Benefits Service, Selectapost 15, Leeds, LS2 8BA).

You could try to involve a local Councillor, or your MP.  You can email politicians, but it is often more effective to visit, and you have a right to do this.  If you aren’t sure who your local Councillor is, visit:  http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/mgFindMember.aspx

 

Move house

Although you may feel that this is what you are being made to do, it may not be realistic to expect you to do this, especially if you are a single person.  You should be permitted to discuss this option with your landlord if you want to know more.  Support and information should be able to be obtained from your local one-stop or housing office.

 

Move house under homelessness law

Applying to the local authority for homelessness assistance means asking the council to actively rehouse your household or otherwise find you somewhere else to live.  You would need to show that you are homeless under housing law even while still living in the home. The law says that a person is homeless if it is no longer reasonable for you to continue living in the home. In this case, it may be possible to argue that it is not reasonable for you to continue living in the home because you can’t afford to pay for it. For example, this could apply if housing benefit has been reduced so much that you would have to deprive yourself and your family of basic essentials, such as food and clothing, in order to pay the rent.

To get full duty, you must also be ‘priority need’ (pregnant, dependent children, vulnerable, etc).

If this is the case, Leeds City Council may have a legal duty to actively find you more suitable housing.  Visit a one stop, Great George Street, or phone 0113 222 4412.

 

Take on a boarder or lodger

Taking in a boarder or lodger to live in an unoccupied room, will mean that the room is no longer unoccupied.  Again, you may feel as if you are obliged to do this, but you are not.  Any income from a boarder or a lodger may seriously affect your rights to means-tested benefits such as JSA, ESA or Housing Benefit.  If you are interested, you should ask your landlord about options.

 

Increase Income through benefit

Consider claiming all of the benefits you are entitled to.  This is especially important if anybody in your household (of any age) has significant health problems or care or mobility needs – if this is the case, phone the Personal Independence Payments new claims line on 0800 917 2222 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).

If you have been turned down for benefit (for example PIP or ESA), consider appealing.  Any DWP decision can be appealed within one month of it being made. Don’t be put off – a large number of negative DWP decisions about ESA and PIP are overturned by independent tribunal. You have to put your request for appeal in writing to the department that wrote to you with the negative decision and head it ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’. You do not need to enclose more evidence – that can be enclosed later.

 

Further help:

Leeds City Council can be contacted on 0113 222 4404, or via a one-stop.

For Housing Benefit and DHP appeals, their address is Leeds Revenues and Benefits Service. Selectapost 15. Leeds. LS2 8BA.

If Leeds City Council is your landlord, they can be contacted on 0800 188 4000 (free from a landline) or via a local housing office.

 

Leeds Citizens Advice Bureau

Tel 0113 223 4400 (Mon-Fri 9am – 5pm)

Open at 31 New York Street, LS2 7DT from 9am weekdays

 

Leeds City Council’s Welfare Rights Unit

Tel 0113 376 0452

Email: welfare.rights@leeds.gov.uk

 

Age UK (if you are over 50)

0800 169 29 39 (8.00am – 7.00pm)

 

Scope/Dial (if you have a disability)

0808 800 33 33 (weekdays 9am to 5pm)

 

Archway (if you are aged 16 – 25)

0113 383 3900, 95 Roundhay Road, Leeds LS8 5AQ

The Resource Centre is open and staffed for drop-in every Monday and Thursday, from 10am – 6pm, every Tuesday from 10am – 8pm and every Friday from 10am – 5pm.

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