Yesterday the DWP has issued a circular (HB U1 2014) to local authorities which stated that size criteria rules should not have been applied to tenants who have had a continuous claim for housing benefit, and have occupied the same property, since at least 1 January 1996.
It is understood to have been identified because the ‘eligible rent’ referred to in bedroom tax regulations does not apply prior to 1 January 1996, when a previous set of rules existed.
The ruling means that affected tenants will be able to apply to their local authority to have their claim reassessed under the correct rules and will be able to receive money backdated to April 2013 regardless of how many bedrooms are in the home.
Those who might benefit from the loophole include:
Tenants receiving housing benefit who are under pension age, who have lived at the same address since 1996, and who have been in receipt of housing benefit throughout that time (with any break in housing benefit not exceeding four weeks);
Tenants who may have ‘inherited’ a claim for housing benefit from family members living at the same property, provided that the current claimant has resided at the property since 1996 and provided that both the original and the current claimant, between them, have sustained a continuous claim throughout with any break not exceeding four weeks.
Social landlords trying to identify cases who might benefit from this have been urged to keep an eye on DWP information. The department has said that it will amend regulations so that any award will only last up to the point that new regulations come into effect.
CIH director of policy and practice Gavin Smart said:
“It’s important that social landlords are aware of the loophole and take steps to make sure tenants are aware of it too so they are able to obtain reimbursement if they fall into this category.
However, they also need to keep an eye on the information issued by the DWP as the loophole is likely to be closed – the bulletin states the department will be taking steps to ‘remedy’ it shortly. Local authorities are likely to face significant administrative challenges in identifying the tenants affected, but social landlords may be able to help with this as they may have records that go back further.