An example of a standard letter to challenge the bedroom tax HB decision

It has been argued here that all tenants affected by the bedroom tax / under occupancy charge put in writing a challenge to the formal letter and notification they receive of this, as this is your right. It also described how this impacts on the workings of the HB system as it will bring the system to its knees and overload it so much that it will go into meltdown and Liverpool City Council will need 632 staff alone working full time just to deal with these lawful challenges.  It went on to say this simple challenge by way of a letter has three basic forms:

  • Firstly, it could ask for further information.
  • Secondly it could ask the Council to reconsider.
  • Thirdly it could be a formal appeal.

Or it could be any combination of these 3 types of challenge.  It asked others to get in touch with a view to creating a sample letter that every tenant could use in response to the bedroom tax letter they will receive.  This ‘call to arms’ received many responses for which so many thanks are deserved and resulted in one example of a standard letter to freely share. This is below.  It is a simple and reasonable request for further information from the tenant to the Council so the tenant affected by the bedroom tax decision can then consider whether to lodge a formal appeal based on having much more information on the facts of how the decision was reached.  

The guidance and other official documents released regarding the bedroom tax / under occupancy charge simply say the landlord informs the HB department whether a property has 1 bedroom or 2 or 3 or more and that is it.  It does NOT say definitively it is whatever the landlord says.  Further, the government and DWP have specifically stated they will NOT define what a bedroom is.  Yet how can you tax (or charge) something which you cannot or will not define?

There is no definitive guidance on how landlords share information with the HB department.  There are protocols in place that allow the sharing of information and information will have been shared.  Yet when did this information sharing take place? And what if the tenant is a foster carer or has a teenage son or daughter in the armed forces that were exempted just this week?  Would a social landlord know a tenant is a foster carer or has a teenage son in the armed forces? Probably not so the landlord could have inadvertently misinformed the Council’s HB department.  Further, what role the landlord played in this process will differ in Birmingham to Bristol or Bradford or Brent or Brighton.  It may well have different arrangements and processes between Landlord A and Landlord B within any town or city.

All any tenant knows is that there is an involvement of their social landlord in the HB department making the bedroom tax / under occupancy charge decision and no more than that.  Hence for a tenant to consider whether a formal appeal – the start of a legal process – is warranted or not, the tenant needs to have all the facts and not just assumptions within the bedroom tax decision-making process in their given local authority area

*******************************************************************************

Standard Letter

Dear Sirs,

I received your decision letter dated INSERT DATE and referenced above that imposed an under occupation charge, or bedroom tax of 14% / 25% (delete as appropriate) on my existing award of Housing Benefit.

I consider this unwarranted yet in order to challenge this in the correct way and potentially by way of formal appeal I require further information to be sent to me within 7 days of this letter and the urgency of that is to ensure I have enough time to formulate any such appeal and in full knowledge of the facts of my case within the time allowed; OR in the alternative I request the deadline for any such formal appeal be moved to 21 days after I receive the request information below:

1. A written copy of the Council’s policy and decision-making procedures in relation to referring a socially housed claimant decision to the Rent Officer Service.

2. A full explanation of how the council decided that (INSERT ADDRESS) was determined to be a 3 bed property for the under occupation charge and this to include what involvement if any of my landlord, (INSERT LANDLORD NAME) in this process.

Please state by way of covering letter with the requested information any changed deadline date from above with regard to a formal appeal.

Yours etc

************************************************************************************

Comments

Time is of the essence given how imminently the bedroom tax will be imposed.

The suggested wording is merely that, a suggestion, and not any form of legal advice or other formal advice from anyone involved.  There was general agreement that the wording could be better yet also general agreement that it articulates what tenants should seek, namely as much information as possible so as to consider whether they want to issue a formal appeal.  That is very reasonable for tenants to seek as are the requests for further information and the timescale issues and any letter of challenge should not be frivolous or give any reason to be perceived and dismissed as frivolous.

The full information requested is not available on any Council website normally and for any Council to simply suggest the tenant look on the website or even post it there assumes that all tenants are computer literate and have access to a computer and printer.  That is unreasonable for any Council to suggest we maintain. There is full agreement that any such standard letter needed to be simple, understandable by every tenant and each Council and not be ambiguous as well as being reasonable.  This we maintain is achieved.

At the risk of patronising, the HB Decision Notice the tenant receives will have the tenants HB reference number on and this needs to be put on any such letter.  The tenant National Insurance Number as well and of course date and sign and keep a copy. Finally, it just seemed right to release this on the day of 57 demonstrations and marches up and down the country against the bedroom tax.

Good luck to all 660,000 tenants.

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “An example of a standard letter to challenge the bedroom tax HB decision

  1. Normally we have all received our award letter by now. We cannot amend payments if we have no idea how much we need to pay, even if we do not dispute the amount. There will be people in arrears before they get their award letters at this rate! Can you confirm, if you are appealing against HB entitlement & appealing against your landlords bedroom count, they cannot commence possession proceedings until the appeals are completed?

    1. The 14%/25% reduction is on eligible rent yes not on HB amount. The wording may seem strange but the decision will impose that level of deduction on the existing HB award as the letter says so the wording is still correct. EG Rent £100 receiving £80 in HB (existing amount) so a 25% reduction (£25) is still imposed on the existing claim

  2. when i have to pay bedroom tax i will have 38.00 to pay my other bill a put money on my gas that 15.00.a got to pay council tax as well that with out my food a not well a this is makeing me ill as well how can i pay 25.98 a week and the money im paying now on top

  3. I’ve just shared this link on facebook .. @Anne, I know what you mean about all this making you ill .. constantly living in fight or flight mode wears anyone down .. wish I could say there’s a way round all this, apart from your numbers coming up, but the future feels bleak in this dirty, rotten. unequal system that too many of us are forced to live under.
    Not sure how I stumbled across the site, but am so glad I did. A heartfelt thanks to the person who clearly works very hard writing these articles trying to help others.

  4. I keep re-posting this on Facebook, untill I’m ‘blue in the face’!! So far, not many people are interested in doing it. I don’t understand why??? Many have said they have received letters and time has run out to appeal?? Is this the case?? I have said no. Do it anyway! Others have said they won’t get their letters untill their rents go up. As that will co inside with the BT starting. Can they appeal then?? Others have asked the question that if they are appealing, do they still have to pay the BT at the same time? Or, are they going to get into arrears whilst their appeal is being dealt with? There is alot of confusion!! Can you clarify any of it please Joe??
    It seems such a wasted opportunity to me. There are over 11,400 of us in one group. The impact would be huge and cause chaos. If everyone did this. The object of the exercise???
    I am at a loss as to how to encourage people to do it!!!

    1. A lot of questions which I will attempt to answer.

      (a) the letter to be challenged or appealed is the formal notice from HB and NOT for example a letter from the landlord which says Bedroom tax applies or may apply. Such a letter is a legal notice and has to come from HB. So if some believe they have received such a letter then ask for more info as in the standard letter (b) the standard letter asks for more info because (1) it gives the tenant more info on how it has been decided; which (2) is likely to give reasons and cause for a formal appeal (a legal process) and (3) I am hanging fire on what some of these reasons of formal appeal ARE until the formal letters have been received (c) I cant advise anyone whether or not to pay BT while appealing but the BT will apply – which of course if the appeal is successful they are removed as the initial decision was wrong (d) as soon as I know formal HB letters have gone out I will put these grounds of appeal out there and I expect others will be doing the same

  5. I’m still re-posting this daily on facebook. The group I belong to have over 11,500 members. People are still not doing letters initially to ask for info etc. And I don’t understand why!!! It’s the 27th. today. Many people are still saying they havn’t received their letter yet!! Which is complete madness!! I have suggested they still write the first letter asking for the info. To get the process going. I’ve also suggested, people DON’T set up Direct Debits. Many people are still trying to decide if they are going to pay or not. As there is so much fear, that, they will be evicted. And be homeless…… All, I keep saying is APPEAL. But, I don’t think the message is getting through…….It is SO, frustrating!!! I’ve already sent of my first letter…..I just wish, others would too!!

Please leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s