Is Liverpool denying £2m to bedroom tax tenants… unlawfully?

Hello reader, sorry to bore you with yet another cock up by Liverpool City Council’s Housing Benefit department in the bedroom tax but I have a feeling their incompetence will be mirrored elsewhere and of course yet again they are denying the tenant what is lawfully theirs.

They could even be denying Liverpool tenants about £2m and of course hastening them on to being evicted and all because they are incompetent in administering the bedroom tax.

Its our old friend the pre 1996 exempt issue once again and LCC  have once again got this wrong.  They are saying that if you succeeded the tenancy from your mum or dad or any other family member then you do not qualify for the pre 1996 exemption.  LCC maintain that the rules only apply if you succeeded the tenancy from your partner and they are wrong.

I was alerted to this early today in a comment on a blog I put out about the pre 1996 issue and then at a bedroom tax surgery this afternoon I had a tenant who was denied the pre 1996 exemption who succeeded the tenancy from her mother in 2008 and has lived there for 46 years.  This tenant had a standard letter from Liverpool saying you don’t qualify so I rang the HB department.

No the tenant doesn’t qualify as it is ONLY if the partner of the claimant succeeds I was told.  I think you have this wrong I said.  No we haven’t we have had training on this was the response!  Yes probably training on how to drink PG Tips reader given the monkeys that work there which I have outlined before.

I asked for a letter to be sent to the tenant stating WHY she was not exempt as the standard letter just said she wasn’t exempt and without any reason being given

Rather than bore you with the often complex HB regulations here is an extract from a piece Giles Peaker at Nearly Legal did over this (and with help from Peter Barker I believe :

So, the following will ‘inherit’ the exemption.

a) the partner, or family member, or relative occupying the same dwelling of someone who claimed HB on or before 01/01/1996, and claimed continuously to their death; and

i) who has claimed continuously themselves since the original claimant’s death [or within 4 weeks]; and

ii) who lived at the property on the date of death of the previous claimant, and  has lived there continuously since the death of the previous claimant;

b) The partner of a claimant who has left and ceased to reside as husband and wife, where the claim was continuous before the date the claimant left and has been continuous by the partner subsequently [or at least where partner claimed within 4 weeks of the previous claimant leaving].

Fairly clear as it says that it is NOT limited to just the partner but also to a family member, or relative occupying the same dwelling as I emphasise above.  This of course includes a son or daughter or other household member who lived in the dwelling as their principal home (and check out HB regulation 7 for more details should you wish.)

Yet this is more than just Liverpool City Council cocking up once again.  What they are doing is denying those family members who inherited the protected rights when then succeeded to a tenancy over the past 18 years.  In short they are not content with making the pre 1996 cock up in the first place they are making another cock up and denying a lot of tenants.

Liverpool has about 43000 social housing tenants claiming HB a figure fairly consistent over the period.  So lets say each year 3% of these cases sees a son or daughter or other household member succeed to their parents or grandparents tenancy.  That’s not a high percentage figure by any means yet equates to 1300 HB tenants per year.  Then say 15% of these (which is the average across Merseyside) qualify for the exemption which would be 195 such tenants per year.

195 tenants per year over 18 years could see Liverpool have a further 3500 tenants who do according to the rules qualify for the pre 1996 exemption yet Liverpool are denying that they do, and wrongly.

3500 tenants at £600 unlawfully charged in bedroom tax is £2.1m which Liverpool (and other councils?) are not considering because they are misreading the regulations.

That potentially is 3500 households who are at risk of eviction because of the incompetence of LCC in administering HB and the bedroom tax regulations.

My figures above are not wildly high figures and may even be on the low side yet even if they are double the projection it is still £1m being wrongly withheld from social tenants in Liverpool.

I have emailed the head of HB over this misreading of regulations and I will keep you updated reader.  I strongly doubt Liverpool is the only council who has got this wrong and is ignoring the tenant who has succeeded to their mother or father of grandparents or uncle or aunts tenancy in the last 18 years.

And of course because the pre 1996 is a general error the rule change of 3rd March 2014 is not a deadline to claim back these monies.  Cue councils and landlords scurrying through their records to find even more cases!!  It also means that the ‘small’ number that Freud and IDS like to maintain are affected by their cock up is far greater than their 5000 maximum and the likely 40,000 plus from just this current year and especially so if all councils are as incompetent as Liverpool in administering the bedroom tax!

If my 3500 estimate above and it is a crude estimate I admit holds then the number of pre 1996 cases in Liverpool triples to over 5000, extrapolate that to all those councils who believe a son or daughter does not qualify for the pre 1996 exemption and …..hmmmm….wont IDS’s face be a picture dear reader!!

Do let me know if my calculations are wildly wrong as even to me they seem staggering and do also let me know if your council is wrongly interpreting the pre 1996 regulations on successions too like Liverpool

And you thought the pre 1996 exempt  issue was dead and buried dear reader…it is most certainly not



(Yes you have guessed they are still insisting they are correct!!  Can you believe these people!!!)

Here is what they said in an email to me this afternoon:

As you will understand the Service has undertaken this work in accordance with the relevant Housing Benefit Regulations and based on guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The current interpretation and advice in relation to this is that the succession of tenancies and the exemption from the Under Occupancy legislation only applies to a partner of the Housing Benefit claimant and does not extend to other family members.
It is our current understanding that the regulation to  which you refer to relates to the provision which protects a resident family member who succeeds a tenancy following the death of the Housing Benefit claimant  from a restriction in the rent used to calculate an award for a period of 12 months from the date of death.
We will write to DWP for clarification that the approach taken is in accordance with the Regulations. We will let you know the outcome of this request for clarification when received.
They are so wrong on this and I have told them why but please feel free to add your comments below dear reader!
Fit for purpose or fit for nothing?  Yep its the latter!

21 thoughts on “Is Liverpool denying £2m to bedroom tax tenants… unlawfully?

  1. Oh my goodness. Shameful!! God only knows how many other councils have got this wrong, up and down the country. What disturbs me most is how many people have just accepted the word of their councils. Not knowing or realising that they are wrong.

  2. my sister rang L.C.C. housing benefit dept re: her refund of bedroomtax 3 weeks ago..they told her that hers had been paid to her housing association S.L.H..she went to see them and they said yes they had had hers but it would now take another 6/8 weeks to pay it back to her..we asked why that length of time? and pointed out that it was my sisters money that they were holding..they just said that that is how long it would take…bloody joke….

  3. My personal situation is slightly complicated.I have always lived with my parents.Of course it was my father who was the recipient of Housing Benefit prior to 1996.My father died in 1998 then my mother was the recipient till 2005 when she died.I then “inherited” the tenancy in 2005 and have been the recipient since then.Bearing in mind that we have lived in the same two bedroom bungalow in fact since 1987;Should the ruling apply to me?

  4. Hi All, doe’s not surprise me in the least, i came under the 1996 ruling and was free of the bedroom tax for about a week or so, now back to square one again. I’m in a 4 bed property since 92 and my children spent most of there childhood here, the last one didn’t leave till Nov 2013, with my grandson and daughter n law, i still look after my grandson on a regular basis. and i have family that live abroad that will be visiting,and staying the rooms in my house are full of furniture and personal belongings that would not fit into one bedroom shoebox. My question is why doe’s the shelter legal people not help more with this as they are meant to know everything about housing law and the way it works aren’t they? and the same with citizens advice? who won’t acknowledge anything unless in there database. There must be so many people out there without a clue how to get theses issues dealt with,and constantly getting the wrong information given to them.

  5. I have lived in this house since 1985 it was my mothers house but I was down as a sub-tenant mother did receive HB and when she died in 1998 I was given the tenancy and I was receiving HB but I have been told I must still pay the bedroom tax I would be grateful if you can tell me is this right or can I do anything about it Thanks.

  6. WRJones 2012: yes, assuming HB has been continuous for all three of you.
    Liverpool Council is mixing up two completely different rules. In the main HB Regs that apply to the vast majority of claimants – private and council – if a relative in the household dies the survivor’s HB is protected for 12 months – that is what Liverpool is referring to. But that is quite separate from the succession provisions in the 1996 exemption Regs. Liverpool should be looking at subpara (6)(b) of paragraph 4 of Schedule 3 to the HB & CTB Consequential Provisions Regs 2006. That is where it says that the 1996 protection applies to successors.

  7. I was one of the original people who alerted Joe to this mess up and again today Liverpool City Council have written to me to say that they have still not amened my claim as they are still insisting it does NOT apply to children or relatives living in the house at the time who succeeded tenancy – I want to appeal but don’t know what to say? Could anyone help me?

      1. @Joe YES! Finallly they get it, I appealed again stating the paragraph of where the pre-1996 rule applies to relatives who succeed tenancy and not just partners, now just waiting to hear back. Will update here.

  8. I wish to say many thanks to all associated with this post.It also appears that matters are dealt with much more quickly here in Wrexham North Wales.I only phoned my Council Housing Department five to one this lunchtime and they have just phoned me to tell me that all my Bedroom Tax payments will be returned by Monday next!

  9. joe i want to thank you for all your information u have posted, only for your voice and others i wouldnt of been exempt, today i learnt i am exempt and will recieve all of my money back,i hope others fight on and get rid of the tax that has costs peoples lifes,once again thank you.

  10. I am in a similar situation but live in council housing in Greater London, I questioned the tax at the start regarding room size and got a letter back stating that they could call my living room a bedroom if they liked and that I had signed a tenancy agreement which stated I was in a 2 bedroom flat .. this was way back in 1981, then again in 1984 after my divorce, before the passing of the 1984/5 act after which the council should have downgraded my second bedroom to a box room (it’s far too small for a bedroom!) , but of course they didn’t.

    They started to charge me bedroom tax from March 2013, which i scraped to pay for 6 months before finally asking for a discretionary housing payment, which was retroactively awarded. Then I received the letter stating that I was exempt due to the 1996 clause so they were going to apply that retroactively … and would not claw back the discretionary payment. All these funds were supposedly put into my housing rent account, but still cannot see a refund on the monies I had already paid.

    Now they say that the 1996 clause has been closed so I have to pay again … so confusing! Is the clause closed or can we still dispute bedroom tax??

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