First council announces bedroom tax refunds since revelation of legal loophole
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Central Government, Housing
50,000 North East families hit by ‘bedroom tax’
Exeter City Council has revealed that "a small of number" of its tenants are due bedroom tax refunds after the revelation that some of the policy's victims are legally exempt.
The council has confirmed that it has identified 31 cases where social housing tenants had been paying the bedroom tax when they shouldn't have been.
The figure represents 4.5% of the council's 624 residents hit by the tax.
It was revealed this week that social housing tenants who have been claiming housing benefit continuously since 1996 while living in the same property are legally exempt from the controversial under-occupancy policy.
The law is a result of little-known legislation brought in under the last Labour government that was seemingly overlooked by the Department for Work and Pensions when it drafted the bedroom tax.
The DWP has said it will close the loophole in April in the next set of regulations but may pass emergency legislation to rectify the matter before then if required.
The Guardian newspaper estimated this week that as many as 40,000 people across the country could be due refunds as a result of the unearthed legislation. The DWP responded that the figure is actually much closer to 5,000 people.
However, if Exeter's percentage of 4.5% was used a guide for the country as whole, the figure would be around 29,700 people in the UK who had been illegally hit by the bedroom tax.
Cllr Rob Hannaford, Exeter’s lead councillor for housing and customer access, said: "We recently established that a very small number of people in Exeter are entitled to more housing benefit than they were receiving. We are continually reviewing and correcting cases where necessary and this is just part of our everyday work.
"We are confident that we have identified the vast majority of cases through our records but would still ask people to get in touch with us if they feel that they are eligible for a refund."