Crawley Borough Council’s cabinet member for housing says all tenants who have been wrongly charged the ‘bedroom tax’ will be reimbursed.
Cllr Richard Burrett was speaking at last week’s cabinet meeting when answering a public question regarding a national loophole that has revealed some council house tenants were wrongly charged the spare room subsidy.
Also known as the ‘bedroom tax’, the subsidy is a deduction in housing benefit introduced by the Government in April last year for people considered to have one or more spare bedrooms.
There is a 14 per cent cut for one extra bedroom and 25 per cent cut for two or more extra bedrooms.
The Government has now said a loophole means that any residents, who have been tenants in the same house since January 1 1996 and have been claiming housing benefit during all that time, should have been classed as exempt from the spare room subsidy.
Sally Fidelle from Crawley Independent Tenants’ Association was part of a protest outside Crawley Town Hall before the meeting. She asked if the council would be refunding any money tenants have wrongly had deducted from their benefits.
Cllr Burrett said: “The Department for Work and Pensions notified all local authorities and what’s happening now is that we are doing a trawl of people on housing benefit and been in the same house since 1996. Those people [affected] will be contacted. It’s only going be a small number of people and only a certain age group.”
The council has since found out a maximum of 183 tenants will be affected, but officers expect the final figure to be ‘considerably lower’.
A council spokesman said: “We’ve identified all tenants whose tenancy began before 1996 and have been affected by the under-occupancy changes - there are 183 of these.
“However, it will take several weeks to identify whether they have received Housing Benefit continuously during this period. Our understanding is that we should repay the full amount to tenants.”
Protesters also asked the council to give compensation to tenants who may have had to downsize unnecessarily.
Cllr Burrett said each case would be looked at individually and the council would take instruction from the Government regarding compensation. “We will do whatever we are told to do.”
The council has assured tenants of pensionable age they are already exempt from the spare room subsidy and so are not affected by this new development.