Socialist Worker

Thousands of tenants charged bedroom tax - but they were exempt

A loophole in the Tories’ bedroom tax legislation means the government owes hundreds of pounds to tenants who have paid the hated tax for the past nine months, writes Dave Sewell

Issue No. 2386

Michael, who faces eviction, at a court protest last week

Michael, who faces eviction, at a court protest last week (Pic: Mark Krantz)


Thousands of people have been wrongly charged the bedroom tax since April last year.

A loophole in the legislation means that tenants who have lived in their homes for 17 years or more should have been exempt.

The Department for Work and Pensions claims the loophole affects 5,000 people. But independent housing consultant Joe Halewood says the statistics suggest it could be as many as 40,000 people.

Tragically this would have included Stephanie Bottrill, the Solihull pensioner who killed herself last year. She blamed the government for making her life impossible.

“It’s unforgivable,” said her son Steven. “The government are quick to chase you when they want cash but when it comes to helping you or giving you the right information, they don’t do it.

“People who knew about this should resign or be sacked. These are strong words, but the government and Iain Duncan Smith have my mum’s blood on their hands.”

Elizabeth Barry, a carer in Manchester, has been charged £20 a week bedroom tax—meaning that by now Duncan Smith owes her over £800.

“I was made to feel like my disabled son and I didn’t exist and don’t matter,” she told Socialist Worker. 

“I told them about people who stay over to help me look after him and they said it didn’t matter—he can’t have that room.

“I went to bed crying. It made me realise how vulnerable he was.”

Press

Elizabeth has been spared one year of the bedroom tax with a discretionary housing payment, after speaking out in the local press. 

But the stress caused her health problems. And she has had to look for a residential home for her son Ryan to spare him the prospect of losing his home.

“They haven’t even put a letter through the door to say I’m exempt,” she said. 

“Politicians try to make out that people like us are a drain on the world, to divide us against each other and against immigrants. But they are the ones making everything worse.”

Campaigners in Manchester protested outside the court on Wednesday of last week. Southway Homes had brought eviction proceedings against another tenant, Michael (pictured).

Michael said, “I’ve lived in my home for 12 years. But now Southways is out to evict me for rent arrears due to the bedroom tax. 

“One ‘bedroom’ is really only a box room. I don’t see why I should be made to leave my home.”

Southway has 1,200 tenants affected by the bedroom tax—but just eight available one bedroom properties. Michael’s case was adjourned.

Campaigners protested against the scapegoating of claimants on Monday of this week outside the London office of Love Productions, the firm behind the Benefits Street programme.


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.