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Bedroom tax further delayed

New legislation has just been passed which will delay the implementation date for the bedroom tax in NI from 23 January 2017 to 20 February 2017. The new legislation also makes new provision for social tenants to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) in specific circumstances.

Change in Bedroom tax implementation date

Regulation 7 of The Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016  amends the Housing Benefit (Amendment No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016, to delay the introduction of the social sector size criteria, otherwise known as the ‘bedroom tax’, from 23 January 2017 to the 20 February 2017.

The bedroom tax allows for a social tenant’s Housing Benefit to be reduced by:

  • 14 per cent they are deemed to be under-occupying by one bedroom, and
  • 25 per cent deduction for under-occupying by two bedrooms.

Availability of DHPs

Regulation 2 of The Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations(Northern Ireland) 2016 provides important clarification on the availability of DHPs.

For a number of years now, tenants in the private rented sector have been able to apply for a DHP to help meet their housing costs where there is a shortfall between their contractual rent and the level of Local Housing Allowance that they receive. DHPs have not been available to social tenants. However, Regulation 2 amends the Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations (NI) 2001 to allow both private and social tenants the ability to apply for a DHP where they require extra help with their housing costs as a direct result of being impacted on by the removal of the Family Premium.

The Family Premium was abolished as part of the calculation for Housing Benefit on 5th September 2016. Its abolition was introduced under The Housing Benefit (Abolition of the Family Premium and date of claim) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2016. Anyone affected by the removal of the Family Premium and who needs additional financial assistance with their housing costs should apply for a DHP at the earliest opportunity.

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Legislation, Welfare Reform, NI Assembly