Housing benefit 'spare room' rebates for hundreds in Cornwall

Bedroom interior Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The penalty was introduced to free up homes for families living in overcrowded conditions

Hundreds of social housing tenants in Cornwall are to get a rebate after having benefits cut because they have extra bedrooms.

Tenants were wrongly charged the under-occupancy penalty - dubbed the "bedroom tax" by critics - since last April.

About up to 200 households in Cornwall were to receive rebates averaging about £610 each, Cornwall Council said.

The government said it was working with the council in providing the rebates.

'Great stress'

Since April last year tenants with one spare bedroom faced a benefit cut of 14%, while those with two or more spare rooms could expect a 25% reduction.

However, a loophole in the legislation meant the penalty should not be applied to tenants who had been continuously claiming housing benefit from before 1996 and had lived at the same address.

The loophole was recently closed by the government.

Benefits officer Ian Stephens, from Cornwall Council, admitted the penalty had caused some tenants "great stress".

He added that there would still be a cost to the authority, despite the fact that rebates - paid by the council - from would be reimbursed by central government.

He said: "We've had to put members of staff on this task who we've had to take off other functions and services, so there has been a cost to the council in this respect."

The Department for Work and Pensions said it expected comparatively "very few" households to be affected by the rebates and it was working with the council to ensure affected claimants were kept informed.

Similar rebates have been issued by other councils in England, including Merseyside and the West Midlands.

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