Mum’s alarm over bedroom-tax row

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A fed up mum is in dispute with Oldham Council after claiming she has wrongly been paying bedroom tax. 

Heather Crimes (59) lives in a three-bedroom house in Helvellyn Walk, Higginshaw. Her two children no longer live with her and she has had to pay an extra £21.64 a week for the spare bedrooms. 

She stopped paying the extra money earlier this year as she claims she shouldn’t have been paying it in the first place. 

In January the Government announced bedroom-tax cuts to housing benefit shouldn’t have been applied to those who had been claiming housing benefit for the same home for the past 17 years. 

All the money cut from their housing benefit since April, 2013, should be refunded into their rent account. 

The Government closed the loophole on March 3 - meaning bedroom tax deductions apply again from this date. 

Heather says she has been trying to contact Oldham Council since January and didn’t receive any correspondence until this month - saying the bedroom-tax exemptions didn’t apply to her and she would need to continue paying for the extra rooms. 

“I’m very fed up,” she said. 

Heather has severe mobility problems and can’t walk more than 10 yards without a stick. She sometimes uses a wheelchair, so her daughter often helps out. 

She was offered a one-bedroom home but declined as she needs a two-bedroom house for her daughter’s weekend stays. 

Heather’s son Carl said: “Oldham Council are dragging their heels. It shouldn’t be up to people to find out if they’re exempt, it should be up to the council or government.” 

Heather found her original tenancy agreement which shows that she was offered her current property in 1995. 

She has since sought legal action and has until April 7 to appeal. She currently owes around £300 in rent arrears, the council claims. 

Councillor Abdul Jabbar, Cabinet member for finance, said: “We are aware of Miss Crimes’ situation and the information we have at this time does not allow us to apply the 1996 exemption in this case. 

“Our benefits team is looking into a number of cases to identify claimants who meet the 1996 exemption criteria and are asking landlords to assist us with establishing tenancy commencement dates.”