I can't seem to get away from the bedroom tax. Having blogged about this topic for the last couple of months, I thought an update might be useful regarding rent arrears, tenant eviction and the bedroom tax.
The changes to housing benefit came into force on 1 April 2013. From that date Housing benefits claimants who are deemed to have a 'spare' bedroom will see their housing benefit payments reduced by either 14% or 5%.
Campaign groups have continued to mobilise their opposition to these changes and earlier this week , the Scottish parliament's petition committee considered Govan Law Centre's petition to change current eviction law. The committee agreed to consider the bedroom tax at another meeting and to ask Scottish Government, COSLA and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations to give evidence to the Committee.
For those looking to challenge adverse HB decisions:
- Govan Law Centre have created a 'toolkit' which provides suggested standard letters which can be used
- Various local authorities (including Dundee and Renfrewshire) have announced that they will not pursue eviction action if a tenant has arrears which are solely caused by the bedroom tax and where they are making the best effort they can to pay
- Some English landlords have indicated they will "reclassify" properties
Even the use of the phrase "bedroom tax" seems to be causing some debate. The Westminster government clearly do not like using the term. They prefer to call it a change to benefit entitlements. The phrase "spare room subsidy" was even used. I have even had some clients ask me whether they should use the phrase bedroom tax in their communication with tenants and on their websites. One or two have had their own committee members worried that use of the phrase could be seen to be misleading or showing a political allegiance
I would advise that the phrase bedroom tax seems to be accepted shorthand for these changes and there is no difficulty with using it in letters to tenants or on information sections on websites.
Clearly this debate is not going away and will only intensify as further changes to the welfare system are introduced... it will be interesting to see what view is taken by a court if and when the first actual eviction action is taken against any tenant whose arrears are solely caused by the bedroom tax.
If you have any questions please get in touch with our team.