Monday, 05 December 2016

SNP councils ban bedroom tax evictions

All Scottish councils under the control of the country’s leading political party have pledged not to evict tenants who have fallen into arrears as a result of the ‘bedroom tax’.

Scottish National Party councillors from the country’s nine SNP-led authorities have signed a pledge saying they will ‘use all legitimate means to collect rent due, except eviction’ if tenants have done ‘all they reasonably can’ to avoid falling into arrears as a result of the under-occupation penalty.

Under the penalty, which has been brought in by the Westminster government and comes into force on 1 April, social tenants of working age who are on housing benefit will have their payments cut if they are deemed to be under-occupying their home.

The SNP government has previously called for the penalty to be axed.

Councils in England have also moved to block evictions for tenants who will be hit by the penalty. Green Party councillors in Brighton have promised to introduce a motion that would stop evictions, and Bristol mayor George Ferguson has also said tenants should not be evicted for non-payment.

However concerns have been raised about the practical implications of such a policy, as wider welfare reforms will make it hard to tell whether tenants have fallen into arrears as a result of the penalty or because of other cuts.

Islington Council denied media reports that it is planning a no eviction policy, although executive member for housing James Murray said the council would ‘help [tenants] find a way to avoid building up rent arrears and therefore to avoid any prospect of eviction’.

‘Since Islington Council has very limited resources to help people being hit by the government’s bedroom tax, we are prioritising help for people for whom moving is not an option,’ he said. ‘The council will support residents to remain in their property if there is no alternative but to stay in their home.’

Nigel Minto, from umbrella body London Councils, said ‘no London borough would be likely to give a categorical no eviction pledge’, but that they are considering how best to approach possible bedroom tax evictions. He said it was about doing as much as possible to prevent evictions, and treating cases with sympathy.

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