Sunday, 01 March 2015

Social tenants to accept bedroom tax penalty

Nearly half of social tenants who will be affected by the government’s ‘bedroom tax’ are not prepared to move to smaller properties, research has found.

Ongoing work being carried out by Wirral Partnership Homes has found 45 per cent of its tenants who will be affected by the penalty for under-occupation will accept the reduction to benefit payments rather than moving home.

From April 2013 working age social tenants who are receiving housing benefit will see payments cut if they are deemed to be under-occupying.

WPH is in the process of contacting around 2,300 of its tenants who it thinks will be affected by the cut. So far it has spoken with 550, finding 104 are interested in moving, but 247 said they would rather accept the benefit reduction and stay put.

John Mycock, assistant director, housing, at WPH, said it is proving difficult to make some tenants aware of the potential problems.

‘Until it impacts I don’t think we are going to see the worst of it,’ he said. ‘Even if people can pay it the government is going to look hard at the other benefits that they are getting.’

However he added that even if people were prepared to move WPH would have trouble meeting their needs, due to a lack of available smaller homes.

‘We can’t see any way in which we can accommodate even a fraction of the people who are under-occupying,’ he said.

WPH chief executive Brian Simpson has written an article for Inside Housing explaining how the organisation is working with tenants to limit the impact of welfare reform.

Read Brian Simpson’s article in full

Readers' comments (90)

  • Chris

    Michael N - Susan raises a valid point.

    The new crime of underoccupancy only carries a punishment according to your income status. There is an effective fine if you are too poor to afford the rent outright, but no fine if you can.

    Equally, if you are even more rich you can have £75,000 to take the home out of social ownership altogether.

    There is a clear question of legal application here as effectively, if you can only be punished if poor, this law is criminalising poverty.

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  • I live in my family home which has a spare box room it would be suitable for a child if I had a child below the age of 9 and my main bedroom is also another slightly bigger box room in an old fashioned terraced property of low value. I don't intend to downsize as where I am is small enough, but because I have looked after my home for well over 22 years and my father looked after it before that I don't see why I should be treated like a criminal for having a little extra space not large enough to swing a cat in.

    I also do not see why others like me should have to pay this spare bedroom tax when there is only one lot of money coming in to my home. Of around £60 a week as I have a small debt at the moment and it costs on average of £74 a week just to live.

    I do wish I was working and earning and may well be one day soon but in the meantime I could do withouit the worry of next year being penalised for being single with a little spare space and unemployed. Whatever has happened to making those pay who can afford to pay large families with more than one income or benefit.

    I'd also like to know what is happening regarding the fraudulent bankers and others who have got us into this mess in the beginning.

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  • Colin Mcculloch

    Fed up Voluntary Worker asks:

    "I'd also like to know what is happening regarding the fraudulent bankers and others who have got us into this mess in the beginning."

    You can bet they're not looking for smaller and "appropriately sized" properties to move to. Similarily for MPs and their second homes. There are so many seeds of social angst being sown that when social unrest does finally grow, it's going to be difficult to contain it.

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  • Rick Campbell

    Scenario: Joint tenants, one of whom is of working age, on housing benefit.

    The tenant not of working age dies and the remaining tenant

    a) cannot succeed to the tenancy or have it assigned to them because of the law or local lettings policy

    b) has 3 months grace before the 'bedroom tax' affects them

    c) the surviving tenant is forced into private accommodation

    Welcome to 21st century Britain which may, in many respects, be worse than 19th century Britain,

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  • Spot on again Chris!

    'Fed Up' - It is a crime what they are doing to us with this bedroom tax! So many people are in your DO we stop this before it ruins thousands of people's lives? Not enough people even know about it! Please join the group - link above - and put it out there to as many people as possible. At least we can TRY to stop this insane law!

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  • The headline is misleading. Tenants have not 'accepted' the bedroom tax, they are bloody angry about it. Some have decided they are not going to be uprooted from their HOME by this government. Don't forget it doesn't come in until April. The government is very shaky. Let's keep up the pressure. Some of these MPs voted for it without knowing what they were voting for. It transpires that government Minister Danny Alexander has written to a constituent of his to explain - don't worry it only affects people in the private rented sector!

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  • I take your point about tenants being angry Martin, but the headline isn't misleading. It doesn't say tenants have accepted the bedroom tax. It says they've accepted the bedroom tax penalty - ie they are prepared to put up with having their benefit cut to stay in their homes.

  • Rick Campbell

    Having spoken to some (around 30) tenants of WHT I can confirm that they really are angry about this penalty (Lord Freud's description, not mine) and as Martin Wicks says, they are not going to be uprooted.

    Those WHT activists I meet with every 6 weeks or so (and often have contact with via email) confirm this.

    However, not everyone will be able to afford to pay the penalty or move.

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  • Patricia Cross

    I am a WPH tenant, I am classed as under-occupied by 2 bedrooms according to the DWP size criteria, so will lose at least £21.40 housing benefit per wk, potentially I could also lose 10% of council tax benefit as well. I am fully aware of the impacts these cuts are going to have on my finances. I am very worried about the future. WPH contacted me to see if I would like to downsize, but alas there is such a shortage of smaller accommodation, Can anyone enlighten me? The law states that I need to live on x amount of money each week ie income support, how can they now state that I will lose £21.40 housing benefit per week, which will then take me below the poverty line the government states I need to live on. Were do I stand legally on this issue.

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  • Joe Halewood

    Fed up voluntary worker and patatwirra above some thing that may be of use?

    There is no definition of what constitutes a bedroom with the exception of HMO regulations which gives a minimum square footage and this is typically 70 sq ft.

    Many boxrooms in older terraced properties are not 70sq/ft and I would challenge any reduction on that basis. I know many older terraced properties that HOs term as 3bed/5's or 2 bed/3s in which the boxroom is less than say 10ft x 7ft and using this as a benchmark for challenge also helps social landlords.

    Patatwirra - legally this subsistence level also allows deductions to be taken from it, think of court fines for example, and the coalition has amended regulations to say up to 40% can be decucted from this minimum subsistence level each week. So in short you have no legal basis to challenge this on the amount of deduction...except i would argue if youre 3rd bedroom is a boxroom and below the 70sq/ft guide figure I have given above.

    It would be mischievious of me to suggest that all tenants should challenge in writing the size criteria of boxrooms as the admin cost of having your landlord come out and measure each boxroom would be enormous. And its not the landlord that has developed this policy. So it would be correct to challenge the DWP on this when they write to you and say you are underoccupying by two bedrooms when you could legitimately argue it is just 1 bedroom.

    Many years ago I headed up the asylum seeker dispersal programme for a NW council and government then (and presumably do still) insist on a minimum size for a room to be called a bedroom and not a boxroom. Without any racist overtones it is illogical for government to say a room is not acceptable for someone seeking asylum but is acceptable for a benefit deduction. The same criteria applies in supported housing and also in HB regulations for what constitutes a single or double room in terms of size which is used to pay higher levels of HB found there.

    PS - Ive just rang a friend who lives in a typical 3 bed terrace house and asked him to measure his "3rd bedroom" and although he is an owner occupier many of the terraces houses in adjoining streets are social housing properties. The size was 9' 6" x 6' 9" or 64.13 sq/ft.

    I would argue strongly this is not a bedroom for bedroom tax purposes - if the same applies surely worth a challenge?

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  • perhaps shafted and the fat controller could come up with what they would consider a reasonable size for a bedroom. enough space for a desk and a camp bed perhaps. although uncle eric may need an industrial campbed or three

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  • Patricia Cross

    hi joe i have just measured my boxroom and it is 63sq/ft, i have just phoned WPH and they are not aware of size criteria for boxrooms not classed as bedrooms under 70sq/ft, they wanted to know were i got the information from, told them it was from you, they would be very happy if that is the case, do you have any link i can pass onto WPH to confirm it.

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  • Chris


    Last time we went around this cycle the loophole was closed with a speed of action never before seen by this government (and definatly faster than any closure of tax loopholes - and they are less likely to be closed than Shapps's lips!)

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  • Joe Halewood

    patatwirra | 22/08/2012 4:27 pm above

    I have just done a google search on HMO space standards and while I cant find one for Wirral, Manchester City Council and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive versions both say in a HMO that a bedroom has to have a minimum space of 6.51m squared or 70.1sq/ft. Perhaps you should ask your landlord to contact whover deals with this at Wirral MBC (and I presume it will be environmental health?).

    In my view anything under this size is strongly arguable to not be classed as a bedroom and therefore should not count towards a deduction in HB.

    I would have thought and especially since (a) govt wonr define what is a bedroom, and (b) leave this to landlords to determine (Yes a blame deflection by Freud onto social landlords) that someone in the housing sector would take such a case to be legally determined.

    It may also be the case that public interest lawyers may well launch such a case as it is in the public interest and I am surprised this has not yet happened.

    Perversely there may even be a trading standards argument here too. Can a landlord advertise a property as having 3 bedrooms if the boxroom is less than 70sq/ft?

    In summation the government is trying to shaft landlords and tenants with this bedroom/boxroom tax and it needs to be determined and have a legal definition of what is a bedroom?

    Thoughts anyone?

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  • Chris

    I am short of time today, but have done so quick searches to see what can be found. It would be great if others looked further.

    What I've found but not tested so far is:

    Regulation 4 of the Housing Act (Overcrowding and Miscellaneous Forms) Regulations 1937 sets out a minimum room size for one person of 6.5m2. Those regulations had been repealed in 1990.

    The space standard specified in Section 326 of the Housing Act 1985 sets out a requirement of 70ft2 for 1person may have been reduced in primacy by Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 because of the Housing Health and Safety Rating (HHSR) system.

    The most recent definitions for a single bed space is 30 to 35 sq m, but there are mitigators to consider, such as the ceiling height being over 1.5m, and floor plans needing to be reduced to allow for sloping ceilings.

    At very least this lack of clarity does give landlords options to discount bedrooms across a fairly wide margin. They could therefore assist tenants by doing so and thus pass the whole unfair mess back to government to resolve, and justify.

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  • Patricia Cross

    Joe Halewood | 22/08/2012 4:56 pm

    thank you Joe, have just done a search myself and come across some info on WBC site, dont know though if it refers just to flats,

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  • is there a danger that this argument could be turned on its head and the govt declare that where a three bed house has a "boxroom " it can no longer be charged for as a three bed and all rents reduced accordingly.
    this would also have the effect of overnight declaring many households overcrowded who would never have considered themselves as such but could now seek rehousing in a "true " three bed house which probably doesnt exist

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  • another thought - blimey two before 8:30. the govt hasnt defined vulnerable yet. what price after the paralympics the govt declares that noone is disabled - look at what our athletes achieve.
    i think we need to be careful what is asked for - sometimes you get it !!

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  • Rick Campbell

    Whilst I can't effectively define vulnerable for you PB, I can indicate that even in a coma, a person can be deemed fit for work --

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  • Chris

    Rick - why does this surprise you - have you not looked at the Cabinet!

    Indeed - the dead are going to need to remain employed and earning just to pay off the new debts and mortgages lumped upon us, although no dead red will be allowed to continue voting. There was a time in the Uk where you popped your dead relatives under your bedroom floor - although I'm sure the Tories will find a way of taxing this too!

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