Saturday, 05 September 2015

Universal credit threatens eviction amnesty

Councils that have pledged not to evict tenants who run up arrears as a result of the government’s ‘bedroom tax’ could struggle to keep their promise once universal credit is introduced.

Dundee Council last week agreed that no tenant in arrears due to the under-occupation penalty would be evicted if they are doing what they can to avoid falling behind on payments, and several other councils are considering similar promises.

However it has now emerged that such schemes could only last a few months because the introduction of universal credit later in the year could make it impossible to implement.

Dundee’s policy will only run until April 2014. Councillor Jimmy Black told Inside Housing that they would need to review the policy in nine months because of universal credit, and the level of arrears that the council may build up.

Councillors in Brighton & Hove have also pledged not to evict tenants who run up arrears as a result of the bedroom tax. Green Party councillor Liz Wakefield, who chairs the council’s housing committee, said she will bring forward proposals to bring in the policy at a meeting on 8 May.

But council chief executive Penny Thompson played down the idea, saying it was not council policy and would need to be ‘investigated for feasibility’.

Other councils that are looking at proposals for a ‘no eviction’ rule include West Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Fife and Norwich.

Under the ‘bedroom tax’ social housing tenants of working age who are on housing benefit will have their payments cut if they have one or more spare bedrooms. The policy will be introduced on 1 April.

Universal credit, which is being rolled out nationally from October, will combine a range of benefit payments – including housing benefit – into a single monthly sum.

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