We’re now only a few short weeks away from the introduction of one of the more contentious elements of the UK Government’s Welfare Reform agenda. Perhaps appropriately, All Fools Day sees the start of the Under Occupancy Charge or ‘Bedroom Tax’ – as it is increasingly known.
The Bedroom Tax is targeted on working age Social Sector tenants (those in Council and Housing Association properties) who are deemed to be under-occupying their accommodation by one or more bedrooms. Those who are affected, and who are in receipt of Housing Benefit, will have that Benefit reduced by between £13 – £24 per week depending on their rent costs and the number of ‘extra’ bedrooms they have.
Estimates are that up to 6,000 households in Edinburgh may be impacted by this change in the law – despite their financial, health and other circumstances remaining exactly the same as now.
The real worry is that finding this additional £15 or so per week is going to be the proverbial straw that breaks the back of those managing already hard-pressed household incomes. Social landlords are bracing themselves for a significant increase in rent arrears as tenants struggle to meet – or even understand – this new assault on their finances.
Although it’s not their fault, landlords are currently grappling with how to handle a situation they’ve had dumped on them by Government. In some cases – West Dunbartonshire Council being an example – they have already decided that they will not initiate eviction actions against those tenants who develop rent arrears solely as a consequence of the Bedroom Tax (as long as they engage with money advice to work towards a solution).
In Edinburgh the Council is yet to make that leap. There is, however, a campaign in the City to encourage the City of Edinburgh Council to adopt a ‘No Evictions’ policy similar to that of West Dunbartonshire Council. The Council has a ‘Petitions’ policy, which means that if 500 registered voters sign-up then the matter will be considered by the Council.
One of the petitions currently seeking support is calling for the Council to adopt that ‘No Evictions’ Policy. CHAI supports this and would encourage anyone who also wants the City of Edinburgh Council to pledge not to evict any tenant who finds themselves in rent arrears solely because of the Bedroom Tax to add their name to the petition (here).
If you would like to learn more about the Bedroom Tax, or the wider welfare reform agenda, you can contact CHAI on 0131 442 1009.