One Vision's bedroom tax warning letter slammed by critics
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Legal
A letter sent out by One Vision Housing (OVH) warning its tenants of the effects that the bedroom tax may have on their housing benefit has angered campaign groups.
The Liverpool housing association's letter requests tenants to sign to declare that they have understood the new policy and that legal action may be taken against them should they fail to pay their rent.
The declaration reads: "I confirm that the above information has been fully explained to me and understand that I will be responsible for paying any shortfall in our (sic) rent payments. I understand that One Vision Housing can take legal action against me if I fail to pay my rent including any shortfalls as a result of these changes."
The letter explains how the government's under-occupancy rules will mean a 14 percent reduction in housing benefit for those deemed to have one spare bedroom, and a 25 percent reduction for those deemed to have two or more.
However, the letter has angered activists who have been campaigning against the bedroom tax.
Joe Halewood, who blogs as SPeye, wrote: "The letter is appalling and it is offensive and it is just plain wrong.
"The letter starts with a very legalistic heading 'Under Occupation Disclaimer' and the word ‘disclaimer’ will be perceived as legalese and a legal requirement by the tenant and something they have to sign, which they do not. But of course OVH don’t say this!
"The legal position has always been that a tenant is responsible for ensuring the rent is paid and in full – even if HB pay the rent in full and direct to the landlord as they sign the tenancy agreement to that effect! So, firstly there is no legal need for this letter yet OVH gives to the tenant the precise opposite perception that the letter is legally needed and tenants need and have to sign it."
Another campaign group, Combat the Bedroom Tax, also complained on its blog: "This is a clear indication of the shameful treatment of tenants, by housing associations, as they struggle to work out how they’ll meet the bedroom tax."
Around 300 bedroom tax protestors gathered outside OVH's offices last month.
In a statement, OVH income manager, Kevin Appleton, said: "Our emphasis is, and always has been around supporting and engaging with our tenants as we feel we have a responsibility to ensure they are fully aware and supported concerning any changes in legislation that may affect them.
"As part of our face-to-face visits, we created an information sheet to ensure that a consistent message was passed onto tenants. We asked them to sign the document, purely as a record of their receipt."