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Call for war against bedroom tax

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government

The ticking time bomb of 'underoccupancy' changes The ticking time bomb of 'underoccupancy' changes

A housing benefit consultant is calling on social landlords to declare war on the bedroom tax.

Chris Smith, a consultant with 40 years’ experience of the benefit system, is urging housing associations and local authorities to consider actions such as locking off any spare rooms so they cannot be counted as bedrooms.

“The real battle starts now and social landlords need to decide which side they are on. The bedroom tax is so manifestly unfair that it could turn into this government’s poll tax. There is an election coming up comparatively shortly and there is a history of getting measures like this repealed after they are implemented,” said Mr Smith.

The consultant is calling on landlords to take the following action:

• Put out press releases about how your organisation is being affected by the tax.
• All councils run by the SNP and the Green Party have said that they will not evict tenants whose arrears are solely down to the bedroom tax. See if you can persuade your organisation to make a similar commitment.
• Support individual residents who want to tell their story by sending out press releases about their situation. 
• Support and fund tenants associations and other organisations that are opposing the tax. 
• Consider reclassifying your properties, although be aware that what you say is not definitive- since the regulations refer to the actual number of bedrooms rather than the definition by the landlord.
• Although you have to chase rent arrears and cannot have a blanket policy of writing them off, you can avoid mass ground 8 evictions. You do have a degree of discretion over how far you pursue rent arrears. I’m not going to work for any organisation that goes for mass ground 8 evictions. Individual staff will usually not be in a position to do the same, but I think you can announce your clear opposition.

Mr Smith added: “As the downgrading of a number of association’s credit ratings in the light of welfare reform suggests, either landlords and tenants hang together or they all hang separately.”

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