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Bedroom tax court cases rocket - report

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Bedroom tax court cases rocket - report

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Local Government

Bedroom tax court cases rocket - report Bedroom tax court cases rocket - report

The number of social landlords resorting to court action to deal with bedroom tax arrears has rocketed by more than 50%, according to new research.

Between June and December 2013, 55% of councils and ALMOs responding to a survey by the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA), the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) and the Councils with ALMOs Group had taken legal action against non-paying tenants as a direct result of the under-occupation penalty. The figure in the previous survey published in June 2013 was just 2%.

The research also showed that 16% of social landlords had been granted an eviction warrant for a total of 59 cases while 66% of respondents said they had served a Notice of Seeking Possession for arrears built up due to the bedroom tax.

Overall, the survey revealed, just over a third of council tenants are now in rent arrears as a direct result of the bedroom tax although there are striking regional variations.

The South West of England experienced the highest proportion of households affected by the under-occupation penalty and in arrears and the northern region saw the highest increase in the level of arrears for those affected by welfare reforms.

But London saw a fall in the proportion of households affected by the changes and in arrears over the same period.

Commenting on the report NFA Policy Director, Chloe Fletcher, said: “The results of this survey indicate that three quarters of a year in – welfare reform is still adversely affecting both tenants and landlords. Housing organisations across the country have put a great deal of effort into reducing the impact of reforms such as the ‘bedroom tax’ and it is certain that without this support and assistance, the situation would be even more serious.

“The NFA believes that the under occupation penalty should be reformed, that making universal credit payments to landlords should be a ‘tenant choice’ and that more resources should be made available to give tenants financial support and advice.”

ARCH Policy Adviser Matthew Warburton said: “The majority of under-occupying tenants are still trying to ‘pay and stay’ but few will be able to sustain this approach. We are yet to see the full adverse impact of these reforms.”

CWAG Policy Adviser Alison Freeman said: “Dealing with the impact of welfare reform has been the number one priority for CWAG members in the past year. The striking regional differences highlighted by this survey give weight to calls for a more flexible approach, particularly in parts of the country where there is a shortage of smaller properties. For many in these areas, downsizing to a smaller property isn’t an option.”

The survey also examined the extent to which tenants were able to move to a smaller property – one of the original goals of welfare policy reforms. In the first nine months, only 4.6% of tenants affected by welfare changes had moved to an alternative social housing property with the majority, 60%, choosing to ‘pay and stay’.

The NFA, ARCH and CWAG will capture the final quarter’s data of the bedroom tax's first year from its members in the summer and will report in the autumn.

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