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Petition urges leniency on "bedroom tax" evictions
MORE than 1,000 people have called for York’s council leaders to promise not to evict tenants who cannot pay their rent because of the “bedroom tax”.
The controversial welfare reform came into force in April, and figures released in the autumn show the city’s rent arrears rose by almost a fifth in the first five months after the new measure came in.
At the end of September, 388 council tenants were further behind with their payments than at the start of 2013/14.
A 1,060-name petition asking for a City of York Council commitment to avoid evicting those whose arrears as a “direct result” of the spare-room subsidy will be debated at the full council meeting on Thursday.
The welfare change affects tenants deemed to be under-occupying their homes under Government size criteria, meaning they cannot claim housing benefit to cover all their rent if they are classed as having extra bedrooms.
The petition signatories have also asked for council-owned houses to be reclassified as smaller homes, ensuring rooms are not ranked as bedrooms if they are not used for that purpose, and to encourage York housing associations to do the same.
A report by Tom Brittain, the authority’s head of housing services, prepared in response to the petition, said it had developed ways of helping tenants affected by the spare-room subsidy.
It said eviction would be “a last resort”, after support to allow tenants to stay in their home or to move voluntarily had been offered.
The council would also need to apply for an eviction order, and the county court would have the final say.
The report stated: “To date, no tenant affected by the spare-room subsidy has been evicted and no court orders have been granted against customers for non-payment of rent arrears.”
Mr Brittain said the council would consider redesignating any bedroom which covered less than 50sq ft, and this had already happened at five homes, while tenants could also apply for discretionary housing payments to help with their rent.
He said: “The case law in this area is developing over time and we will continue to review our position in light of this should it be needed. There is clear guidance that the council cannot redesignate homes merely because the tenant does not require the additional room.”
The council estimates the bedroom tax has so far caused about £50,000 of arrears and affected about 600 tenants in some way.
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