Forewarned is forearmed so they say so can I suggest to all those who are social housing tenants that they might want to contact their landlords to find out if they will be affected by the so called bedroom tax that will come into effect from April 2013.
As far as I can tell what will happen is this. That if tenants are of working age, and if they are deemed to be underoccuping their accommodation and if they receive housing benefit then the benefit will be cut by 14% for the first 'spare' bedroom and by 25% for two or more 'spare' bedrooms.
That you may need the bedrooms because you share responsibility for bringing up the grandkids, or because you have the kids to stay, say, at weekends but the rest of the week they live with your ex, or if you have two kids of the same sex who have a bedroom each then quite possibly you will be deemed to be underoccupying your accommodation. Those examples by the way aren't exhaustive - I'm sure there will be others that will be affected by this - like the disabled who need more room (s)?
Just thought I'd flag this up. Suggest you check out with your landlords if you will be affected and that you suggest to any others you know who are also social housing tenants that they do the same.
Those of you who watch the BBC TV news may have caught a feature in the local "Spotlight" edition shown yesterday (29.2.12) about a couple who live Dartmoor way and who are social housing tenants. They presently live in a 6 bedroomed house but wish to move to much smaller accommodation now that the kids have flown the nest. They need specially adapted accommodation because of health problems and they wish to stay in the area they presently live in. They are on benefits and find it very difficult to pay the bills that such a large house incurs. Thus far however, their wish to move has been thwarted because smaller accommodation in the area in which they wish to live does not exist/is not available.
What the BBC programme did not mention however was the impact that the 'Bedroom Tax' will have on them if they have not moved by April 2013. If they have financial problems now then those problems will be as nothing compared to that they will experience once their housing benefit gets cut. Cut because they will be deemed to be under-occupying their property even though that is not their fault - they will still be there because there is no where else for them to go.
I am sure they are not the only ones who may find themselves trapped like this. The problem of lack of alternative accommodation (of whatever size) will be greater for those who live in the more rural areas of the country like er........the south-west.
For info here is the text of the e-mail I sent the BBC.
You are running a story today about a couple who wish to leave their 6 bed socially rented home because it is now too big for them but are unable to do so because there is no suitable smaller accommodation in the area they wish to live in.
There is an extra dimension to this story that you are not covering and that is the so called Bedroom Tax that forms part of the Welfare Reform Bill presently going through parliament.
Basically the 'bedroom tax' will take effect if tenants who are of working age and who claim housing benefit are deemed to be under occupying their accommodation. Whether or not tenants are deemed to be under occupying is determined by how many bedrooms they need compared to how many they have. By the way, how 'need' is determined is something that has caused much controversy especially in the House of Lords.
This new legislation is scheduled to come into effect from 1st April 2013. It will be something of a sick April's fool joke for quite a few social housing tenants who can look to losing up to 14% of their housing benefit if they under occupy by one bedroom and up to 25% if they under occupy by two or more bedrooms.
Tenants who rent from social landlords in the more rural parts of the county (like the southwest) will be particularly hit by this tax as, like the couple featured in your story, there is a dearth of smaller properties for such tenants to relocate to in the areas in which they presently live and work.
Perhaps you could cover this aspect?"
If you live in Social Housing you do not receive Housing Benefit in the normal way, your rent is paid direct, unlike private landlords where the tenant gets hb prorata to their needs
How the HB is paid is not the point.
The point is that if social housing tenants are deemed to be underoccupying their properties then their HB will be cut back as I have explained above.
So.......they either cut back on other things to make up the shortfall (and if they are on HB I imagine there is not much cash to spare in the first instance), or they go into rent arrears.
The social landlord must then decide whether to 'carry' the rent arrears or to go for eviction.
Im sorry Lynne but a member of my family lives in Social housing and all they( hb) pay is the rent, whilst another person I know rents private and gets an allowance for themselves and each one of their children paid into their bank account. Social rents are much lower. What Im trying to say is if you are in Social housing you do not get an allowance its just your rent gets paid direct so I think you will find its different. I live in social housing and my rent is lower than what I would qualify for single persons HB, but I do pay my rent as I work
I know social rents are much lower than private rents and that housing benefit is paid direct to the housing association.
As I understand it, currently what happens is that when the council work out the housing benefit which the landlord (housing association or council) receives, the starting point is the actual rent set by the housing association, the actual amount paid is then calculated taking into account the personal circumstances, income and savings of the tenant and their household.
Under the new rules that are coming in 2013, the basic rent used to calculate housing benefit for social tenants will not be the actual rent if the tenant and their household underoccupies the property and they are not in one of the groups who are being excluded from these new rules.
The rent used to calculate housing benefit will be an amount below the rent actually charged. The tenant will receive less housing benefit (paid direct to housing association) and will need to make up the extra rent from their other income or they will fall into rent arrears. This extra rent which will need to be paid is what is described as the bedroom tax.
Does that explain things?
This link should give you more info on the 'Bedroom Tax'.
It is from the Department of Work and Pensions website. I know it is dated February 2011 but as far as I can ascertain what was being proposed then is still being proposed to happen wef 1.4.2013
Lynne, you seem to miss the point of the proposed cuts. Just because they now live in that area does not mean that we, the tax payer, have to pay their rent when there are cheaper areas to live in. I would love to live in Mayfair or other such area, but I can not afford it and do not expect others to pay for it.
I am not missing the point of the proposed cut in HB at all. It is because I am getting it (as in understanding it) that I am drawing people's (and especially social housing tenants') attention to it.
Just how far from where people presently live are they supposed to move to in order to find that smaller accommodation?
I am not talking about London or other urban areas I am talking about the more rural parts of the country, like down here.
Just to be clear. I am not talking about the 26k per year max for claiming benefits of any and all kinds. That is indeed part of the Welfare Reform Bill and is the aspect of it that has gained the most publicity.
What I am talking about is another, less well known, aspect off the W.R. Bill which is concerned specifically with social tenants and the financial consequences for them if they are deemed to be under- occupying their accommodation and if they are of working age and having any or all of their rent paid by HB. (So pensioners, for example, are exempt because they are not of working age ).
Whereas the 26k benefit limit will impact mostly on large families living in high cost areas (such as Mayfair in London) the 'bedroom tax' will impact most on smaller families living in the more rural areas of the country - like down here.
Mayfair was just a light hearted example, but I still think that when one falls on hard times, for what ever reason, whilst the state (or we) should look after you, it should not necessarily be in the manner that you lived before. So moving to cheaper accommodation is part of it. As to how far they should move depends on just how much they want our help, ie if they have no money they move to the cheapest part of the county. Also, under occupancy of social housing is tantamount to fraud.
You are presupposing that there is cheaper,smaller, accommodation available to which people can relocate.
And it's all very well saying that they should move to cheaper parts of the county but what if they work (people who are on hb do work you know) and this cheaper part of the county is miles from their job? What do they do? Give up their job? Then what?
Are there enough social housing units (of whatever size) in the county? I don't think so.
If people have to move into private sector housing because of this lack of social housing (presupposing again that the size needed is available) and the rent is higher than that in the social housing sector (which almost invariably it would be) then the amount of hb being claimed by the person who has had to move will increase. Where is the logic in that?
And the bedroom tax is not necessarily aimed at persons who have fallen on hard times - they may have experienced such hard times all their lives - no falling involved at all.
Then of course if such under occupying tenants get support from nearby friends and family with their day to day living like offering child care or doing some shopping and cleaning what happens to that support network and the services provided by it if those tenants have to move miles away? It won't be there will it, or.....it might be that the state will have to provide and pay for it.
There is a potential here for not only a lot of social misery for those caught up in all of this but, and this should appeal to you Taverner as you seem so keen to focus solely on the financial aspects, a lot of false economy.
If you take any argument to its extreme, you will get extremes. That was never my intention. In your opening posts highlighted a couple in a six bedroomed house, their other problems aside, large multi bedroomed houses are in short supply in every area, so they should be rehoused to a smaller home. You stated that they were on benefits, so no travelling to work problems. As to rent differentials, you assume a vast supply of empty houses, there is not. For every older couple that move to smaller homes there will be a family moving up to larger homes, the two rents remaining the same. Whether private or social housing, the number remains the same. The total rent outlay also remains the same
As for your last point, this is more of a problem, but as the vast majority of us our fit and healthy, it will only affect a few and that is a different topic. Your posting was about underused social housing and a bedroom tax.
Yes Taverner I agree with you that they should be rehoused. They also wish to be rehoused. The point being that they haven't been so yet because there is nothing available for them in the area that they want (need?) to be. They may not be working due to ill health but perhaps that is all the more reason why they need to stay in the area that they presently live in so that friends/relatives can help them. However, if they do not move to a smaller property by 1.4.13 they will get 'caught' for wont of a better expression by the bedroom tax and, as I pointed out, if they have financial problems now then those will be even worse then.
The last thing I am doing is assuming a vast array of empty houses. I am doing the exact opposite. And therein lies the problem - will there be enough smaller properties for people to downsize into? I think not and especially not in the more rural areas of the country. It is not only me who thinks that, the government does as well. If you click on that link I gave in an earlier posting from the Department of Work and Pensions website and scroll down to the bottom of page 11, item 34 you will see that the government acknowledges that this 'bedroom tax' will be felt more in rural areas and areas where there is a lack of social housing.
The same website shows that the DWP estimates that an estimated 30,000 social housing tenants in the south west who are in receipt of housing benefit will be affected and that the h.ben loss will be an average of £13.00 per week.
And who am I to argue with the government?
And so, to return to my opening post. If I were a social housing tenant I'd be checking NOW with my landlord to see if I will be deemed to be underoccupying my property. And if the answer is yes, then I have got about 13 months to decide what to do.
My reason for posting was, and is, to alert social housing tenants to this aspect of the Welfare Reform Bill
Any system will have disadvantages for some people, that's unavoidable. But the number of people living on their own in large properties, especially old council houses, is very wasteful.
My father ended up on his own in a very big 3 bed council house with a large garden that he couldn't look after, and chose not to move to a smaller house he was offered. He was not of working age, could afford the rent and didn't claim benefits, but I think it was wrong that he was allowed to occupy such a property most of which he never used, so depriving a larger family of suitable accomodation.
A 'means test' based on usage is a very good idea, use it or lose it or pay for it. Someone I know in Dawlish recently had to move to a smaller place because she could no longer afford her rent, she does not qualify for benefits so had no choice, why should people 'of a working age' be entitled to have accomodation paid for which they do not fully occupy.
"why should people 'of a working age' be entitled to have accomodation paid for which they do not fully occupy "
perhaps because there is nowhere else for them to go? perhaps because they need the 'spare' bedroom to help look after the grand kids? A million and one reasons quite possibly.
The point is, whether right or wrong, wef 1.4.13 the rules for social housing tenants are changing. And that is what I am trying to bring to their attention.
And as for pensioners. Well Wriggler, if you want to propose that a similar system be proposed for them then you are a brave person indeed. Even this government won't go there! (yet?)
All this means is people will either move or pay a more reasonable amount towards their rent, working people, like the lady I mentioned earlier had to move as she doesn't get benefits, she has to pay her rent from her wages which became too much for her, so she moved. Another person living in the same block complained to me that he now has to pay £5 a week from his Jobseekers Allowance towards his rent as his HB has been reduced, hopefully, but I doubt, he will get up one day and find a job like the lady who just moved out because she is prepared to work so couldn't afford the rent.
Someone wants a spare room in case the grandkids stay over and the taxpayer should pay for this!!!!!! I don't think so.
Depends on how much people earn though doesn't it?
I mean if people work but don't earn enough to cover their social housing rent then they get help to do so via hb. Might I suggest that if a family is in that position then it may well be the case that they won't have any monies left over to pay the 'bedroom tax'?
So, another option would be for them to move. But to where? Where can they go if there is no smaller accommodation available?
And the grandkids issue. Hmm....suppose they stay over at their grandparents so that their mum and dad can go out to work - night shift or something similar. You could argue I suppose that the parents could pay the grandparents the bedroom tax from the money that they earn but then the money left to live on by the parents and children would drop. Not a problem if you are high earners but if on minimum wage? And the parents themselves may be social housing tenants and may themselves be caught up in the bedroom tax if their kids are of a young age and are of the same gender. Vicious circle, catch 22. Call it what you will.
Just trying to make the point that there may well be knock on effects from this legislation that weren't necessarily intended and that may end up making the whole thing not as cost effective (to the taxpayer) as was planned.
I am sure many people would like extra rooms in their house so friends and relatives can have a room to themselves if they visit but for people to think this is a right that should be funded by the taxpayer is nonsense. This whole idea seems complicated, but I can see the point of this is to free up under utilised properties and am sure when it affects people financially they will in many case suddenly discover they can find alternative accomodation and go without the 'luxury' of spare rooms that sit empty most of the time.
I know of one lady who complained the amount of benefits she received made it difficult to buy enough airtime for her 5 childrens mobile phones!!! and you want us to give them extra money to have spare rooms in their houses, simple choice, pay for luxuries or neccessities.
There will always be people disadvantaged by any changes, and equally I am sure there will be many people who will get better accomodation as a result of this legislation when larger properties become available.
"you want us to give them extra money to have spare rooms in their houses",
""but they are not necessarily 'spare' rooms, are they? I've just given you an example of grandparents having grandkids to stay thus allowing the parents to work and why that might not make those rooms 'spare' at all.
I've just sent an e-mail to our MP about this legislation asking her lots of questions including asking how 'spare' accomodation is to be defined (I've asked her his as I cannot find anything online and as she should pass this on to the Minister concerned I should get answers to my questions from the horse mouth as it were).
Here's one I've posed to her. Social tenants, on hb, have one child. The child is in last year studying for A levels and plans to go to University in the October. At present the accommodation is not under-occupied as it is a two bedroom house. However, once offspring leaves for university, and although she will return home at the end of each term and for the long vacation will that mean that what was her bedroom will now be deemed to be 'spare'?
Simple, assume term time is 32 weeks, then under occupied for 32 weeks and HB adjusted accordingly, you are trying to make something that is very simple into something that is complicated.
If a person claims HB they should get it for what they need, not what they want, use it, lose it or pay for it. If I only used my car to take a grandchild to school for 6 weeks of the year would I be entitled to pay only 6 weeks road tax, I think not. My choice to use the car, lose the car or pay tax so I have the facility available.
A thought most certainly.
But with respect we need to know what the government intends doing. What you or I or anyone else for that matter thinks is, bottom line, irrelevant.
Which is why I've e-mailed our MP with lots of questions.
Unless YOU directly affected by this change, why do you need to know so many details?
If it means that those who need larger houses, who are currently squeezed into smaller properties can benefit by these changes, then the inconvenience of having to more slightly out of area for those who have had the benefit of a larger property when they needed it but who can now downsize because that need has gone is surely a price worth paying.
The benefits system is supposed to be a "safety net" to help those in real need, not a feather bed to keep them in comfort until the end of their days in a style those who work hard and don't claim benefits can only dream of.
We would all like spare rooms, extra space, somewhere to let visitors stay overnight etc etc, but the world isn't sugar coated and this country cannot afford to subsidise people in this way any more.
Why do I want to know so many details? Because I do, that's why.
And your problem with that is?
PS: and benefits come in many shapes and sizes and many who 'work hard' as you put it are entitled to them. Depends on what they earn and their personal/domestic circumstances.
Now, there's a debate on the tv later today - parliament is debating the proposed changes to child benefit and working tax credit.
As it happens neither of the proposed changes to these benefits will affect me, but if my circumstances were different then they might, and if they did and I didn't know about the changes I would be really grateful if someone were to let me know about it.
So....... anyone who reads this and is wanting to know what is being proposed re Child Benefit and Working Tax credit just let me know and I'll start off another thread........
Yes please Lynne
Okey doke - will do it a bit later - promise.