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The bedroom tax three months on, is it working?

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It is now three months since the introduction of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’. The ‘tax’ has thrown many social tenants into rent arrears and those that were struggling before 1st April 2013 are now finding themselves in real difficulty.

Whilst some Judges may have had sympathy for these tenants whose rent liability went from zero to a significant chunk of their wages or benefits each week, this is beginning to wear a little thin. The tenants may have been provided with some leeway in the time immediately after 1st April 2013 but now, three months on, they are left with rising rent arrears, no easy way to pay them off and facing imminent eviction.

Some of these tenants are desperate to move out of their rented accommodation, into somewhere smaller, with fewer bedrooms, but the very fact that they are in arrears prevents them from doing so. The tenant is in a vicious circle where eviction seems the only way out.

It has been reported this week that Wigan and Leigh Housing have seventeen properties vacant but nobody has bid for them because they would be over-occupying and be subject to the bedroom tax. Wigan and Leigh Housing, among other social landlords, have stated that they may have to consider restructuring or demolishing the vacant properties in order to rebuild smaller properties if the trend continues.

One of the arguments used for introducing the bedroom tax was to release larger properties to be rented by those that require more rooms for their family. However it would appear that the supply in many areas is, in fact, higher than the demand. Ultimately social landlords will spend more money on redecoration, restructuring or demolishing their larger properties whilst losing rent income. Surely this cannot have been the intention behind the implementation of the bedroom tax.

The bedroom tax seems to be a lose/lose situation for both landlords and tenants in areas such as Wigan and Leigh.

By Jessica Knott