Today Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council has reported a 28% increase in people presenting as homeless since the introduction of the bedroom tax in April 2013 and it is expected that the figures will be similar across the northwest.
The cut in Housing Benefit, known as the bedroom tax, applies a 14% reduction in housing benefit where there is deemed to be one spare bedroom at the property and this increases to 25% if there are two or more spare bedrooms.
Many tenants have tried to downsize to avoid getting into rent arrears but there is a massive shortage of smaller properties for people to be able to do so
Along with the figures published today the local authority in Knowsley report that many tenants are finding themselves in increasing rent arrears as a result of the bedroom tax and as a result are abandoning their properties or giving up their tenancies as they believe they have no other option.
It is important that tenants finding themselves in rent arrears as a result of the bedroom tax do not abandon their property or give up their tenancy. If they do the local authority could say it is under no obligation to assist them with re-housing as they will be considered to have made themselves intentionally homeless as they were not legally obliged to give up the property.
This will result in more people being forced to become street homeless as they are not eligible for homelessness assistance.
Tenants finding themselves in rent arrears as a result of the bedroom tax and who are facing court proceedings should seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible as homelessness could be avoided. Those who have tried to present as homeless only to be turned away by the local authority should also seek help.
Stephensons have a dedicated housing law department who can offer specialist advice and assistance.
By Amy Tagoe, housing law team