The bedroom tax was introduced in April 2013 with promises from the Government that it would save the taxpayer £1 million per day and increase the availability of larger properties to families that need them.
However, the BBC has reported that 28% of tenants affected by the bedroom tax have fallen into arrears for the first time since April 2013 and just 6% of affected tenants have moved properties. The Government have responded by stating that the taxpayer is saving £1 million per day and that they hope that 30% of affected tenants will have moved properties by 2017.
These statistics clearly show that the policy is not having the desired effect of moving families to properties suitable for their needs. Landlords will admit that their housing stock simply does not include enough one or two-bedroom properties to accommodate those trying to move out of larger properties and avoid the tax.
To make matters worse, once a tenant is in arrears their landlord will often refuse to consider moving them. The tenants are left in a catch-22 situation where they cannot afford to pay the shortfall in their Housing Benefit and their landlord cannot move them anywhere else.
Landlords are also left in a difficult situation as they must spend their time and resources on issuing court proceedings against tenants who are not intentionally avoiding paying their rent but just cannot afford it.
I have seen this situation on many occasions while representing tenants on the Legal Aid Court Duty Scheme. The tenant states that they want to move, the landlord openly admits they do not have any smaller properties and the Judge must make a decision about the future affordability of the property to the tenant. While some Judges have shown sympathy towards tenants in this situation, their hands are tied and as time goes on since the policy was introduced, I can see their sympathy beginning to wane.
While some tenants have been successful in appealing the bedroom tax, many have not been that lucky and are forced to look forward to a future where their already limited income is spent on living in a property that they do not want and cannot afford.
It appears that the Government will continue to hail the bedroom tax as a success as they point to the savings being made to the taxpayer but from where I am standing the policy is a disaster for tenants and landlords alike.
By Jessica Knott, graduate paralegal in the housing law team