Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Open letter to Lib Peck asking Lambeth not to pursue evictions of tenants who fall foul of the 'Bedroom Tax'

I have today sent the following letter to the Leader of Lambeth Council Lib Peck, asking for a council commitment not to pursue the eviction of tenants who fall foul of the new 'Bedroom Tax'.

26th February 2013

Dear Cllr Peck,

As you know, from 1 April 2013 new restrictions will be introduced by the Government affecting working-age households occupying social housing. Reductions will be applied to housing benefit payments where tenants are deemed to be under-occupying their homes. This has been called the ‘Bedroom Tax’.

Your own estimates suggest that 4,000 households in Lambeth will be affected. These will suffer shortfalls of hundreds of pounds a year. You also suggest that because of Lambeth’s lack of suitable smaller accommodation for tenants to downsize to, there will be a large build up of rent arrears. The result will be more debt, more people struggling with bills and the real risk of more homelessness, with all the enormous costs that brings.

It is not enough for Lambeth council to wring its hands in despair. Lambeth Council must take steps to protect those who will be adversely affected. Will you therefore commit the council not to take eviction action against tenants for rent arrears which have arisen as a result of housing benefit being reduced for ‘under-occupation’?

This would be workable, practical and within your power to do. In determining when and whether to initiate and pursue proceedings to recover a tenancy as a consequence of rent arrears, the council could:

- Calculate the sum by which the household’s housing benefit payment has been reduced by under-occupancy restrictions

- Disregard that sum in relation to action for recovery of the tenancy (eviction).

This would be a pragmatic move that would leave it open for Lambeth Council to do as it has always done for other types of rent arrears. Other forms of debt-recovery might be used for bedroom tax-related arrears should Lambeth Council choose to pursue them. But crucially, it would remove the spectre of eviction and homelessness that will hang over many of Lambeth’s most vulnerable residents as a result of the Bedroom Tax.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Bartley
Lambeth Green Party

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