Stop misleading tenants and do your homework! (updated)

If you a social landlord or social tenant please re-read this blog from September as only today I have seen the exact same errant information being given out by a large social landlord with their ‘bedroom tax’ calculators.  They all ignore the overall benefit cap which comes online in April 2013 and the risk is that tenants will believe they will get the same HB then as they do know and they will not and worse still could blame the landlord for this!

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Quick post to remind housing associations to do their homework and NOT mislead their tenants.  I mean inadvertantly by the ignorance of housing staff as to welfare reform changes.

To explain: – one HA has created and is raising awareness of a “bedroom tax calculator” (BTC) it has developed through twitter and no doubt its own website.  The BTC asks for age of oldest tenant and how many children aged under 10, 11 to 16, and over 16 and the gross rent figure.  It then computes if you are underoccupying and how much less you will receive in HB from April 2013.  This then simply deducts 14% of gross rent is underoccupying by 1 bedroom and 25% if by two bedrooms.  Fine you may think?

HOWEVER, it does not ask what welfare benefits you receive and this is important as on the same date in April 2013 the overall benefit cap comes online.  If you are a large family with 6 children claiming all the welfare benefits you are entitled to you will receive ZERO in HB.  This is because your already receive in excess of £500pw. If you are a two-aprent 5 child family you will receive about £37pw maximum in HB as you will hit the £500pw barrier.

Yet the bedroom tax calculator could say you will receive 100% of your HB or 86% of it or 75% of it and not zero which is the correct answer.

The HA in question is one of many developing such ‘simple’ bedroom tax calculators, all in good faith I may add as a service for their tenants.  Yet when your landlord tells you that you are not underoccupying and will carry on receiving say £120pw for you 4 or 5 bedroom property when in fact you will receive £0.00 per week and have to make up your rent from your welfare benefits, then the tenant will likely blame the landlord for this and not central government!

So can HAs please do their homework and include the overall benefit cap in any future bedroom tax calculators.  If you dont you will have a lot of very angry tenants!!

UPDATE 12 September 09:45

The above was a quick post yesterday to make the point that when social landlords try to simplify the welfare reforms they need to act very cautiously indeed.  It is obvious from the outset that the landlord meant well and was attempting to inform tenants and that is laudable and to be welcomed.  Yet despite the government trying to spin welfare reforms as simpler it is still a complex area and will always be so.  The only simple change is the crudeness of the cuts and especially the cap made by this government.

I highlight the fact that this is a government cut not a landlord one as the post has seen my inbox full of comments that tenants see the bedroom tax as the landlords fault and not something created by the coalition.

This is a serious issue that social landlords need to address and address immediately.  This is more than tenants shooting the messenger by all accounts and tenants are perceiving the bedroom tax is the fault of the social landlord and even created by the social landlord.  Whether it is easier to blame the landlord or any other reason the sector must do much more to ensure that tenants dont just know what the financial impact will be but who is to blame for this – the coalition government and not the landlord.

In many previous posts I have been critical of social landlords and the social housing sector collectively for not challenging government over welfare and housing reforms, and with good reason: Yet to not ensure that tenants, their customers, know where the blame lies for the invidious bedroom tax and even more despicable overall benefit cap and God knows what horrors await for them in Universal Credit is highly damaging to reputations, and reputational risk is a fundamental issue.  The old cliche that it takes 30 years to build a good one and 5 minutes to lose one is a ckiche for good reason!

Yet that is not social landlords style is it?  The PRS have no qualms about attacking central government policy or intentions, the SRS say nothing, do nothing and dont challenge.  That is the strategy that has seen the SRS go from providing 8 out of 10 rented homes to less than 5 in 10 over the past 30 years and is evidence of the lack of leadership in the sector and the lack of a common voice of challenge.

Here is the ideal opportunity for social landlords and tenants groups to speak as one, to get together and lobby on the behalf of the tenant, you know that same person they both claim to be working in the best interests of, their customer.  Yet it seems they would rather debate the merits of futile theory about whether the tenant is a ‘customer’ and whether that terms is appropriate!

And while they do that it is social landlords who are getting blamed errantly by the few tenants who realise what is about to happen.  That may appeal to some of the more ‘radical’ tenants groups for short-term gain but it will come back and bite them on the backside too when all tenants fully realise the impact and ask why tenants groups didnt challenge this more.

The cynic in me suspects the coalition are deliberately playing landlord and tenants groups off against one another and using the long-held tensions there to deflect blame away from government.  The realist in me knows they are not that clever.  It’s time both landlord and tenant let them know that!

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2 thoughts on “Stop misleading tenants and do your homework! (updated)

    1. Yes true but you miss the point. The same family of 6 would do the bedroom tax calculator and it would say not underoccupying AND no deduction to HB. yet the reality is they would get a 100% deduction on their HB as their welfare benefit level is already over the £500pw total limit. Hence come next April when they have to find the £120pw rent from their welfare benefits they will be rather angry at landlord dont you think and especially if the overly simplistic bedroom tax calculator told them they wouldnt see a reduction!

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