Bedroom Tax – If the buck doesn’t stop then please buck off!

I have never been so angry and outraged by a social landlord as I am today.  That’s personally angry and professionally angry yet what follows is not a rant as I call for the board of Liverpool Mutual Homes to dismiss its Chief Executive forthwith for allowing LMH to practice the most despicable (and unlawful?) practices yet seen with the bedroom tax.

Forget the disgraceful conduct of One Vision Housing last week with their outrageous ‘disclaimer’ letter which I termed the social landlord declares war on the social tenant; the actions of LMH are far worse as revealed here in the Liverpool Echo.

I feel ashamed of working in social housing after reading this and so should every housing professional and everybody involved in social housing.  The vast majority, and I am talking 95%+ of people I know and know of that work in social housing will feel betrayed by LMH and if the OVH disclaimer letter left you in any doubt about the social landlord declaring war on the social tenant was a harsh assessment by me, you can have no doubt now that the social tenant across the country will feel this, to the detriment of the very many good social landlords and social housing professionals.

Social landlords are going to get hell over this and their finances are going to get hammered as arrears will rocket because of it.  They will be hit massively in their pockets and their bottom lines for this and despite the fact I have always said social landlords have been shafted by the government in the welfare reforms and especially financially, if ever a landlord deserved to go bankrupt because of it, then it is LMH.

Yes I’m angry but my words here are chosen very carefully and professionally nonetheless – So just what has LMH done you ask?

They have brought the entire social housing sector into disrepute and their CEO in allowing this should rsign and must resign

The articel in the paper with comment from me and after I have spoken at length with the journalist.

“A DISABLED woman from Liverpool who had a special lift shaft built through the floor of her spare room has been told she must still pay hundreds of pounds in “bedroom tax”.”

I have used the through-ceiling or through-floor lift as the best analogy of how social tenants and private tenants are treated differently for housing benefit purposes (see here) and the bedroom tax is not simply the government applying the same criteria to social tenants that now exists for private tenants.  This property would be deemed a 2 bed one by the independent Rent Officer if the landlord was a private one but LMH have chosen to define it as a 3 bed property.

“The tenant (name removed), from Everton, who suffers from severe epilepsy, had the elevator installed because of the risk she might have a fit while using the stairs.”

So just cause then.

“But even though housing bosses built the £8,000 lift and shaft through the floor of her spare bedroom and took walls and the door out, they have now told her she will have to find up to £600 a year to cover the reduction in her housing benefit.”

Yes LMH, the social landlord – though not worthy of that name – has told the tenant and presumably Liverpool City Council Housing Benefit department too that a room in which you cannot fit a bed in that has a wall removed and no door is a bedroom and thus eligible for the bedroom tax!!!

I comment on the £8000 spent below and for now just note this represents 13 years worth of bedroom tax.  Far more importantly if LMH has told LCC HB that this is a 3 bed property which it clearly is not under any definition then they have exposed themselves to a legal action by the tenant as they have misinformed the council and because of this a cost and detriment has arisen to the tenant.  I trust the many well-known solicitors in my home town will now be thinking how much money they can get in court for the tenant!

Far more serious than that for me is that this exposes why a social landlord cannot be trusted to inform HB when bedroom tax decisions are taken.  Yes this exposes the bedroom tax policy and guidance of the coalition as inept but reveals social landlords should NOT be trusted to confirm to LAs what number of bedrooms a property has.  It also exposes a point I made yesterday that the LA simply taking the word of a social landlord as to the number of bedrooms yet sending for an independent assessment by the rent officer in private housing is discriminatory and cannot be allowed to remain.  The irony here being that the disgraceful actions of LMH have perversely exposed this discrimination which I argued gave all 660,000 social tenant a right of appeal against a bedroom tax decision!!  So let’s hope all 660,000 social tenants do appeal, as is their right, on this basis!

The article continues:

TENANT has now been told by housing association Liverpool Mutual Homes (LMH) that “it is not LMH’s policy to reclassify the property from three-bedroom to two-bedroom following the installation of the vertical lift”. The housing association said it would help her apply for discretionary housing benefit from the council or she could move into a two bedroomed property with her 15-year-old son.

So the tenant has been told by LMH they will not reclassify!!  Does that mean LMH has not looked at its policies as to the bedroom tax impact or revised them?  Or does that mean LMH are only worrie about the £8 per week or so rent differential.  Sorry reader that was facetious of me and LMH clearly don’t know their humerus from their rectum when it comes to money do they?  Spending £8,000 on adaptations and they advising her to move!!!

The Eco then quotes LMH

 “Housing associations invest millions of pounds adapting tenants’ properties – LMH will spend over £700,000 this year alone – yet a lot of disabled tenants are considered by the government to have a ‘spare’ bedroom even though they often need it to store specialist equipment. “We are now helping TENANT by trying to reduce the impact of the bedroom tax on her and raised the possibility of her considering downsizing to smaller ground floor accommodation. “We understand this can be a difficult decision because people are in the main happy in their home and do not want to move.”

FFS I don’t know where to begin with this appalling attitude of LMH..Oh aren’t we good we spend £700k on adaptations they claim…then totally shaft (no pun intended) the disabled tenant and shaft their own finances by advising the tenant to move – and wha becomes of the £8k adaptation? – when they should tell HB exactly what the property is…accurately, as the official guidance says, yet they don’t.

LMH could and should take the tenant out of the bedroom tax altogether by correctly saying it is a 2 bed and not a 3 bed property.

LMH says tenants don’t want to move yet they are advising them to move?  Coercion anyone? Harassment?  Or just a classic case of my argument that the social tenant is not being advised independently by a social landlord and cannot be advised by them as they have a clear conflict of interest as moving the tenant removes their financial exposure to arrears!!  This is a life-changing decision for anyone moving house yet the only advice the social tenant gets is self-interested advice from those who benefit if they do move!!!!

(Just thought do LCC HB department have a legal case against LMH as well for them misleading the council?)

This one example shows so much that should reflect on the ill thought through and pernicious bedroom tax yet reveals more about the, at best, ambivalence of social landlords towards the social tenant.  It exposes huge flaws in the bedroom tax yet rightly in this case says a hell of a lot more about LMH and their truly offensive actions in this matter.  It paints ALL social landlords as mere money-grabbing b*stards in the eyes of the social tenant and coming so quickly after the OVH scandal of last week shows this is no “One-Bad-Apple’ syndrome amongst social landlords.

If somebody did a snap poll today asking Joe Public who they hate the most Gallup et all must be careful not to peak with social tenants as social landlords will come higher than the bankers and the estate agents and even the coalition!!

This is not the social housing I recognise from working in for so many years yet as the old saying goes it takes decades to build up a good reputation and 5 minutes to lose it!

Just to add insult to injury and to say you couldn’t make it up could you Steve Coffey the LMH Chief Executive wrote an article in Inside Housing the leading housing trade magazine on 1st March 2013 with the title “We hate the bedroom tax too” and the subtitle of:

Tenants need all the help they can get before the bedroom tax comes into play

What’s that Northern expression when you present as something your actions prove you are not – all fur coat and no knickers? – yes that’s the one! And what’s that well-known allegedly Harry S Truman plaque all CEO’s have on their desks…thats it the buck stops here!!

Is calling for his resignation too strong reader? I don’t think so?  More importantly has irreparable damage been done to social landlords reputations?  YES!!


3 thoughts on “Bedroom Tax – If the buck doesn’t stop then please buck off!

  1. I posted this earlier at the Echo:-It seems the LMH have replaced their common sense, placed it into the asylum where they have escaped from, for they are true lunatics, to name also withheld 🙂 I wish you success in your plight and hopefully this farce will right itself in your favor and soon, warm wishes and regards, John 🙂

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