‘Expert’ social landlords and bedroom tax advice? My humerus!

Got a call late last night about an apparent outright possession order a social landlord has been awarded for a tenant who only has bedroom tax arrears.   As we are now 29 weeks in these will likely be attempted with increasing frequency.  While waiting for the details to be sent to me I looked on Shoreline Housing Partnership’s website, the landlord involved, and boy do they not know their arse from their elbow when it comes to the bedroom tax.  However, as with all landlords, they like to present that (a) they are experts in the bedroom tax, (b) that tenants should engage with them because of this; and (c) fond of arguing in court that as the tenant has not engaged with them the tenant has merely put their head in the sand.

Of course some merit in that IF the landlord does know what they are talking about but in Shoreline’s case as evidenced by their website on the issue they clearly haven’t got a clue.

Shoreline Housing Partnership – see here for source

“In April 2013 – the government introduced the ‘bedroom tax’ meaning if you have one or more spare bedrooms in your property your benefit may be reduced.

Who does this affect?

Working age only – this is under the qualifying age for State Pension – so an average age of 62 will apply. (oops!)

Housing Benefit rules allow:

  • One bedroom for each adult or couple
  • One bedroom for children under 10 sharing (regardless of gender)
  • One bedroom for children under 16 years sharing (same sex)
  • A bedroom for a non-resident carer is allowed if they provide overnight care to person with a disability in your household. (oops 2)

 It does not take into account:

  • Shared child-care arrangements for separated parents
  • Rooms for foster children (oops 3)
  • Any allowance for disabled adaptations
  • Any other arrangement whereby someone not part of the household permanently comes to stay (eg grandchildren).

How much benefit do I lose?

If you have one spare bedroom your Housing Benefit is reduced by 14% (oops 4). For example, if you pay an average rent of £70 per week and you have one ‘spare’ bedroom, your Housing Benefit would be reduced by £9.80 per week.

If you have two spare bedrooms or more your Housing Benefit is reduced by 25%. So for an average rent of £70 per week, your Housing Benefit would reduce by £17.50 per week.

This is based on a 48 week rent year, for those who are currently entitled to full Housing Benefit.

This does not mean that we will not allow you to have spare bedrooms. It means you will get less Housing Benefit and have to pay more of your rent yourself if you have spare bedrooms.

What can I do?

Think about your options:

  • Don’t bury your head in the sand. Have a discussion with the people in your household about how the changes are affecting you. Speak to your housing officer as soon as possible or contact the Citizens Advice Bureau. We can help you work out how best to manage your situation.
  • Make up the shortfall from your other income. Think about how much money you have coming in each month. Are there any regular expenses you can cut back on? What would you give up to keep your spare room?
  • Manage your money. What regular bills do you have to pay? What needs to take priority? Make sure you pay your rent first. If you fail to pay your rent you could lose your home.
  • If you get some Housing Benefit or Council Tax benefit (oops 5) but are having difficulty making up the rest of your rent you may be able to get a community care grant.(oops 6)  Contact the Housing Benefit Team at North East Lincolnshire Council to apply.
  • Would a move to smaller accommodation better suit your needs? We have a limited range of one and two bedroom properties that you may want to consider. Visit Home Choice Lincs to find out more.”

All the points highlighted in bold above  (oops to oops 6) are false and clearly this landlord does not know what it is doing.  

  • The 14% is a deduction from your eligible rent which can and often is different from the HB you received before (if your rent is £100pw and you normally get £80 in HB you will get £80 less the £14 bedroom tax off your £100 pw eligible rent – so £66pw not £68.80)
  • There is no average age and this suggests a male of 62 will not pay the bedroom tax which is of course false
  • A bedroom for a non-resident carer ONLY applies if the care is given to the tenant and/or tenants partner and NOT to a child or anyone else in the household. So again false
  • Room for foster children not allowed – oh yes it is – sorry reader with expert advice this bad it sort of lapses into pantomime doesnt it!
  • Council Tax Benefit was abolished in April 2013 yet it appears Shoreline tenants can still claim!!
  • Community Care Grants were abolished in April too and …

As you can see clearly this social landlord does not have a clue what it is talking about yet likes to claim it can advise its tenants and indeed on all letters they send out there is a little message for tenants.  It reads

“Government welfare reform is here. Don’t get caught out.  If you need advice on how it will affect you please contact your housing officer.”

Would you contact and have any faith in a housing officer from Shoreline?  Of course not. Yet this still doesn’t stop them proclaiming they know what they are doing does it?  You will also have noticed that any mention of appealing the bedroom tax decision is absent too.  So not only is this hugely errant advice it is far from complete.

I think I shall have to look at other social landlords web pages on the bedroom tax and the ‘expert’ advice they give out.  If you have any examples or suggestions which ‘expert’ social landlords websites I should look at then let me know

***********************************

Update and postscript 17.45pm Shoreline responded on twitter with this:

ShorelineHousing ‏@shorelinehp

@SpeyeJoe Thanks for pointing out the errors on our web page. We’re always open to feedback and will make any necessary changes.

A quick response which is welcomed yet a case of one that should not have been needed in the first place.  In the age of social landlord conducting much of its work online then this web page which presumably pre-dates the changes to foster carers on 13 March 2013 over 7 months ago suggests a clear case of taking the eye off the ball, and perhaps many tenants misled in that time?

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8 thoughts on “‘Expert’ social landlords and bedroom tax advice? My humerus!

  1. My HA advises me to sell my unwanted/unnecessary goods on EBay & take other pieces to a car boot sale – Great if you’re housebound with no vehicular access!!

  2. looks more like a copy & pasted OLDer (than present or more likely a simply NOT updated from 1.5-2.0 YRS back when this was first mooted does it not?) I.e an incompetent or more likely lazy secretary than a woefully incompetent HA ? Just my slant for what it’s worth based on our constant battle to get even basic facts out at this time and the facts above seem very familiar as of that time than now !!

  3. yeah I DON’T doubt this BUT it reads as if it was an original unchanged version that was used, I AM NOT DEFENDING them merely suggesting a reason, Why? I have personally dealt with MANY social landlords and along with my fellow Admins forced change of similar information on various SL websites and leaflets thus my post although none in the last say six months or so but it was a VERY common issue when we started (as the FIRST FB group almost 2.5 YRS back where it was suggested we were scaremongering, lying and causing distent although most if NOT all of the situations and senarios let alone changes or reluctance to change that we have always championed have become reality since BT officially took hold in April) hope that makes my point possibly clearer BT Chat page on FB

  4. Joe,
    After submitting my appeal in line with your instructions featured in your article dated 22nd September ‘How to appeal the Bedroom Tax’ , this, as expected has been returned subject to the required period to request it is heard by the tribunal.
    After reading the letter of reply from the LA and the legislative quotations referred to and contained therein, again, after reading further your article above, it is obvious that I am going to need some experienced advice to interpret the legislation and to respond competently in putting my case forward.
    Without the benefit of your prior experience, I feel people will come to a dead end at tribunals in trying to defend themselves or indeed to ensure that they have the opportunity to put their case forward, and the respective arguments, in the way you explain.
    Every case is different and so different pieces of legislation is used. How do we interpret this ?, none of us are lawyers. I now need help and wonder I cannot afford a lawyer at such short notice, what advice would you give ?
    Kind regards
    Ray

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