Bedroom Tax and arrears. Every landlord needs to read this possession case from today!

Below I have cut and pasted a post from Facebook which went live from outside the court just this lunchtime.  The significance is huge as will become apparent:

Well today was my adjourned repossession court day (shouldn’t have been for another month!) After sitting waiting as my time got put back and extra half hour we finally go in. HA rep gave her side of it and asked for weekly payment for arrears and another adjournment.

Judge asked if everyone fine with this (HA and my barrister say yes) I’m shaking head behind my barrister but he can’t see me. We gets outside court room and I told him that I had won my appeal and that the DWP are taking it to UT for permission to appeal so I shouldn’t be paying anything as I don’t owe it!

So he goes back in and asks if we can sit again, we go back in he explains its bedroom tax, I won appeal etc. Judge said to HA rep, so if this UT appeal is refused this tenant owes nothing, debt is gone?? She said yes.

Judge rolled eyes then says ok no weekly payments just adjourn. She couldn’t even get it right with 56 days is not 3 months!! So my respossession order has been adjourned again. I’m safe in my home for at least 2 more months. Thanks to REDACTED for her support I don’t know what I’d do without you xx

I know a little of this case that is not reported which is the DWP had permission to appeal refused by the First tier Tribunal which the tenant does not state above as there were no errors of law in the FtT decision to reverse the bedroom tax decision taken originally.

I have left the quote precisely as the tenant described it and social landlords reading this will now be aware of the possibility and probability I raised in April 2013 in a post entitled the real arrears issue we cant discuss that appealing the bedroom tax can, in effect, prevent eviction and therefore it is very much in the tenant interest to appeal for that reason alone.

Note I have never advocated this course of action for that reason and I have merely stated the obvious that this is a by-product of a legitimate appeal on the many simple grounds we have seen and I have long advocated such as room size and room usage and all of the nuances within those two simple grounds of appeal.

The FtT in this case AS IN EVERY OTHER CASE rules on the basis of fact and law and not on supposition or laziness of the sham bedroom tax appeal process undertaken by local authorities who admittedly had little choice to do this yet of course that does not excuse the decisions and never can.

Putting my housing head on it would be a shame if the only reason tenants appeal the bedroom tax was to delay an eviction process yet some will undoubtedly do that.  Hopefully when social landlords see this case they will finally finally finally appreciate the position that THEY benefit should a tenant successfully appeal the bedroom tax ass rent stays at same level and they get more income plus a backpayment of arrears and have a reduce ongoing exposure to arrears AND hopefully they will now see it is the ONLY pragmatic course of action they can take.

 

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I have asked the tenant and her advisor (and well done to you both!!) for copies of any court orders that flow from this and I will with their permission post below when available. Yet this issue needs airing and much greater awareness hence this brief post today Thursday 29 May 2014 14.30pm

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UPDATE 16:00

The housing officer was overheard mumbling into her phone outside the court that they would have to reclassify the property now!

Jesus wept!!

Do frontline arrears officers still not understand what the hell is going on here?  Every Tribunal decision which rules – for bedroom tax purposes – that a property has 2 bedrooms and not the 3 it says on the tenancy agreement DOES NOT MEAN RECLASSIFYING!!

I am at pains to point this out and at further pains to say that landlords (a) do not need to reclassify and more importantly (b) SHOULD NOT RECLASSIFY

To explain.

1. When a Tribunal decides it is a 2 bed for bedroom tax purposes nothing changes as

2. Local council HB departments do not have the power to (a) reduce the rent level or (b) reduce the HB in payment UNLESS (c) the rent level is “UNREASONABLY HIGH.” That is the ONLY way the rent level of HB payment can be reduced by the HB department

3. Given that right across the country (and even before the misnomer that is the affordable (sic) rent model) it is common for some 2 bed properties to have a higher rent level than some 3 bed properties in the immediate vicinity in social housing.

4. Nationally the average difference between a 2 bed rent level and a 3 bed rent level is £5.97 per week.  Hence when a 3 bed becomes a 2 bed (plus boxroom) how can the local HB department argue that the rent is unreasonably higher than a straight 2 bed?  They cannot.

In summary  – and one wonders what the hell social landlords are doing not knowing HB regulations and especially when it provides two-thirds of their income – when a tenant wins at a bedroom tax appeal: –

  • The landlord gets a HB backpayment
  • The landlord gets ongoing higher HB payments
  • The landlord exposure to arrears is reduced
  • The landlord asset value is not affected

IN SHORT AND IN BIG SHOUTY CAPITALS THE LANDLORD IS BETTER OFF IN ALL WAYS WHEN A TENANT WINS AT A BEDROOM TAX APPEAL.

And add this into your calculations – the average bedroom tax is just over £700 per year and the average cost of eviction to a landlord is estimated at over £7000 or the equivalent of ten years worth of bedroom tax.

And is you are a council landlord then the average cost of a homeless case was estimated at over £7000 too a few weeks back

Do I need to put a simple YES / NO poll on here to ask if landlords are stupid in NOT supporting tenants to appeal!!!

 

 

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