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Bedroom Tax Rent Arrear Figures ‘Show Real Impact Of Changes’

Legal Experts Call On Those Affected To Seek Specialist Advice


By Rob Dixon

New figures suggesting more than 50,000 people affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ have reportedly fallen behind on rent are the first real indication of the impact that the issue is having on many disabled families, according to legal experts.

The ‘bedroom tax’ reduces housing benefit for social housing tenants with spare bedrooms and campaign group False Economy set out to consider how the introduction of the changes has affected many people.

It added that the actual number of people affected could be even higher as the research, provided to The Independent, was based on a sample of just 114 local authorities. Separate figures from the National Housing Federation also suggested another 30,000 people residing in housing association properties are through to be struggling with rent arrears.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Law team represents a number of clients affected by the debate surrounding the issue, including many disappointed by the High Court’s dismissal of a challenge regarding the tax in July this year.

Fiona McGhie, a legal expert who specialises in health and social care issues at Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield office, said: “It was clear from the outset that many of those affected by this would be disabled people on low incomes who live in adapted properties and often near family and friends who they may rely on for support.

“We knew the consequences of the High Court decision would be felt widely and this is clear proof of the impact it has already had.

“It is simply not straightforward to downsize quickly to avoid the bedroom tax and the oft-suggested idea of taking in lodgers is often completely impractical. A lot of people point out that their spare bedroom is so small that it could only be used as a bedroom for a child so they can’t take in a lodger to help.”

Fiona added: “It is worth remembering the bedroom tax is based on the description of the property in the tenancy agreement. The finer detail means that If people think their spare bedroom is smaller that 70ft and that it cannot be used as one, they need to go through the first tier tribunal to seek reclassification.

“In many cases, disabled people have had their properties adapted to meet their needs and so they’re less likely to be able to find suitable accommodation elsewhere. In such circumstances, the council will often need to adapt alternative properties at an additional cost so it isn’t always a cost-effective proposal.

“We would urge anyone with concerns over this issue to seek advice to determine what help is available to them.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in relation to Social and Healthcare Law