It was revealed today that one in three council tenants have fallen into rent arrears since recent housing benefit cuts came into effect. So what’s the story and what can you do if you’re affected?
So what is ‘bedroom tax’? The under-occupancy charge, commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’, is a reduction in housing benefit for those in social housing deemed to have more bedrooms than they need. It was introduced in April.
The government says the change is designed to reduce the amount of housing benefit the Government has to pay and free up homes for families who are forced to live in overcrowded conditions.
Are rent arrears getting worse?
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) submitted Freedom of Information requests to all of Britain’s local councils to ask how many of their tenants were in rent arrears.
114 councils responded and after adding up the numbers the TUC found that 50,000 people that were up to date before the new welfare benefit changes came into effect earlier this year were now behind with rent payments.
TUC campaign manager Clifford Singer said the change is “driving tenants and families who are just making ends meet into arrears.”
Lack of homes
Additionally, a criticism of the policy is that there are not enough houses for people who are affected to move into.
The National Housing Federation estimates that although 180,000 households were under-occupying two bedroom homes, as of last year only 85,000 one bedroom social homes are available.
The government have responded by saying that the policy is in its early stages and they’re continuing to monitor the situation. They also intend to make extra funds, like the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP), available to support vulnerable tenants.
Get help with rent arrears
Being behind with your rent can be worrying. If you’re struggling, we can give you the debt help you need to get back on track, starting with these four straightforward steps.
1. Draw up a budget
It’s important to know how much money you have spare to offer towards your arrears. Having a budget to show your landlord or council will help when negotiating payments. You can do a budget online using our Debt Remedy tool. It’s easy to use and you don’t have to give your name.
Rent is a priority and more important that non-priority debts like credit cards, loans and payday loans. If you’re in rent arrears you may have to reduce credit payments to push money towards clearing them. (To note, your creditors cannot make you pay more than you can afford, read more about what your creditors can do if you reduced your payments.
3. Check your benefits
Do an online benefit check. Anything from having another child, a change in your working hours or separating from your partner can affect your benefit entitlement. It’s estimated that in the UK more than £10 billion of benefits go unclaimed every year. You could be missing out on money you’re entitled to.
4. Speak to your landlord
If you’re struggling with rent arrears you may be nervous about getting in touch with your landlord, council or housing association. But once you’ve followed our other steps you can contact them with more confidence about your financial situation and make an offer.
Worried about rent arrears?