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Social landlords respond to 'bedroom tax' concerns
WIRRAL’S social housing landlords are urging residents to get the advice they need as changes to their housing benefits draw near.
Tenants living in housing association properties will be faced with a “bedroom tax” from next April, meaning they will be charged for any spare bedrooms they have in their homes.
The changes, which fall under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, will mean a percentage of tenants’ housing benefit will be cut depending on how many empty bedrooms they have.
However, Wirral Partnership Homes’ assistant housing director John Mycock said he was keen to eliminate confusion among some residents that landlords are bumping up rent prices.
He said: “The Government have decided that anyone of working age who is in receipt of benefits is entitled to housing for their needs.
“So, a single person or a childless couple would only be given a one-bedroom home. Children of different sexes are expected to share until the age of ten while those of the same sex should share until 16.
“There has been some confusion with some people thinking their rent is going up but that is not the case – their benefits could be cut depending on their circumstances.”
According to the National Housing federation, the plans will affect couples who use their spare bedroom while recovering from illness or surgery; foster carers as foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes and families with disabled children.
The Government has said that cuts to housing benefit will be set at 14% for one extra bedroom and 25% for two or more extra bedrooms.
And Mr Mycock said it is vital that tenants ask for advice if they are unsure about any aspect of the changes.
He said: “The obvious challenge is that if people find they cannot afford the changes then how do we move them? There are a limited number of one bedroom flats available so we have to talk to people to discuss their individual circumstances.
“I think people are putting off dealing with it because it’s not until April but these changes are going to affect a lot of people so it is best to find out now.”
And Riverside Housing echoed Mr Mycock’s words and said they were in the process of speaking to tenants while Leasowe Community Homes visited residents to discuss the plans.
Neil Townsend, divisional director for Riverside, said: “We have written to almost 300 tenants on the Wirral, who are at risk of having their benefits cut as a result of the bedroom tax, and we’ve had a really good response.
“We want people to understand the options available to them.
"Tenants can chose to stay and pay, and top up the deficit on their housing benefit, or move to a house with fewer bedrooms. So far, just under half of those who responded want to move to a smaller property.
“While we fought hard to campaign against the bedroom tax, it will be implemented from next April. This is why we are offering support in money management from our team of specialist advisors, as well as energy saving tips to help tenants make their money go further.
“It’s important that tenants continue to pay their rent, as arrears may lead to them losing their home. We would urge those who have not responded to contact us if they are concerned about their circumstances. ”