Despite a recent decision of Brighton City Council’s Housing Committee not to evict those hit by the Bedroom Tax during the course of this year, a number of Council tenants have already received letters entitled ‘Notice of seeking possession’. These letters have been sent to them without any previous contacts. They also unfairly accuse tenants of having failed to pay a number of weeks’ rent, when in fact they only failed to pay a number of weekly shortfalls (smaller than a full rent).
On 31 May 2013 a group from Brighton Benefits Campaign presented themselves with banners and placards at the Housing Centre in Moulsecoomb, asking to see a manager with regard to the recent threats of sanctions. A delegation was seen by the Head of Housing Management Ms Dafe and another Council officer.
Ms Dafe told us that:
• The Council has now recognised that the procedure so far applied to Bedroom Tax Victims (BTVs) was too harsh and that it is now revising the procedure.
• No more letters entitled ‘Notice of seeking possession’ will be send to BTVs straight away. Ms Dafe guaranteed that such a procedure will stop from next week (3 June 2013).
• From 3 June 2013, two preliminary steps will be taken by the Council before sending a letter threatening a Notice of Seeking Possession. The Council will first make more than one effort to contact BTVs to enquire about their circumstances and offer advice.
• The Council is now drafting a new letter, to be used as a ‘first step’, and will send a sample to Brighton Benefits Campaign in about a week and a half.
• Ms Dafe agreed that the Council rent statement should not unfairly call a ‘week’s rent’ what is in fact a shortfall on the weekly rent.
These decisions are a good sign. However Brighton Benefits Campaign believes that more political pressure should be exerted in the course of this year, for two reasons:
Firstly, the Council can only guarantee that no-one who is in arrears solely due to the Bedroom Tax and who has taken all reasonable actions in their circumstances will be taken to Court during this year, but the Council can still serve them with a Notice of Seeking Possession during this year.
This means that a possible future eviction will be pending over many heads, and that innocent and compliant BTVs can be evicted from April 2014 – only because the Council has not enough suitable homes to offer them!
Secondly, although Ms Dafe told us that individual cases may be selected for humane consideration, the Council cannot guarantee that tenants who were already in arrears for other reasons won’t be evicted when the Bedroom Tax plunges them into deeper debt.
Please get in contact with us if you experience anything that contradicts this information, and help us pushing for more: for a U-turn in the recent attacks on benefit levels (including the Housing Benefit cap, the Bedroom Tax, the abolition of Council Tax Benefit, and the attack on the Local Housing Allowance), for the reintroduction of rights for tenants and private rent control, and for increasing social housing provision.
There will be a meeting in Hollingdean next Thursday to organise a local group to fight the Bedroom Tax and benefit cuts (details in previous post).
If you would like to help with leafleting the area we will be at the TUC Unemployed Centre from 3pm on Sunday, or leaflets can be collected from the centre during office hours during the week.