April will see the start of a tumultuous six month period for tenants with government changes likely to see reductions in housing benefits paid at a time of increased living costs. The results may be disastrous with many facing Court Proceedings due to rent arrears accrued through no fault of their own with many more falling into debt just to keep their homes. Many commentators agree that in the current economic market, the planned changes may result in disaster for tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of tenants.

Ringrose Law fields an experienced Housing Team with the breadth of knowledge required to guide tenants through these troubled times. Those that are eligible can receive assistance under the Legal Aid Scheme. We set out below some of the planned changes and whilst they may not all be implemented, we advise any one concerned to contact our Housing Team as soon as possible.

Spare Bedroom Tax

On 1 April 2013, social housing tenants with a home larger than they need are likely to see their Housing Benefits reduced. Those that are deemed to have one bedroom too many will see their Housing Benefit Reduced by 14% and those with two or more bedrooms too many will see their Housing Benefit reduced by 25%. It is anticipated that one in three social household tenant families will be affected and in the current economic client, it is feared the cuts are more than most families can bear.

Benefit Cap

The implementation of a Benefit Cap may result in a reduction in value of welfare claims including Housing Benefits, Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits with the affect to limit the total amount of monies households can receive from the Government. Ringrose Law does not advise on benefit related matters unless they are likely to affect your home but we have excellent relationships with local organisations that can offer welfare benefit advice and we can ensure clients are properly referred.

Universal Credit

From October 2013, many benefits will be replaced with the Universal Credit which will see the equivalent of Housing Benefits paid direct to tenants rather than landlords. One pilot scheme has demonstrated a five fold increase in rent arrears as a result of such proposals with families struggling to cope with rising living costs coupled with reductions in benefits and understandably, those affected are expected to choose to put food on the table rather than pay their bills.

What you can do…

Plan ahead.

If you are likely to be affected by the changes, particularly the Spare Bedroom Tax you should contact your local housing authority immediately; it is anticipated thousands of applications will be made imminently with those affected seeking smaller homes rather than keep houses they cannot afford. We expect demand to significantly outstrip supply, so early applications are essential for those affected.

You should also contact our specialist Housing Team. We can advise on many problems where a tenant’s home is under threat and we have excellent contacts with local organisations that specialise in areas we do not, for example, welfare benefit applications.

For more information please contact the Head of Housing, Robert Breckon robert.breckon@ringroselaw.co.uk

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