Monday, 3 June 2013

Councils reclassifying homes to avoid 'bedroom tax'!

When it introduced the 'bedroom tax', the government claimed that it would result in £490m savings for the taxpayer in 2013-14. Under the regulations that were brought in, tenants who were deemed to have one spare bedroom, lost 14% of their housing benefit while those deemed to have two or more spare rooms, had 25% deducted from their housing benefit.

As we reported recently, thousands of tenants across the country are facing eviction and legal action because they cannot afford to pay the bedroom tax. In Solihull, one person has already committed suicide claiming she could not afford to live.

But councils in Leeds, Nottingham, Knowsley and North Lanarkshire in Scotland, believe they have found a way of circumventing the law by reclassifying thousands of bedrooms as box rooms, studies or non-specific rooms, so that tenants can avoid the 'bedroom tax'.

Knowsley Housing Trust in Merseyside, has reclassified more than 500 bedrooms, while Edinburgh, Birmingham and York councils are looking into it. The city council in Leeds has reclassified 837 bedrooms which will now be exempt from the 'bedroom tax'. In the case of Leeds, "reclassification was based on specifc criteria: where bedrooms were used as box rooms, where they were entered through another room, or where they were on the ground floor and not near a bathroom." In Nottingham, the city council has reclassified 1,000 two-bedroom flats in high-rise tower blocks as one-bedroom, while bedrooms less than 50 square feet could be reassessed.

The deputy leader of Leeds City Council, Peter Gruen, told the 'Independent' newspaper that the reclassification had been 'prompted by welfare changes' and added, "This is a totally perverse tax. Fair-minded councils cannot simply stand by and see such havoc."

Jim McCabe, leader of North Lanarkshire Council, said authorities "have been left to pick up the pieces of this horrendous reform."

A government spokesman told the 'Independent' that £150m had been provided to councils for support for vunerable people struggling to pay the 'bedroom tax', and added: "Councils may choose to redefine some properties, but we don't expect this to become widespread."

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