Monday, 11 March 2013

All Bedrooms Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others

The other day KT wrote about the "Bedroom Tax" , where KT pointed out that Labour introduced the measures in 2008 for private tenants :
Now when people are proved wrong you expect them to concede the point, however one MP didnt, this was my exchange with Jamie Reed MP the other day on the subject :
Mr Reed denies they did introduce the "bedroom tax" in 2008, so KT being a nice guy sent Mr Reed this tweet a bit later :

It links to this site
  I even directed him to the paragraph :
 It clearly sets out the "bedroom tax" policy, however! I feel that Mr Reed maybe unconvinced, so I thought I would use a source that is well known to most people , This is from the housing charity "Shelter :

"Local housing allowance (LHA) is the housing benefit paid to most tenants who rent from private landlords.
The amount of LHA you can get largely depends on how many bedrooms your home has, and the maximum rent allowed for properties in your area."

They go on to explain who it applies to and when from :

"Local housing allowance only applies to private tenants who are making a new claim for housing benefit or who made a claim after 7 April 2008."

Oh! 2008 you say! , Lets now see how the LHA is calculated :

The amount of local housing allowance you can receive will depend on:
  • the maximum rent allowed for properties in your area
  • the number of rooms you need.
One presumes that includes bedrooms, which brings us on to this :

"When you make a claim for LHA, you’ll be assessed as needing a bedroom for each of the following people in your household:
  • adult couple
  • other person aged 16 or over
  • any two children of the same sex up to the age of 16
  • any two children regardless of sex under the age of 10
  • any other child."
Sounds fair enough, Then they offer advice on what to do if LHA does not cover the full rent :

Your options could include:
  • applying to the council for a discretionary housing payment
  • looking at your monthly outgoings to see if you can make any savings
  • negotiating a cheaper rent with your landlord, in return for the council making your LHA payments directly to them
  • moving somewhere cheaper
So, we have established that LHA was introduced in 2008 and that it is calculated on rooms you need ( sounding familiar so far), indeed at the time Labour were very supportive of it, the then Minster Stephen Timms said this  :

‘The LHA is a central part of the Government’s wider programme of benefit reform. It’s a radical change to the way Housing Benefit is paid in the private rented sector and will help people take action towards managing their own bank accounts, making it easier for them to move off benefits and in to work."

However just a few weeks ago Mr Timms described it as :

So its perverse to use the same rules on public tenants that are used for private tenants that Labour itself introduced?

Labour cannot say they oppose the policy as they introduced the principle of it in 2008, just remember that when you see them tweet about it.

They really dont get this "One Nation" notion at all. 

Note : When reading the BBC piece i came across this : 

 "The new rules will affect less well-off tenants who are paid housing benefit to help with rent on council housing or housing association properties - but not those renting in the private sector."

That could be because they were affected when the rules changed for private tenants in 2008 maybe? 


  1. Your researching skills are getting better all the time, Billy. Nice one!

  2. As a landlord who has sat in on the Council inspection to help my tenant with the form filling, he had few literary skills, everything you have reported here is true. Also, as a nasty, greedy, exploitative landlord, charging sky high rent, may I just mention the fact that the Council set the rent that is paid. I had to suck it up. Or maybe I could have thrown him out on the street, what with me being a grasping, capitalist, landlord etc etc etc

    1. This article is substantively true and private tenants on Housing Benefit have been sucking it up for years, and reorganizing their finances quite effectively since LHA came in, and I don’t remember the BBC covering this at all at the time. Odd, that.
      In 2008 Housing Benefit at the then-new LHA rates tended to be set a bit higher than the previous Rent Officer Determinations to sweeten the change. Labour allowed the customers up to £15 above the contractual rent to allow them to ‘shop around’ or ‘vary their living arrangements’ or ‘vote Labour,’ before the world’s welfare-banking economy tanked in 2008.
      Clareyh, you misconstrue a little bit. The Council doesn’t set the rent you can charge. You may charge £3000 per week if you wish and jolly good luck to you!
      However, LHA means the Council will only pay a maximum Housing Benefit based [now] on the bottom 30% of local rents for similarly sized [ie, similarly supplied with bedrooms and other main rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms], as set by the Valuations Office Agency – a national government body using local market research.
      So yes, in a sense it feels like the council – that actually calculates and pays out Housing Benefit - ‘sets your rent’, but it only feels like that. If you were renting to people who weren’t claiming Housing Benefit you’d charge whatever you could manage to agree with them. It’s only when you hope to get your rent ultimately via Housing Benefit, ie, from public funds, that any non-market restrictions apply at all, unless you have an increasingly rare and very old controlled-rent tenancy. The way to avoid being ‘capped,’ is not to rent to benefit claimants.