Govan Law Centre (GLC) has welcomed the Scottish Housing Minister's advice for landlords on the bedroom tax, which the Scottish Government has announced today. In particular, GLC is pleased to see Housing Minister, Margaret Burgess, encourage social landlords to work with local authorities on the reclassification of 'bedrooms' where appropriate to mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax.
This was a legal issue which GLC on behalf of the Glasgow Advice Agency Ltd (GAA) had obtained the opinion of senior counsel over a month ago, and which GAA had expressly called for the Scottish Government to utlise as a practical strategy to minimse the application of under-occupancy charges, especially where a household had a disabled person. We support the Minister's helpful words of encouragement to social landlords' today:
"There are also circumstances where a bedroom’s classification may be changed and tenants not penalised. Again, I would encourage landlords to consider this possibility and work with their local authority if at all possible".
GLC also welcomes the Minister's endorsement of Dundee City Council's 'No eviction for bedroom tax arrears' policy, which we believe is a very progressive initiative based upon the exact same principle as our 'No eviction for bedroom tax arrears' campaign. The Dundee City Council policy will last for 12 months and guarantees that no tenant who is doing their best to pay their rent arrears will be evicted for bedroom tax arrears. The Minister's statement on this issue is reproduced below, and GLC hopes that the Scottish Government will reconsider its position on amending section 16 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 in light of its apparent support for Dundee's no evictions for bedroom tax policy.
The Scottish Housing Minister said today: "You may wish to be aware of the policy adopted by Dundee City Council which I believe provides a useful template to protect tenants who genuinely cannot make up the shortfall in rent caused by the bedroom tax. The Council has committed that, where the Director of Housing is satisfied that affected tenants are doing all that can be reasonably expected to in order to avoid falling into arrears, they will use all legitimate means to collect rent due, except eviction. I would encourage you to consider this as a mechanism to protect the most vulnerable of your tenants.”