Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Govan Law Centre to draft Bill to prevent vulnerable Scots being evicted for bedroom tax arrears

Glasgow's Govan Law Centre (GLC) is delighted to announce that it's 'No Evictions for Bedroom Tax Arrears petition' will now be taken forward as a Member's Bill in the Scottish Parliament. The sponsoring member is Jackie Baillie, the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Welfare and MSP for Dumbarton. GLC has agreed to provide full legal and policy support in the drafting of the proposed legislation and accompanying documents.

'Under-occupancy deductions' are losing tenants of councils and housing associations in Scotland £12 per week on average, with some tenants losing as much as £22 per week in housing benefit. Around 105,000 households in Scotland are affected by the bedroom tax, of which 80% contain a person with a disability.

When it comes to Scottish rent arrears eviction actions in sheriff courts, often the success or failure of a tenant in preventing eviction will turn on a few pounds per week, for example the standard payment for arrears direct is £3.55 per week. Accordingly, £12 to £22 per week being deducted from rent payments under the bedroom tax creates the perfect storm for a major increase in evictions and homelessness in Scotland, as tenants are unable to downsize or find extra money from very low incomes.

Govan Law Centre's Chairman, Tommy McMahon said: "Govan Law Centre has suggested a small amendment to section 16 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 which would prevent 'bedroom tax rent arrears' being used to establish or justify a crave for eviction, and instead the landlord could obtain a payment decree for these 'type of arrears', and pursue them an ordinary debt".

"We are very grateful that Jackie Baillie MSP has agreed to champion this law reform proposal, and stand up for Scotland's most vulnerable tenants. It makes no economic sense to evict tenants, disabled people and children for bedroom tax arrears when they cannot downsize to a smaller property in practice, obtain a smaller specially adapted home, or find an extra £50 per month from breadline benefits. The Scottish Parliament has the power to protect tenants from the bedroom tax and it's time to act'.

GLC is also supporting the calls - along with Shelter Scotland and many others - on the Scottish Government to find £50m for social landlords to off-set the impact of the bedroom tax.

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