A TEARFUL mum-of-two has told how she will be homeless after becoming the first person in Derby to be evicted because of the so-called bedroom tax.
Renleigh Anderson, 28, has more than £800 of rent arrears because, she says, the Government’s under-occupancy rules have left her without enough housing benefit to pay rent.
Now she will be evicted and is frightened about what it could mean for her and her children.
The single mum said: “It’s devastating, especially when I felt so close to getting my life back on track.
“My daughter’s going to school in September and I was hoping to go out and get a new job. I was really .
“Now I’m having to start again.”
She has seen her housing benefits cut by £12.55 a week because, under Government rules, she is under-occupying a three-bedroom house in Kingsley Street, Sinfin.
The rules, introduced to free up more properties and slash the country’s benefits bill, say that anyone under-occupying by one bedroom should lose 14% of their housing benefit.
Miss Anderson’s son is seven and her daughter four, which means she falls foul of the rule that children aged under 10 should share a bedroom.
Derby Homes, which manages the house, has 13,300 properties, of which 1,289 are currently affected by the so-called bedroom tax.
But it says Miss Anderson is its first tenant facing eviction solely because of the charge.
Since Derby County Court gave Derby Homes the right to evict her within 28 days, she has looked fruitlessly for private-sector homes she could afford to rent.
There is a good chance she will not be allowed back on the housing waiting list because she says she cannot repay any of her debt and, even if she was allowed, housing providers might not accept her. She agrees that her only choice is likely to be declaring to the council that she is homeless.
The council will then, a Derby Homes spokeswoman said, need to decide if Miss Anderson has made herself “intentionally homeless” by “deliberately doing or failing to do something” that resulted in her losing the tenancy.
If that happens, the council has a legal duty to provide advice and temporary accommodation for “a reasonable period for the applicant to secure alternative housing”.
This could be in a bed and breakfast, hostel, or “a property on temporary basis”.
Derby Homes would not, the spokeswoman said, have a legal duty to find the family a permanent home.
When asked what this could mean for Miss Anderson’s children, the spokeswoman said: “For intentionally homeless households with children, the housing authority is required, usually with parental or guardian agreement, to notify social services of the situation.
“Social services will need to make an assessment of whether the children are ‘children in need’ and may offer assistance accordingly.”
When asked if this could mean her children being taken away from her, the Derby Homes spokeswoman said: “This would be a decision made by social care staff at the time.”
Miss Anderson said she could not believe her desperate situation was “all over £12.55 a week”.
She said: “It’ll be about £350 a week to put us up in a bed and breakfast. It just makes no sense. My daughter is about to start school, her life in education, and I just worry that this isn’t a good start.
“I don’t even know if she’ll be near where she was going to go to school.”
Miss Anderson had previously made an unsuccessful application for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP), which can be awarded by the council to help people whose housing benefit does not cover their rent.
She said the council had turned down her application because it believed she had the money to plug the rental gap, though she said it did not take into account £20 a week repayments on a Department for Work and Pensions loan she took out.
Derby Homes had previously said Miss Anderson did not tell the council about these loan repayments.
A Derby Homes spokeswoman said: “We have tried to advise Miss Anderson to try and prevent this (eviction) and we are disappointed she has not made any payments or followed up on her unsuccessful discretionary housing benefit claim. Derby Homes treats eviction as a last resort and tries to avoid this course of action by making agreements to pay.”
Miss Anderson said she was still waiting for an official date for eviction to be sent to her.
When the repossession case was heard at the county court, Renleigh Anderson aid Derby Homes should have reclassified her home and many others as a two-bedroomed properties so they wouldn’t be affected by the under-occupancy charge.
This is something that has happened in other local authority areas.
Knowsley Housing Trust, for example, had realised that demand for its two-and three-bedroom flats and maisonettes was virtually non-existent so it offered them to single people and couples without children.
They then reclassified them so the people there wouldn’t be forced out by the charge.
When Derby City Council made a decision not to go ahead with reclassification, the cabinet member in charge of housing at the time, Councillor Baggy Shanker, wrote to Derby Homes tenants to explain why.
He said: “Derby does not have an oversupply of two bedroom flats, and demand within the city remains high. “We believe that the effect of reclassification cannot be justified at present and would have a serious impact on our income from rents.
Miss Anderson told District Judge David Douce: “My son, is of an age (nearly eight), where, shortly, I would be eligible to have a three-bedroom home anyway.”
Miss Anderson said she had not been in arrears before the under-occupancy charge was introduced.
The judge said Miss Anderson had not advanced any legal argument for not issuing the repossession order. He said: “If she is not able to pay then a full order has to be made or else the arrears will go on forever.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We have made £345m available to councils to help the most vulnerable people since our vital reforms to restore fairness back to the system were introduced, including £1,362,918 to Derby, and landlords have been doing good work with those who need extra help to adjust. There are often many reasons as to why tenants are evicted. When we asked landlords about their tenants affected by RSRS, we found less than 0.02% had been evicted.”
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