RENT arrears among Northumberland housing tenants have soared since a controversial ‘bedroom tax’ was introduced.
Isos Housing, which runs the former council homes in Castle Morpeth, says arrears have gone up by £11,000 in the county since April — an increase of 18 per cent. Across the North East, the association’s figure is £35,000, a 27 per cent rise.
It follows the introduction of an under-occupancy penalty by the Government in April, which reduces the amount of housing benefit paid to tenants who are deemed to have spare bedrooms.
Under the regulations, one bedroom is permitted for each adult or couple in the household, but two children of the same gender aged under 16 are expected to share, as are two children under the age of ten regardless of gender. Benefit entitlement is reduced by 14 per cent if a tenant has one spare room, and 25 per cent for two or more.
A total of 5,222 households are considered under-occupied in Northumberland.
Isos Assistant Director for Financial Reporting and Operations Finance Richard Hukin said: “It is difficult to say whether this rate of increase will continue for the full year or whether tenants’ behaviour will change as they adjust to their new benefit levels. If it continues, it could increase arrears by £150,000, around ten per cent of the overall total.
“We continue to work with our tenants to help them resolve any issues resulting from the changes to the benefit regulations, including providing advice on benefit entitlement, assisting with applications to councils’ discretionary housing funds and discussing re-housing options where appropriate. We would urge any tenants facing difficulties in paying their rent to contact us as soon as possible on 0300 300 1505 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org”
Homes For Northumberland, which manages housing in Blyth Valley and Alnwick, has seen an 86 per cent rise in tenants falling behind with payments.