Bedroom Tax Blamed For Increase In Westminster Rent Arrears

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 56 months ago
Bedroom Tax Blamed For Increase In Westminster Rent Arrears

towerblocks_160813The bedroom tax is being blamed for an 18% rise in rent arrears for tenants living in Westminster.

The total arrears for all Westminster households subject to a cut in housing benefit if they're deemed to be under-occupying is £44,023. Not all of that will have been racked up since 1 April, when the changes came in, but Labour councillor Paul Dimoldenberg says the arrears have increased 18% since March 2013. And since the so-called bedroom tax affects social housing tenants, this is the council that's losing money.

439 council tenants in Westminster have had their housing benefit cut (£18 a week for one bedroom 'too many', £34 a week for two or more). 369 of these are in two-bedroom properties and need to downsize, but can't as there aren't enough suitable homes available. (Westminster has only managed to rehome 31 tenants.) When we wrote about the bedroom tax in April, we found there was a four-year waiting list in Lewisham for people wanting to move to a smaller home; the situation will be replicated all over London.

So tenants can't move and now they're getting into arrears (and not just in Westminster: see also Edinburgh, Nottingham, Norwich, Bristol and any other number of cities thrown up by a Google search). Moving into private rented accommodation won't be an option for many tenants either, since if you can't afford your council rent with an £18 a week cut, you won't be able to afford a market rent – or not without a massive increase in housing benefit. There really aren't any winners with this policy, are there?

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Photo by mrdamcgowan from the Londonist Flickr pool

Last Updated 16 August 2013


Private tenants have been subjected to these rules for years so it's only fair they are applied to social sector tenants as well. Social housing shouldn't be under occupied when it's so scarce. If there aren't suitable one bed council properties available people should take a lodger in or move to the private sector, allowing a family living in the private sector the chance to use those spare bedrooms.

Andrew M

Actually, shifting over-occupiers into private rented accommodation might well be the solution. Consider two households on benefit: a single person living in a two-bedroom council flat (rent: £100/wk); and a family of four living in a rented two-bedroom private flat (rent: £295/wk*). The total bill for the taxpayer is £395/wk. If the single person moves to the private sector (rent for a one-bed flat: £224/wk*), and the family moves to the council flat (still £100/wk); then the total bill for the taxpayer falls to £324/wk.

Thus we can both save money and allocate housing more efficiently. It's a win-win.

Obviously not all situations are that simple (particularly when it comes to disabled residents), but don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

(* These figures are the Local Housing Allowances for the Broad Rental Market Area of Inner West London.)


Its putting people in the position which they trying to stop, homeless.


Social housing that is now classifed as 'under occupied' often is not. Many of the people with a so-called spare room need it for a carer, for their spouse who has to sleep in a separate room because of a disability or long-term illness, or the room is needed because the tenant has a disability so has a lot of essential equipment that will not fit into their tiny bedroom or sitting room. Or the 'spare' room is the bedroom of a large teenager who is supposed to move into his or her sibling's tiny bedroom. In some flats, the sitting room is far too small for the family to have somewhere to sit round a table to eat together as well as a sofa and armchair, the kitchen might be a little galley one or just be an area at the end of the sitting room, so one small room is a dining room, doubling up as a quiet place to do homework, away from noisy and disruptive younger children. The whole space available in a home and the family's basic needs should be taken into account before deciding that a home is 'under-occupied'.