Bedroom tax bill would 'create more administration for landlords'

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A proposed bill to exempt hundreds of thousands of households from the bedroom tax would lead to legal challenges, appeals and more administration costs for social landlords, sector experts have warned.

A private members bill to change the bedroom tax, tabled by Liberal Democrat backbencher MP Andrew George, passed its second reading in the House of Commons by 306 votes to 231 last Friday.

The bill would exempt from the bedroom tax - which cuts housing benefit of social tenants deemed to have spare rooms - tenants who have not received a ‘reasonable offer of alternative accommodation’ from their landlord. It would also exempt disabled tenants whose homes have been adapted.

Giles Peaker, partner at law firm Anthony Gold Solicitors, said social landlords would have to monitor bids through their choice-based lettings systems to see who has rejected a reasonable offer of accommodation.

They would then have to share the information with the local authority housing benefit department.

‘It would put quite a hefty administrative burden on the landlord,’ Mr Peaker said. The bill in its current form does not define ‘reasonable offer’, although it allows for this to be defined at a later stage. Mr Peaker said the bill is more ‘unworkable’ than the bedroom tax.

Joe Halewood, a consultant and anti-bedroom tax blogger, branded the bill a ‘dog’s breakfast’, pointing to problems of a lack of definition of ‘reasonable offer’ and a lack of clarity about any appeal process.

Sam Lister, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, warned of a ‘snowball of appeals’ as tenants use family circumstances to argue offers are not ‘reasonable.’

The bill stands little chance of completing its passage through both houses of parliament and coming into effect before the next election.