Notts Bedroom Tax Campaign meeting, 15 October – minutes

NOTES FROM NOTTS BEDROOM TAX CAMPAIGN PUBLIC MEETING HELD ON 15th OCTOBER

The Notts Bedroom Tax Campaign held a public meeting on Tuesday 15th October to share experiences of fighting the bedroom tax and call on local councils to adopt no evictions policies. This was attended by about 30 people from a wide range of local campaigns from across Nottinghamshire. Mark Giblin gave an update from the Defend Council Tax Benefits Campaign; Councillor Greg Marshall explained how Broxtowe Borough Council had implemented a no evictions policy; and Becky Kent outlined her experience of helping her mother fight the bedroom tax. Following a wide ranging discussion the meeting agreed the following key actions:
1. Continue to campaign for councils to adopt no evictions policies following the lead of Broxtowe.
2. Seek volunteers to sign up to a “rapid response unit” to respond when people face imminent threat of eviction.
3. Seek volunteers to update and maintain the Notts Bedroom Tax Campaign website to enable this to become a hub of information to those within Notts wishing to fight the bedroom tax. This will include links to and information about autonomous bedroom tax groups, local campaigns and activities as well as help and support regarding appealing bedroom tax decisions and DHP applications.
4. Promote relevant events in Notts including the 5th November events being organised by the People’s Assembly in Nottingham and Save our Services in Mansfield.
5. Seek to join together existing petitions calling for no evictions for presentation to local councils where appropriate.
6. To arrange further meetings as required in order to help with the organisation of campaigning activity; next meeting: Tuesday 12th November.


Minutes from Meeting to Discuss Proposals for taking forward the Notts Bedroom Tax Campaign

Meeting to Discuss Proposals for taking forward the Notts Bedroom Tax Campaign
Minutes – 28th August 2013, 6pm
Nottingham City Gallery

  • The meeting focused on holding a public meeting in Sept/Oct to put pressure on Nottingham City Council to implement a ‘No Evictions’ policy regarding BT arrears.
  • September has many other events happening (NHS demo, Men & Feminism event, etc) so as not to clash Tuesday 15th Oct was proposed – it would also coincide with a Nottingham City Council meeting the following Monday 21st Oct.
  • Notts BT Campaign will explore promoting the ‘No Eviction’ petition/s that have already been established to present to the Nottingham City Council – possibly on the 21st Oct?
  • The Campaign will write to key organisations to seek financial backing to help fund the campaign – Notts TUC & GMB were two which were identified.
  • Will promote the Public Meeting via social media, creating a flyer to be distributed at other events as well as a letter to Nottingham Evening Post.
  • It was agreed that the campaign would promote the ‘HomeGuard UK (Bedroom Tax Evictions)’ Facebook page which is a national group which aims to co-ordinate people for eviction prevention on a regional and then local level.
  • Notts BT Campaign will aim to link up with other campaigns that we can learn from such as the Leicester BT campaign which is very active and the Refugee Centre who are successful in organising eviction prevention groups.

No Eviction Pledges from Local Authorities

As we enter month 3 of the implementation of the awful Bedroom Tax, people are starting to really feel the pressure from their landlords – private or social – and the threat of  EVICTION is hanging over many. Although I am not directly affected by the bedroom tax I am indirectly as my mum IS being hit by it, and so I know what it is like to have the dread and fear of eviction hanging over you like a cloud…how this fear rears it’s head at the most inopportune moments when you are having a laugh or a little bit of fun, and permeates into every aspect of your life.

As such whilst we all do whatever we can to fight to get this Bedroom Tax repealed by central government…..which to be honest is probably going to be when we oust the ConDems at the next election….we need to take action regarding the threat of eviction NOW!

Many Councils around the country  – Brighton & Hove, Edinburgh, Darlington, Broxtowe Borough, etc – have started to make ‘No Eviction’ pledges with regards to arrears that have accrued solely because of the Bedroom tax reduction in benefits. I think (hope?) many Councils are starting to realise that there are many people on limited incomes because they are on benefits (through disability, redundancy, NO JOBS!!) who live within their means, have no debt, and manage their money appropriately, and have never had rent arrears in their LIVES ! However these same people are now suddenly finding themselves with arrears mounting up, helpless to do anything about it because they simply have no money to pay it and through no fault of their own – rather that the government has moved the goalposts on them.

It is unfair to have people, many those most vulnerable members of our society, live in constant fear and dread, and so here is an apolitical petition calling on Nottingham City Council t0 follow the example of Nottinghamshire’s Broxtowe Borough Council and make a ‘No Eviction’ pledge regarding rent arrears caused by the Bedroom Tax for it’s tenants. It also calls for Nottingham City Council to lobby other social landlords within wider Nottinghamshire to follow the same path and not evict their tenants because of the Bedroom Tax.

If you agree with all of the above please take 2 minutes to sign this petition, and if you want to share/forward to your friends/contacts too, well thats even better!!

http://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/NoEvictionBTNotts


Rent Arrears & Possession (Eviction) Proceedings

Now we are nearly 2 months into the implementation of the bedroom tax, many people who have not (because they CAN NOT!) pay the housing benefit shortfall are falling into arrears. Landlords, whether it be Council or HAs will have procedures for dealing with arrears and any possible possession (eviction) proceedings. This can be really daunting and many people think that landlords can just evict you overnight – this is not the case.

After seeking some legal advice the following information has been given to give an outline as to what landlords and the courts need to do as a minimum with regards to eviction proceedings.

 

STAGE 1
Social housing landlords have to follow special rules called ‘rent arrears pre-action protocol’. This means there are certain steps they need to follow before they can take you to court for rent arrears. Social housing landlords include local authorities and housing associations.

A social housing landlord can’t start court action for rent arrears unless they’ve:

  • tried to come to an agreement with you to pay off what you owe. This must be an amount you can afford to pay, based on how much money you have coming into your household and how much you need to spend.
  • offered to help you to claim Housing Benefit/DHP.
  • advised you to get help from a Citizens Advice Bureau or debt advice agency.

When a tenant has accrued rent arrears the Landlord will initially make contact with them to discuss why the rent arrears have occurred and discuss solutions to resolve them  (i.e payment plans)

STAGE 2
The Landlord will send the tenant a letter (Notice to Seek Possession), stating that due to rent arrears there are potential grounds for possession. The notice usually states that court proceedings will commence by a certain date – this is usually a 4 week period.

STAGE 3
If no arrangement or progress has been made regarding the rent arrears post the set date out in the Notice then it is usually 7 days after this date that the Landlord will apply to issue Possession Proceedings in the County Court.

STAGE 4
The Court will then serve the Summons (the papers) to the tenant once a date has been scheduled for the hearing.

At the Court Hearing the judge can:

  1. Make an outright Possession Order, (the Landlord can take over possession of their property however this can not be done without a Warrant of Eviction)
  2. They can dismiss the claim for possession.
  3. They can make a postponed/suspended possession order; this is common and basically means that an agreement is reached whereby the tenant will ensure their rent is paid plus an agreed amount of the arrears.
  4. They can adjourn the hearing until a future date, this is usually the case when Housing Benefit has not been processed and the rent arrears have accrued due to the delayed Housing Benefit Claim.
  5. If you currently have an appeal with the council it depends what the appeal is about as to whether they will adjourn the hearing. If it’s about bedroom tax generally it is unlikely at this stage a judge will commit to make a decision where others could easier follow suit. If it’s about bedroom size, or other technicalities then it should be adjourned until it has been determined.
  6. A hearing should be adjourned if DHP has been submitted but a tenant is still waiting to hear – usually income and expenditure breakdown is helpful for the courts at this stage to show there is a reasonable prospect of DHP being awarded.

STAGE 5
If a tenant fails to adhere to the court’s agreement the Landlord will return to the court to apply for a Warrant for Possession. A warrant for possession is granted then a hearing for eviction is set. This is when eviction occurs and you will receive date/time when the court bailiffs will be attending to evict you from the property. It is usually a month till the eviction date.

STAGE 6
Even at this stage mitigating circumstances can be submitted (on form N224) and the eviction can be suspended/postponed. The N224 form can either be downloaded from HM Courts & Tribunal Services Website or from the County Court in Nottingham. On the form you must state the reasons why you have not been able to adhere to the agreed arrangement, i.e. you lost your job, your claim for Housing Benefit/DHP hasn’t been processed yet.

******* THIS MUST BE DONE ASAP *******

PLEASE NOTE: If you have an introductory tenancy you need to seek legal advice immediately, you do not have the same rights as above.

The following website contain further detailed information;

Citizen’s Advice Bureau

Shelter


Radford public meeting at Partnership Council

Some local Radford residents are holding a small meeting about the Bedroom Tax and other changes to benefits this Saturday, April 6th, between 12 and 1.30pm. It will be held in the Partnership Council Office meeting rooms (Unit C ‘Tennyson’, Forest Road West, Radford, Nott’m NG7 4EP). Representatives from Nottingham Law Centre and other local organisations concerned about the impact on local people will also be there.

(Unit C is the set-back west end of the steep-roofed old youth centre building quite near Alfreton Road/ Forest Road junction (‘Dixy Chicken’). Entrance via gated steps roughly opposite Gamble Street. Car and disabled entrance: via electric double gates, use entryphone ‘Unit C’ button or ring office. Tel: 0115 970 8200 www.partnershipcouncil.co.uk)

This may be a good opportunity for people living in that area (Radford, Hyson Green, Arboretum, Canning Circus) or even further afield to meet and link up about the Bedroom Tax. I (Matthew) shall be there.