Tenants receive ‘Declaration’ documents from housing associations – DO NOT SIGN!

ljhaAs Dundee, Brighton and Hove and yesterday Bristol City Council publicly attempt to find ways not to evict tenants in arrears from the bedroom tax, and we hear Leeds City Council may be wavering, it seems Leeds housing associations may be dancing to a different tune. A Leeds tenant has told us that their housing association is sending out ‘declarations’ for tenants to sign over the bedroom tax.

Leeds Jewish Housing Association has sent out a document to tenants claiming housing benefit entitled ‘Changes to Housing Benefit Entitlement’. Hands off Our Homes has seen a copy of this document and while some words at the edge have been missed off, the gist is clear. The document outlines the policy and what it may mean for the level of housing benefit you receive. It then reads:

Tenants who are under-occupying properties can apply for a transfer to a different property that better meets their needs. However, whilst some priority is given to such applications, we may not have a vacant property in the area you want. It is therefore {word missing} to point out that it may be a long time before you are offered alternative accommodation, {if?} at all.

There follows a ‘Declaration’ which the tenant is asked to sign and return:

Declaration:
I sign to confirm that I understand:
– The changes that will be coming into effect from 1 April 2013.
– If I am under-occupying this property at that time I am responsible for ensuring the different in rent due and any entitlement is paid.
paying all rent due is priority, if I incur any rent arrears I will be at risk of losing my {tenancy?}.
-taking all the above into account, it is my choice to enter into this tenancy agreement.

This document is simply designed to scare tenants by making them aware of their new so-called responsibilities. It is designed like a contract to make people think they have to sign it to retain their tenancy. But it’s utterly pointless. All it is doing is reminding tenants of a tenancy agreement which they have already signed – a full, proper legal document which still stands. Regarding the highlighted sections above; LJHA are admitting they probably won’t be able to move all the affected people. They are implying that there is no option but to pay. They are also implicitly demanding that tenants put rental payments over food, heating, and water bills. This is nonsense. People are always going to put these things first, because they are basic everyday needs. And because we know that together, we can KEEP CALM AND STAY PUT.

It may be that housing providers will use this new document later on as proof that the tenant undertook to pay a shortfall in housing benefit, and thus could be used in court to support a case for eviction. But there is no legal reason why anyone should sign this document. They can’t make you.

This document is similar to the one sent out by One Vision, a Liverpool Housing Association, to their tenants who are ‘under-occupying’. Like Leeds, Liverpool has almost no one-bedroom properties.

If you have received a document like this, DO NOT SIGN IT.

Leeds Jewish Housing Association largely is in the ward of Cllr Alex Sobel, and the constituency of Fabian Hamilton MP, both of whom expressed their concern at the impact of the bedroom tax in their areas. Perhaps it’s time for them to reassure tenants of Leeds Jewish Housing Association that
a) they do not need to sign these pseudo-legal ‘declarations’ and
b) they will support tenants who refuse to move or be evicted due to the policy.

  • If you receive a document like this – DO NOT SIGN!
  • Tell this to your neighbours, family and friends who may be affected.
  • If you have received a document like this from your housing provider it’s really important you let Hands Off Our Homes know: handsoffourhomes@gmail.com
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