Arrears at issue

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The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has campaigned consistently and vociferously for the repeal of the unfair and unworkable “bedroom tax” because there is a shortage of suitable smaller properties for those affected to move into.

However, we are deeply concerned by the member’s bill, lodged by Jackie Baillie MSP, which proposes that anyone who falls into arrears as a result of the policy will not be evicted from their home (your report, 27 September).

Housing associations and co-operatives are tirelessly and proactively doing all that they can to help tenants who are struggling financially as a result of the “bedroom tax”.

Evictions are only ever a last resort. However, rent arrears fundamentally threaten the financial position of housing associations. Since associations are not-for-profit and charitable social businesses with a responsibility to a wide range of tenants, preventing landlords from evicting will ultimately affect more tenants than the “bedroom tax”.

Evictions are a sparingly used but necessary ultimate sanction.

The real problem is the unjust “bedroom tax”, which unfairly penalises people on low incomes and threatens the financial stability of social landlords.

Tenants are already protected by the test of reasonableness and proportionality applied by sheriffs to repossession actions.

Unless the Scottish Government can provide financial support which would protect the viability of social landlords, we cannot support this bill.

Mary Taylor

Scottish Federation of Housing Associations

St Vincent Street

Glasgow

A good deal of hypocrisy and impracticality from both main parties surrounds the debate on evictions and the “bedroom tax” (your report, 27 September).

No responsible local authority or housing association can say that it would never, ever evict.

Even those who argue that they are simply trying to protect those who fall into arrears because of the under-occupancy charge are simply blurring the issue.

Tenants have responsibilities as well as rights. One is to tell the council or association that they are genuinely in difficulty in meeting the cost of the charge. It is important that the discussion is carried out confidentially and sensitively.

Offers of help through discretionary funds and other means should be provided to those in genuine distress. But it may sometimes be difficult to distinguish between genuine cases and those who simply do not want to pay.

Equally, the accumulation of arrears may in some situations be associated with forms of anti-social behaviour.

This can cause angst among neighbours, themselves making an effort to make ends meet in a difficult economic climate.

There may already be cases the authorities are concerned about – people who may use the “bedroom tax” controversy to divert attention from their own behaviour.

The repeal of the under- occupancy charge makes sense simply in terms of the practical operation of housing policy.

The case for that will be strengthened if there is less hot air from both Labour and the SNP about who is purer in trying to prevent the indignity of evictions.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court

Glenrothes