The impact of the ‘bedroom tax’ has pushed people into rent arrears.

Kirklees Council revealed that 2,192 people are currently affected by the under-occupancy issue borough-wide.

The controversial welfare reform has seen the amount of housing benefit low earners get reduce if they rent a house with more bedrooms than the household needs.

Figures vary but for Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing (KNH), which manages the council’s housing, there are 1,643 tenants who had a cut in benefit because they have a spare bedroom.

Of those, 959 are in arrears, although 523 were already in arrears.

KNH says the money owed by those affected is £235,949 – and £82,000 can be put down to the change to benefits.

Jane Brady, assistant director, told councillors on the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee: “One reason we have managed so well is because KNH has worked hard to enable people to get into more appropriate sized accommodation and to assist them through this.”

Kirklees Council figures vary from those of KNH because not all people receiving housing benefit live in KNH properties.

Overall there were 2,734 households affected by the under-occupancy issue in May 2013, now down to 2,192.

The Examiner asked KNH what impact the ‘bedroom tax’ had meant for them and tenants.

Bedroom tax anniversary protest by Kirklees Axe the Tax group, Huddersfield Market Place
Bedroom tax anniversary protest by Kirklees Axe the Tax group, Huddersfield Market Place
 

They said some 799 affected tenants have successfully applied for discretionary housing payment (DHP) to ease the financial burden in the short term.

But the housing organisation added: “The number of people in arrears and the amount of rent owed in total is currently masked by DHP.

“We expect these figures to rise as the amount of DHP available decreases in future years.”

Currently 6,816 tenants out of nearly 23,000 are behind on their rent and collectively owe £1,592,730 of current and historic arrears.

A shortfall in rent affects the service and improvements made to properties by KNH, so in the last two years KNH has helped 233 people move to smaller, more suitable sized homes for their needs.

But not every tenant agreed with decision made about the cut in benefit.

Click below to see a protest against the tax in Huddersfield in April.

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Jane Brady added: “This year there have been 56 tribunals and 28 have been allowed and 21 dismissed, six revised and one adjourned.

“Of the 28 allowed, we have appealed because we feel the tribunal has made a decision not within its jurisdiction.

“We have been granted leave for appeal on 19 cases so far.”

Meanwhile, investigation of some fraud will moved from the council to the Department for Work and Pensions before Universal Credit – all benefits merged into a single payment – is introduced.

Jane Brady added: “There will still be fraud, particularly around the council tax reduction scheme, so it means we will still keep a small team.”