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Three rooms in use but Basildon tenant still having to pay bedroom tax
A MUM who has her son and brother living in her three-bedroom house has been told she must continue to pay bedroom tax despite none of the rooms being empty.
Housing bosses at Basildon Council have told Jamie-Lee Hopwood, 23, of Frettons, Basildon, she falls into the “spare bedroom”
The council said her brother, 14, and son Maxwell, seven months, can share bedrooms despite the 13-year age difference.
It means she is being charged an extra £60 a month for the “extra” bedroom.
It comes as figures obtained by the Echo reveal only 48 people of 1,500 in Basildon have been downsized following the introduction of the Spare Room Subsidy in April, which slashes housing benefit for social housing tenants deemed to have an extra bedroom.
Campaigners have repeatedly called on the “unfair” tax to be scrapped because of situations like Ms Hopwood’s, while another resident has come forward to hit out at the reforms, which will see her benefit slashed a day after she was deemed to have an extra room.
Ms Hopwood said: “Why should my son’s uncle share with him in a room when he’s at a point in his life when he’s doing GCSEs?
“I wouldn’t expect to share a room with my auntie, yet I’m being told that I have to pay £15 extra a week.
“I struggle to pay catch up with rent at the minute anyway and I don’t think that is right when they ask me to pay for a bedroom that isn’t spare.”
Ms Hopwood’s situation is set to change later this year because she is pregnant.
Housing bosses have said she will no longer be classed as having a “spare room” when her new baby arrives in the summer.
But Ms Horwood questioned why it took for her to have another baby for her to stop being penalised.
Leanne Smith, 42, of Merryland, Laindon, had her son move out on February 3 – but was told she will be hit by the tax just a day later by housing officials at Basildon Council.
She said: “I was told that I would have my benefit cut 24 hours after my son moved out and I had an extra room. Moving in that time is just impossible.
“I’ve found a place to downsize and have filled out my forms, but this wasn’t good enough. I won’t be able to move for a couple of months and this will put me in arrears – and you can’t move if you’re in debt.
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