A family faces eviction and will appear in court as a council begins proceedings that could see them evicted from their home of 40 years due to debts caused by the Bedroom Tax, writes Louie Smith.
Bill Whitby, 62, and wife Teresa, 59, live with their son and have struggled to pay the rent on their three-bed house since losing their jobs. They blame the subsidy brought in by the Tories for around half of their £900 arrears.
Teresa, of Basildon, Essex, said: “The stress has been unbelievable and I’m living in fear of being homeless.”
The couple get a total of £112 a week in Jobseeker’s Allowance but say it will not cover the rent after their housing benefit was cut by £15 a week.
Councillor Phil Turner, who heads up housing at Tory-run Basildon Council and is also deputy leader, said he will review the case, adding: “We can’t break the law but Mrs Whitby was not paying her rent.”
More than 15,000 people in Basildon have been affected by the Bedroom Tax but campaigners say they have little hope of downsizing due to a lack of council homes.
Your rights if the bailiffs call
Bailiffs must give at least seven days’ notice of their first visit. You do not have to let them in and they are usually not allowed to force entry.
If you do not let them in or agree to pay them, they can take things from outside your home such as your car.
They are not allowed to enter if only children or vulnerable people are present or between 9pm and 6am.
If you let them in but cannot pay, they can take belongings. This cannot include essentials such as clothes, cookers, fridges or furniture. Nor can they take someone else’s property.
Before you pay a bailiff, you should ask to see proof of identity and a detailed breakdown of their charges. Get a receipt for proof of payment.
Bailiff fees are fixed. In most cases, if you owe less than £1,500, the fees are: £75 when your case is sent to the bailiff, £235 if you ignore a letter from them and they have to visit you and £110 if they have to take your goods and sell them at auction.
You have to pay the bailiff for any action they take – such as storing your goods or using a locksmith.
If you owe more than £1,500, you will also have to pay a percentage of your debt each time bailiffs visit.