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Family hit by bedroom tax 'barred' from downsizing over rent arrears
Wednesday, 06 August 2014
Wanting to move: Richard Palette and fiancée Faye Nolan with three of her four children from left, Harvey, Bradley and Jack
A FAMILY from Colindale say they feel “trapped” after their attempts to pay their rent arrears by downsizing to a smaller home were blocked by a social landlord who, they say, refused to move them until they had settled the debt.
Richard Palette, 35, and his fiancée Faye Nolan, 36, currently live in a four-bedroom house in Shawbury Close with three of her four children.
The family were previously receiving income support and housing benefit as one of Faye’s twins, Charley, suffers from epilepsy. When the 15-year-old went to live with her father in February 2013, the couple’s income support ceased – but they did not realise until three months later that their housing benefit would also stop automatically.
When they discovered the error in May 2013, the couple owed more than £2,000 in rent.
They organised a repayment plan with social landlord Notting Hill Housing – but the loss of one child from the four-bedroom house made them eligible to pay the controversial “spare bedroom tax” from April 2013.
When the benefit cap, which limits the total amount a family can claim, was introduced in August 2013, they saw their outgoings exceed their income and the total arrears began to increase.
Mr Palette said: “We requested a move to a three-bedroom in September 2013 so we could start paying off the debt. They said we couldn’t until we paid off the debt, but we can’t pay it off until we move. It’s ridiculous.
“We are trapped. We are just going further and further into debt. They are basically ruining our lives.”
When contacted by The Press, an NHH spokeswoman said the family was in fact eligible for a move and denied its housing officers had said otherwise – a claim Mr Palette strongly disputes.
He said: “Three housing officers told us moving was impossible. I’m quite angry. If they had let us move when we first asked, we could have paid off the debt by now.”
The NHH spokeswoman added: “Our housing officer is happy to visit Ms Nolan as soon as can be arranged to help her fill out the paperwork to apply for a transfer.”
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