Acton in the News over 'Extreme' Rent Case

Tax payers foot massive bill for seven-bed house

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A woman from Afghanistan is receiving more than £12,000 a month in housing benefits so she and her children can live in a seven-bedroom house in Acton. Following changes in the law, Ealing Council has been forced to pay well over the average market rate for the property because the Government department responsible places Acton in the same bracket as Westminster.

Toorpakai Saindi approached Ealing Council in July when she and her children became homeless. They were placed in a privately-owned seven-bedroom house off Horn Lane as the council had no properties that size. The authority said it has a legal obligation to help them.

Local lettings against Rajesh Kathuria, from RSK Homes, said the average rent commanded for a seven-bedroom property on the road would be between £2,000 to £2,500 a month. "That should be quite a reasonable price according to my experience," he said.

Jawad Saindi, one of the sons, said the family were pleased with their new home."I think the property value is quite high, basically we were lucky to get this house," he said. He also said: ""If someone gave you a lottery ticket, would you leave it? No. You take what you get given.

"It's not that we wanted this big house - my mum is not happy because she has to clean all of it. The first day we moved in here we got lost because it was so big."

A council spokesman said the case exposed the "absurdities" of the housing and benefits system.

"The sums of money involved in this case will offend people's feelings of 'fair play', especially as so many are having difficulties paying bills at the moment," said Councillor Will Brooks. He continued: "The story highlights some of the absurdities of the housing and benefit system. "

The situation can be directly attributed to government legislation introduced in April. The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) establishes national rules about what type of accommodation is appropriate and how much rent can be paid to landlords. The change enables tenants and landlords to find out the maximum amount of LHA available before an agreement is reached.

However, Whitehall officials insisted the council could have put the family in a cheaper home.

The move has angered neighbours and campaigners who say vast sums of taxpayers' money are being wasted in housing benefit, and claim a more suitable property could have been found.

Mark Wallace, campaign director of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "The system has gone seriously wrong when one family is costing taxpayers so much. This family could be helped without the need for such a huge bill."

Cllr Will Brooks said: "We believe that urgent changes are needed to the LHA and in particular for the publication of maximum rent levels to be ended," said Mr Brooks. "This would enable all councils to be able to negotiate more competitive rent agreements without being undermined."

The Rent Service - an executive agency of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - advised that the council pay the landlord £12,500 a month, partly because under boundary changes Acton is placed in the same category as the more affluent area of Westminster.

A spokeswoman for the DWP said: "This is quite an extreme case. This is one of probably only a handful of cases like this particular to London."

She said the government were currently reviewing the boundaries.



October 8, 2008