A debate has arisen over whether residents on housing benefit will or won’t be able to claim for the cost of a new service charge.
Last week, the Gazette reported that Isos Housing is introducing the bill for grounds maintenance from April. It is aimed at its tenants in Northumberland, including in areas such as Hadston and Widdrington, and will cost each resident £1.58 per week.
In a letter from Isos, which was issued to tenants, the not-for-profit organisation stated that anyone claiming housing benefit from Northumberland County Council can also claim for the service charge.
However, this has been disputed by the authority. A county council spokeswoman said: “We are aware that Isos Housing has decided to introduce a service charge and have had a number of calls from confused residents.
“It is disappointing that they didn’t discuss this with us in advance, because from the information we have to date, it would appear that the garden maintenance charge is not eligible for housing benefit.
“We are concerned that the charge could place an additional financial burden on those least able to afford it.”
However, speaking to the Gazette yesterday, an Isos spokesman said: “When we wrote to our tenants in Northumberland to inform them that we intended introducing a service charge for grounds maintenance, we said that those claiming housing benefit would be eligible to claim for the cost of the new charge.
“We believe this to be in line with the national housing benefit guidelines and reflects our experience of working with every other local authority in the North East.
“If any Isos resident is worried about their finances, we would encourage them to contact our benefits and money team for advice on 0300 300 1505.”
Isos said it is introducing the charge as a matter of fairness, because its tenants in other areas currently have to pay for grounds maintenance.
From April, Isos has said that its residents’ rent will be reduced by one per cent, in line with a recent Government announcement, but has denied that the two are related.