Roger Davis cannot pay his bedroom tax
An agoraphobic man faced with eviction for refusing to pay the "bedroom tax" has asked the Queen for help.
Roger Davis wrote to her after Canterbury City Council cuts to his housing benefits left him nearly £100 a month worse off.
The 50-year-old even wrote to the Prime Minister, saying he can’t afford the extra rent on his three-bedroom house in Herne Bay, where he has lived for 20 years.
But he is now in danger of being kicked out after council bosses took the case to court for an eviction order after his arrears rose to nearly £600.
Mr Davis, who survives on employment support allowance – benefits which help pay his rent – says the house in Matthews Road, Greenhill, has been his sanctuary since a nervous breakdown in 2004.
Because of his agoraphobia, he was unable to attend the court case - but asked the judge for an adjournment, claiming his human rights had been breached.
His appeal follows two letters to David Cameron and one to Buckingham Palace since the so-called bedroom tax came into force last December.
Mr Davis said: “My home is my safe place. It’s where I retreated to when I had my breakdown.”
Trouble started about nine years ago when Mr Davis was a single father with three teenage children.
The Queen inspects the guard at Howe Barracks in Canterbury
Then he was working as a carer for Age Concern in Herne Bay – but the panic attacks that had plagued him on and off began to get more frequent and more severe.
“I literally broke down,” he said. “I got shortness of breath, my heart would race, my hands would get sweaty, I just had this overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t cope.
“I was signed off with anxiety disorder, panic disorder and agoraphobia.
“My mum Mary Davis stepped in to help – without her I would have gone into care. For the next six months I lived in my garden and my shed, left with nature.”
Daughter Ann-Marie Davis, now 23, admits she and her brothers Adam, now 28, and Peter, 26, had been “unruly” at this time. But after a few years things began to settle, the children moved out and Mr Davis started to recover.
Mr Davis lives in Matthews Road, Greenhill
He said: “What I had to do was to relearn everything, but I started managing, started coping. At first I could only go to the local shop. A bicycle then extended my range and the physical exercise helped take the edge off my anxieties.”
Then, on December 5, 2012, came the letter informing Mr Davis that he would have to pay £23.55 a week under new ‘under-occupancy’ rules because he has two empty bedrooms.
“I knew I couldn’t afford it,” he said. “The only benefit I receive is employment support allowance. The worry this has caused me has set me back two years.”
Mr Davis says the council has made “absolutely no assessment” of his health or situation.
He said: “The only visit I received was from the Herne Bay housing manager, who came after I was served the eviction notice.”
At Canterbury Law Courts, council chiefs asked the judge to adjourn Mr Davis’ case to see if he could apply for ‘discretionary housing benefits’.
Mr Davis, meanwhile, says he has written another letter pleading for help, this time to the judge. He added: “I’ve asked for a fair trial under Article 6 of the Human Rights Act.”
The case has been adjourned.
East Kent Housing says it is committed to helping every tenant affected by the ‘bedroom tax’.
In respect of Roger Davis, Foronda Smith, area manager for EKH, said: “Taking a case like this to court is only ever the last resort but it’s our only option if people refuse all our offers of help and don’t pay their rent contribution.
The service was set up in 2011 and has since recruited staff to provide specialist support to the 425 tenants in the Canterbury district affected by the benefit changes.
“With a growing waiting list for council housing it is important to try to free up sizes and types of properties that meet different families’ needs and this is one of the key aims of the changes to housing benefits.
“Whatever the court decides our aim is still to try and find a solution that keeps this tenant in a home – but it must be a home that he can agree to pay the rent for.
The specialist benefits and money advisor for Canterbury is Amie Godden.
She can be called on 07436 037065 or emailed at email@example.com