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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 October 2006, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Rent rule 'caused my eviction'
By Dan Parkinson
BBC News

A homeless man in London
Charities warn the rule is leaving many young people without homes

As charities call on the government to scrap a benefit rule which, they say, results in people under 25 being evicted from their homes, one man tells how the single room rent restriction meant he was forced out of his home.

Mark Wolse, 22, was working as a building site labourer and living in a 65-a-week bedsit when he was diagnosed with depression.

The illness resulted in him taking five months off work and losing his job, which he had secured through an employment agency.

He began receiving welfare payments, including 50-a-week housing benefit, and eventually began searching for full-time employment.

The single room rent restriction meant he was not entitled to receive a payment to cover the full rent he was being charged for his bedsit in Dartford, Kent.

The rule limits the amount of housing benefit for people under the age of 25 to the average local rent for shared accommodation.

But Mark says the 15-a-week shortfall between his rent and housing benefit resulted in him falling behind in his rent payments.

Homeless fear

After a year he had accrued a debt running into hundreds of pounds and his landlord began threatening him with eviction.

"It was not a good time because no-one wants to lose their home," he said.

"I simply could not afford to keep up the payments and the debt just started mounting up.

"My dad had helped me move into the bedsit by giving me money for the deposit and I didn't want to leave.

"But I could not get any more money in benefit to cover the rent. You fear you are going to be homeless."

I feel discriminated against because had I been over 25 I would have received more housing benefit and been able to stay in my own place
Mark Wolse

Eventually he was evicted from the room in a shared house and managed to secure a bed in local YMCA accommodation.

The rent was cheap enough to be covered by his housing benefit but, he says, the move made him feel less independent.

"It is nothing like living in your own place," he said.

"Everyone knows your business and you don't have an privacy. You don't feel independent or stable.

"It just makes it harder to find a job. I can't understand why they will cover rent in the YMCA but not for a bedsit.

"I feel discriminated against because had I been over 25 I would have received more housing benefit and been able to stay in my own place."

Mark said he was still living in the YMCA but has now found a job working in a brewery.

He said he was hoping to pay off his rent debt before looking for new accommodation.

Mark was among a group of young people and charity representatives who were meeting MPs on Wednesday to attract support for the campaign to end the benefit rule.

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