Bedroom Tax – significant new developments and challenges emerge

What is a bedroom?  I asked this simple question a few weeks ago and went on to ask how can you tax something you can’t define? It is worth another look and discussion after this report I came across today from the Glasgow Herald which says a group of organisations have received legal counsel on the issue.  It says: -

The Glasgow Advice Agency (GAA) – a consortium of consumer assistance bodies – obtained the opinion from Jonathan Mitchell, QC, who said that, while it was for a local authority to decide what was a bedroom, there was no legal definition. The only guidance uncovered was in the Rent Officer Handbook produced by HM Revenue & Customs, which “makes the important point that actual use by an actual household is usually critical”.

Mr Mitchell said it would be “going wrong in law” if a local authority determined every room that could possibly be slept in was classified as a bedroom, whatever its characteristics or use. He added: “It may be that tenants should be advised that the particular use they make of rooms may have consequences for their benefit.

“If, for example, a family with a disabled child allows him or her to use the living room as a bedroom, this may result in the property being determined to have one more bedroom than before, just as turning a bedroom into a therapy or care room, or a study or playroom, may result in a reduction in the number of bedrooms determined.”

The fact a QC agrees that there is no legal definition of a bedroom is very important to the question of how can you tax something with no definition.  It means that any decision on whether the bedroom tax applies has to be a subjective one and like any subjective decision from a public authority it is open to legal challenge and rightly so.  The entire bedroom tax decision-making process is highly subjective and will vary from one council to the next.

Then it goes on to say that the only guidance uncovered was in the Rent Officer Handbook produced by HM Revenue & Customs and this is worth some very close consideration and I have reproduced this is full below:

Deciding what constitutes a room / bedroom

There are no statutory definitions of what constitutes a room or bedroom, so a plain English meaning should be taken.

This again confirms there is no legal definition and we know that the government is stubbornly ruling out defining a bedroom in terms of what it is and even a definition as to its size.  The starting point for what must become a subjective decision is a plain English meaning or as I rephrase quite deliberately the ordinary view of a bedroom.  I will return to this below as I see a huge significance in this.

The Rent Officer Handbook goes on: -

A bedroom is a room where someone usually sleeps, however they may also use it for other activities such as working. A living room is a room for sitting or eating or watching the television. Sometimes one can be used as the other, and in general lettings can take different forms depending on the nature of the locality and the type of tenant either in occupation or being targeted by a landlord.

What the above describes is easy to follow but again is hugely subjective in terms of making a decision.  My mind goes to the many recent television news reports about the bedroom tax and in particular some adapted properties which have a lift which goes from a downstairs room to an upstairs ‘bedroom’ and renders both rooms as unsuitable for being classed as bedrooms.  Yet in these cases we have seen the local decision being that they do constitute a bedroom for bedroom tax purposes.  Such a determination must be wrong and these rooms cannot constitute bedrooms for bedroom tax purposes.  They cannot be rooms where someone usually sleeps can they?

You can extend that line of argument into more simple and wider-ranging applications.  If a room could be a bedroom or a study then if its ordinary use is as a study for example is it not a study?  The ordinary use of a room changes over time.  We no longer have a pantry or a scullery for example in modern day house use yet given the government wishes all welfare benefit claims to be digital we often see a computer room or study being an ordinary use of a room and especially with the government’s digital by default online access for claiming welfare benefits.  In a disabled household often a room is a boxroom to accommodate necessary equipment and is not in its ordinary use a bedroom.  The term ordinary use is also important and again I will return to this.

Yet the Rent Officer Handbook continues: -

Under the Housing Benefit Scheme, rent officers treat bedrooms and rooms suitable for living interchangeably, Local Reference Rents are based on total number of habitable rooms (bedrooms and living rooms, but including dining rooms, some conservatories and living kitchens. Under the Local Housing Allowance Scheme, the LHA is based on numbers of bedrooms alone. Therefore it will be vital when collecting lettings information to understand precisely how the property is being let to ensure the lettings information is used correctly and not to distort the LHA.

The above has huge significance in the bedroom tax debate. The closest thing we have to a legal definition of what is or is not a bedroom states clearly that there is a key difference between how rooms are viewed for social housing (Housing Benefit) purposes and for private rented housing (LHA) purposes!

If as the above guidance says it is vital…to understand precisely how the property is being let… for LHA purposes then it must hold, as the bedroom tax is about placing HB claimants on a similar footing to LHA claimants, that a 3 bed property let to a disabled household as a 2 bed adapted property is a 2 bed property and not a 3 bed.

The coalition have repeatedly compared the bedroom tax in social housing as fair as it equates with the LHA rules for private renters.  Yet the above shows that for this to be equitable and ‘fair’ in the coalition or any other meaning of that term then we must discount second living rooms or parlour rooms in which it is known that some local authorities in London are classifying a ‘3 bed parlour house’ as a 4 bed property for bedroom tax purposes. [A 3 bed parlour house has 3 beds and 2 ‘living’ rooms.]

The 3 bed parlour house has become a bit of an issue on social media sites and especially the anti bedroom tax sites.  Yet reading the Rent Officer Handbook the ordinary use of such properties is as a 3 bed and not a 4 bed house.

IF A 3 BED PARLOUR WAS PRIVATELY LET IT WOULD BE A 3 BED HOUSE.  YET WHEN IT IS A SOCIAL HOUSING LET IT BECOMES A FOUR BED HOUSE AND SUBJECTD TO THE BEDROOM TAX!

Reader, can you like me see huge legal challenges emerging as to bedroom tax applicability decisions.  Can you also see that the government argument of HB claimants only being treated in the same way as private LHA claimants is fundamentally a bogus argument?  I think you must do.

I could write so much more but let’s continue with the Rent Officer Handbook which says:

For example a 3 bedroom, 2 living room property may be let as 3 bedrooms to a family, but in a student area may be let as 5 bedrooms with each living room being let as a bedroom. The rent for each type of letting could vary considerable. In the latter case the 5 bedroom letting would be included in the LHA evidence for 5 bedrooms, but if let to a family, would be included in the 3 bedroom evidence. For LRR purposes, the letting in both instances would be included in the 5 room LRR category.

The above is fairly straightforward yet my eye is caught by the “…rent for each type of letting could vary considerably.”  So could the bedroom tax!  Take the 3 bed parlour house example I have used which could be a 3 or 4 bed and the difference between a 0% or 14% or 25% deduction from the eligible rent depending on how it is assessed.

There is also a huge cultural difference which needs further consideration here.  A Rent Officer assessing a private property goes out to view that private property knowing the private landlord wants to have the property classified as having as many rooms as possible and the Rent Officer role is often the exact opposite – to reduce the number of bedrooms the private landlord can claim benefit for.  Whereas; the bedroom tax position is the exact opposite.  The social landlord and social tenant wants the property assessed with as few bedrooms as possible yet the DWP and the coalition wants the property to have as many ‘bedrooms’ as possible to maximise the bedroom tax saving.

Again I will return to this cultural change later as it is also very important.  The Rent Officer Handbook continues:

The simple test to apply is, for this type and size of property in this or a similar area, how has the property been let, and how do occupants use the accommodation? The size of the room is irrelevant. A room that would never be thought of as a bedroom or living room in a large country house might well be perfectly acceptable to most people, for those same uses, in an expensive, densely populated city.

How has the property been let is Rent Officers are told is the simple test to apply. The 3 bed parlour house has been let as a 3 bed not a 4 bed – so the simple test reveals this to be a 3 bed for bedroom tax purposes!  The adapted 3 bed has been let as an adapted 2 bed for its letting and ordinary use purposes so the simple test reveals this to be a 2 bed for bedroom tax purposes!

The guidance to Rent Officers continues in ordinary language and I will simply pick up a few points to emphasise:

The following guide may be helpful:

  • Dining/kitchen

A large farmhouse-style kitchen probably is a living room. A small galley kitchen probably isn’t.

Otherwise, it will depend on the way the occupants use the room and what is the norm for use in that area.

For example, a kitchen which has a distinct dining area with a table and chairs and perhaps a different floor covering may well be considered a living room. But it is a matter of a Rent Officer’s skill and judgement that matters, not the firm application of any definite criteria.

  • Boxroom/Study

Do most occupants in this type of dwelling use either of these as a living room or a room to sleep in? If they usually do, they should be included as appropriate.

An indicator that a room can be used as a bedroom could be that at least a small single bed will fit into it, and in most cases it will have a window. Again, the application of a Rent Officer’s skill and judgement is the over-riding determining factor.

  • Cellars/loft spaces with no ceilings/Utility Rooms

Are unlikely to be bedrooms or living rooms.

There are a number of things such as natural light, ventilation, safe access, head height and floor space which you can take into account, but not depend on.

The over-riding deciding factor is always how most people use the type of room in question in that area.

  • Through Rooms

Two former living rooms knocked into one become one room.

If there are substantial dividing doors actually in place, or only a very narrow door-width access between the two, and the space is used as two rooms, then they should be counted as two rooms.

The original layout of the dwelling is irrelevant and should not be considered

The original layout of the dwelling is irrelevant and should not be considered?  My discussion above of the original 3 bed property adapted to become a 2 bed one for a disabled household is very relevant here.  It is a 2 bed property for bedroom tax purposes and not a 3 bed – OR AT LEAST THAT IS HOW IT WOULD BE VIEWED IF IT WERE A PRIVATE RENTED PROPERTY! YET IT IS VIEWED DIFFERENTLY AS A SOCIAL HOUSING LET!!

A Rent Officer very rarely has to or is asked to assess a social housing dwelling which is the exact opposite of a private dwelling being rented.  However the RO can be asked to assess a social housing property and can be asked to do so by the existing tenant it would appear.  If this is the case and I think it is from reading the VOA site then the social tenant who has been informed they are subject to the bedroom tax should request a Rent Officer Determination.

I don’t necessarily say this as that would involve 660,000 (or is it 930,000?) determinations which would take forever and cost an absolute fortune, although it would; rather I see an independent view and I mean view as in viewing as the right of a tenant to any such desktop-based subjective decision that a bedroom tax deduction is applicable.

If ROs go out to assess private lettings for LHA purposes and if the bedroom tax is placing HB for the social tenant on the same footing as LHA for the private tenant – which is exactly the rationale and justification the coalition uses, then I can see the social tenant rightly seeing this as the only way to make that comparison.  A RO must come out and view the social property to assess whether any HB Officer decision to apply the bedroom tax deduction is a fair one.

Would a RO decide that the ordinary use of the 3 bed adapted with a through-floor lift is a 2 bed or a 3 bed?  I think there is only one answer to that and that is to say it is a 2 bed and so the bedroom tax should not apply as the ordinary use of the property is a disability adapted 2 bed.  Go back to my discussion on this entitled the private landlord doesn’t do disability.  The private landlord doesn’t put in thousands of pounds worth of disability adaptations simply because it would render his 3 bed property as a 2 bed and thereby reduce his income from rent. Yet the social landlord does.

You begin to see why the Rent Officer Handbook becomes important as the ‘fair’ rent role they undertake in a private property needs to be the same in a social property. Yet the same handbook says it is different between the two rented sectors and the social rented sector is significantly discriminated against as in social housing and Under the Housing Benefit Scheme, rent officers treat bedrooms and rooms suitable for living interchangeably”    Yet for private renting and.”… Under the Local Housing Allowance Scheme, the LHA is based on numbers of bedrooms alone.”

DING DING ALARM BELLS RING!!

That appears to me to be wide open to a human rights challenge as the social tenants right to a home is less of a right and a reduced right compared with the private tenant in terms of what constitutes a bedroom.

I am going to wrap this up now as the post is in danger of becoming a dissertation or doctoral thesis length – which it easily could be.

The Rent Officer Handbook will become a key part of any challenge to the bedroom tax for many reasons:

  1. It is a direct challenge to the political spin that the bedroom tax is simply replicating in social housing to Housing Benefit the same conditionality a private tenant has under LHA rules.
  2. That is nonsense and as I have discussed the social tenant is treated with clear lesser rights and discriminatorily in the bedroom tax applicable decision-making process to the private tenant.
  3. The fact a private tenancy is VIEWED physically before a fair rent is set to assess the ordinary use but a social tenancy is a desktop review is unfair
  4. The fact that the ORDINARY USE of a private property is ASSESSED as part of the decision-making process for LHA rent determination but NOT for social housing is also unfair and again discriminates against the social tenant
  5. The bedroom tax decision-making process by virtue of excluding a VIEWING or considering a social property’s ORDINARY USE is also unfair and hugely exposed to a legal challenge
  6. The bedroom tax decision-making process is exposed to a human rights legal challenge on a general basis that it discriminates against ALL social tenants
  7. The bedroom tax decision-making process by not assessing the ORDINARY USE of the social property in cases of the through-floor lift for example is exposed to Judicial Review on equality / disability bases
  8. My earlier posts where I discussed minimum bedroom sizes (MBS) in terms of a bedroom needing to be 70 square feet to be a single bedroom and anything less than 50 square feet is not a bedroom are APPLICABLE ONLY TO A PRIVATE PROPERTY assessment and not ORDINARILY to a social property and this is also unfair and discriminates against the social tenant and gain calls into question the entire bedroom tax process

That latter point explains precisely why the coalition and DWP are so adamant that they will not define a bedroom.  It is a legal minefield to do so.  Yet in not doing so they create huge exposure to legal actions against anyone involved in the decision-making process for the bedroom tax and for that reason alone it is irrational and should be subject to legal challenge.  The coalition and DWP pass the risk of legal exposure to local councils and to social landlords and they should challenge that position legally.

If you are unsure why social landlords should challenge the same Glasgow Herald article includes a quote from the DWP which says:

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said it tailored housing benefit to the way the social landlord or local authority defined the property.

A spokesman said: “If a social landlord says it is a two-bedroomed house, regardless what happens to it subsequently, it is a two-bedroomed house and that is what housing benefit will be judged on.”

A very definitive statement from the DWP.  A property is whatever the social landlord says it is for bedroom tax purposes!

If that DWP view holds then aside from making the entire bedroom tax decision-making process unfair and irrational and subject to legal challenge it does pass the buck and risk to social landlords – and a reason why social landlords should seek to legally challenge that position as they have been put between a rock and a hard place.

Note too it also brings my simple solution that a social landlord should reclassify and tell the local HB department that the 3 bed property is only a 2.9 bed property as the smallest bedroom measures 9ft x 7ft.  If as the DWP say here the social landlord’s word is definitive then the 2.9 bedroom scenario would exempt a huge number of the expected bedroom tax cases and the bedroom tax would be in tatters.

The Glasgow Herald article is significant in itself given we have a QC’s opinion which I have not seen. Yet just as important as in reading it the role of the Rent Officer Handbook as the closest thing we have in law to defining a bedroom has shed some illuminating light.

UPDATE Sunday 11.45am

I have read and considered the written opinion of the QC in this matter and will publish a number of significant updates to this post starting on Monday relating to it and also other matters which have emerged from my ‘ramblings’ above and information and advice I have received from other sources.

I do not expect the same speedy U-turn from the coalition that we have apparently seen today in which it appears the UC regulations are to be rewritten so that the mixed-age pensioner couple will not be affected by the bedroom tax (see ITV news report here) which is good if it happens and if it does it shows (a) the coalition is worried by the power of the ‘grey vote’ yet (b) the same ‘grey vote’ will know the coalition deceived them all along, and (c) Uncle Tom Cobley and all will know the coalition doesn’t know what it is doing.  So the coalition will be rightly criticised if they do change the UC regulations or if they dont

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43 thoughts on “Bedroom Tax – significant new developments and challenges emerge

  1. Debbie Price February 16, 2013 at 1:45 pm Reply

    I want to know what a ‘significantly’ adapted property means. Even the DWP don’t seem to know!!

    • joehalewood February 16, 2013 at 1:49 pm Reply

      Why not ask the Rent Officer to decide? Thats not a flippant response but a genuine one?

      And why does DWP not knowing hold any surprise?

    • Jane February 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm Reply

      From what ministers have said, it seems to refer to adaptations for a wheelchair user, but that’s very imprecise. Don’t think they know what they’re doing.

      • joehalewood February 16, 2013 at 2:36 pm

        Ministers have also SAID the bedroom tax is FAIR and also said it wont affect landlords finances! What they say and what is written as guidance to LA HB officers are 2 very different things!

  2. Dougie McPherson February 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm Reply

    Ditto so so many disabled tenants frankly
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/btukhomeswopnetwork Advise guidance and support on ALL bedroom tax issues (part of the UK HOMESWAP network of FB pages aimed at a variety of social housing tenants offering varied advice support and assistance alongside opportunities to advertise your home for mutual exchange in a variety of areas and niche groups alongside general social housing guidance) https://www.facebook.com/UKHomeswap

  3. Jane February 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm Reply

    Great post! I’ve sent a link to this to our barrister in case it’s of assistance in her legal arguments.

  4. Jane February 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm Reply

    From what ministers have said, it seems to refer to adaptations for a wheelchair user, but that’s very imprecise. Don’t think they know what they’re doing.

    • joehalewood February 16, 2013 at 2:34 pm Reply

      I used the example of a through floor lift as this was on one of the many TV news report about the bedroom tax. It is an obvious example. As for DWP and ministers not knowing and/or being imprecise they have stated that is their precise intention (Yes that does read as ironic!) Central government are leaving it up to local government HB decision-makers to determine which as I point out is hugely subjective. Then to add insult to injury if the property was a private property the Rent Officer go out (and have to go out) and view. Yet as the RO does not normally or ordinarily do this for social properties the discrimination – and potential legal challenge – emerges.

      Finally, the comments here all state “significantly” adapted and where is that wording from?

  5. onmybiketoo February 16, 2013 at 3:54 pm Reply

    great post. Lets hope there will be some common sense and the government will stop attacking the disabled who need more space just to live.

    • joehalewood February 16, 2013 at 4:21 pm Reply

      Call me an old cynic but common sense won’t prevail from the government. They have set out their stall cleverly and passed the risk to social landlords and to local government. Only legal challenge and direct action / public outrage will force their hand

  6. Mike Dailly (@mikedailly) February 16, 2013 at 7:50 pm Reply

    Very interesting discussion. Senior counsel’s opinion is now available online here – http://govanlc.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/glasgow-advice-agency-calls-for-local.html

    • joehalewood February 16, 2013 at 8:21 pm Reply

      Mike

      Thanks for this I will have a very close look and come back with any comments

    • joehalewood February 16, 2013 at 8:42 pm Reply

      Mike

      Obviously I drafted my blog without the benefit of having read the counsel opinion. I now have read it through twice and a few issues come to mind. I will find a way to contact you and email my thoughts

  7. Dougie McPherson February 16, 2013 at 8:20 pm Reply

    @ Mike this is just a shortened version of Glasgow one is it not we have had all day agreements about this today on FB group/s it’s certainly caused lots of activity

  8. Debbie Price February 16, 2013 at 8:58 pm Reply

    @Mike that is a very interesting read. But does that only apply to Scotland? What about the rest of the UK??

    I have read somewhere that ‘SIGNIFICANTLY’ adapted could mean for a wheelchair user.
    But I have also read that wheelchair users that have had every conceivable adaptation possible, have been told they are not exempt!

    What about the rest of us with adaptations. No alternative, smaller, adapted property’s available.

    And in the small print of the paperwork. When you have a grant from the Disabledd facilities grant. It states, if you move within 5 years, you may have to pay the grant back

    • Dougie McPherson February 16, 2013 at 9:14 pm Reply

      It’s definately whole of UK for sure just initiated in Scotland was all

  9. Debbie Price February 16, 2013 at 9:18 pm Reply

    What about those of us who are Disabled and also have Mental Health issues?
    Where is our help and support.
    Many people have already committed suicide and there will be more. People simply can’t cope. This government have blood on their hands.
    What are the chances of us finding a pro bono lawyer? Zilch!

    I have lived in my 3 bed HA house for over 21 years. I have an assured tenancy. I am 56.
    It has been adapted for me and am waiting for more to be done.
    I now have 2 ‘spare’ bedrooms.
    And have to pay 25% of my £115 rent. That’s before the rent go’s up. And then I’m going to have to pay CT aswell. How? With what?

    I can’t move. No 1 bed adapted bungalows anyway. I couldn’t even pack a box. could not afford to move. I don’t want to move. This is where my support is.

    And another thing, most important to me. I have pets. so NEED my garden.
    Would I be expected to have them put to sleep??
    They are my reason to wake up in the morning.

  10. Dougie McPherson February 16, 2013 at 9:22 pm Reply

    Being that I have just been moved from a cottage the OTs and council etc REFUSED to adapt I always thought there was something behind it as they took 15m in total to tell me this when they knew from day one what was required ?? But they have now been forced to put me in a specifically disabled bungalow with carers room. Full En-suite facilities etc but in doing so have moved us from a two to three this more BT almost double actually let alone the carers room (3rd bedroom) adjoins the disabled bedroom so is NOT in my view a bedroom it’s now a dressing room wheelchair store, but as I almost wholly rely on a w/chair indoors and always outdoors but CAN’T self propell due to lack of power in hands i am not sure where that leave me but will fight on to attempt to gain recognition of my personal plight and issues causing is to be here (we were told by ALL services we would NOT get another offer and would thus be housebound otherwise) we got the ONLY disabled property in well over a year inside several 100 sq miles (Scottish highlands they don’t come up often) it’s a vicious circle and takes a massive toll out of already very ill people

  11. Dougie McPherson February 16, 2013 at 9:36 pm Reply

    Mental illness same as with ESA etc is largely ignored it seems nobody has any support I’m afraid that’s just the way it is we are all suffering similarly physical or mental impaired makes no odds we had EVERY service involved OT HA GPs CAB MPs Councillors LHT SPC and way more they MADE us move a few days before Christmas with absolutely NO physical nor financial assistance as I say if I hadn’t of I would be housebound now we would happily of stayed in our stunning beachfront cottage only one of two it was sheer bliss but simply had to think of my health and welfare not forgetting we moved here from a very similarly set up area to that I’m currently in now fleeing three solid yrs ASB & Dis hate issues leaving all family friends and support 150mls south of us and now moved 40m south to this house we never wanted it’s ideal for my health just wrong area and costly a small point to note is RB will NOT pay any overlap if moving thus you either have to pay rent on home your leaving or move same day lease on new property is signed as NO rent is payable it further cost MY family 2.5k in total (that we are paying back) to move us for nothing fancy this property is OVER twice the size of cottage front windows three times bigger so carpets, curtains etc and NOT a single grant payable it’s a nonsense truly is I will be in debt forever at this rate – last kick was my other half had to pack, load and unpack EVER item of furniture herself as my ONLY carer she has already hurt her back picking me up prior to me getting wheelchair when I used to fall daily they are simply breeding future issues without all these carers they are going to be in real trouble what about a carers walkout, strike or something in disgust they would be forced to supply care for many of us at great costs maybe that would work

  12. fuckthetories February 17, 2013 at 12:45 am Reply

    we will end up being taxed on how much space we occupy

  13. Sue Emmerson February 17, 2013 at 10:58 am Reply

    A box room in a house is not classed as a bedroom for the point of taking in a lodger as it is classed as not big enough so why is it classed as a bedroom when it comes to the bedroom tax and why is it deemed if it is not big enough for one person that the government expects 2 children to share?

    • joehalewood February 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm Reply

      What the government expect or anticipate is and will be very different from the reality. I and many others foresee a huge number of challenges to the bedroom size and definition of what is a bedroom. I will post a new blog about this early next week which will include some of the challenges that I foresee and will happen.

  14. Debbie Price February 17, 2013 at 11:56 am Reply

    Hi Dougie. Reading your situation is heartbreaking. And I can’t believe you are not getting any help. I guess every area and council are different. Maybe you should look into, Ombudsman to make a complaint?? I presume your tenancy states it’s 3 bedrooms?? Have you measured the 3rd. bedroom?? What type of Tenancy have you been given?? I would suggest every thing you do is, is in writing and keep photo copies, rather than using the phone. Then you have proof of what’s been said.

    I belong to a group on Facebook. I would urge you to join us. We are 15000 strong at the moment. And there is a lot of help, support and information on there.

    If you don’t have a Facebook account it’s very easy to set up. And just type in the search bar.
    Bedroom Tax.

  15. Mark Smith February 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm Reply

    Re. the U-turn by the DWP today. As I understand from reading it new claimants (pensioners) will still be liable to the Bedroom Tax when UC is introduced. So just another quick fix a bit like the so called “concessionary payments”. How many new claiments are there likely to be in the near future? Hundreds of thousands I would have thought.

  16. Kenny SantaTiger Patterson February 18, 2013 at 8:47 am Reply

    I wonder if any legal challenge could be made in the cases of parents who have been allocated bedrooms for children with staying access on the grounds that any tenancy signed was done so in the (rightful) belief that the lettings policy allowed them bedrooms for this purpose. Therefore any change to the lettings policy breaches the tenancy agreement?

  17. manchesterpete February 18, 2013 at 11:15 am Reply

    Quick query, if DWP is not offering a defintion of a bedroom, then who’s decision of how many bedrooms a property has will be considered correct in the claim? The claimant or the landlord?

    • joehalewood February 18, 2013 at 11:39 am Reply

      Ultimately the decision will be determined by HB officers. They are being guided to ask landlords to confirm whether a property is a 2 bed a 3 bed or a 2.9 bed. This is a huge area of contention and one that is ripe for challenge

  18. manchesterpete February 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm Reply

    This prompted me to check the NROSH+ SDR guidance as social landlords are required to submit rent data broken down by number of bedrooms in the regulatory return. Once again, does not appear to be a definition of a bedroom, although there is for bedspace!

  19. Kenny SantaTiger Patterson February 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm Reply

    Further to my comment above I have just been to the CAB and pointed out to them that the lettings policy that N.C.C currently have means that I am only entitled to a 3 bedroom property due to having staying access to my 2 children. incidentally I only wanted a 2 bedroom property but because of their policy I can only have 3 beds…… Now in order for me to be allowed to “Move” to a more suitable property in HB terms the Lettings Policy will have to be changed in order for me to be able to move to a smaller property…… No harm in that eh??? Well what happens to those fathers who are currently in work and have staying access to their children?? How many bedrooms are they entitled to?? And Once I find work will I then be entitled to the 3 bedrooms again? I can see this as being a major problem for the Condems. What do you think Joe?

  20. Debbie Price February 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm Reply

    I would advise everyone to check their tenancy agreement very carefully. You can also do a FOI request. (Freedom of information). To your Council or HA. And request their policies. That way. They can’t refuse.
    @Kenny. What age and sex are your children?? As this affects property size allowed.

  21. Kenny SantaTiger Patterson February 18, 2013 at 2:09 pm Reply

    I have 2 boys 6 and 14 :) I originally asked for a 2 bed property when I applied but the councils letting policy (which still stands) means I am only entitled to a 3 bed property. This means once the changes come in I am stuck unable to move to a smaller property as the lettings policy does not allow this. The only way I can move to a smaller property is for the council to change it’s letting policy. I would think it would be rather difficult for the council to achieve this as it will create discrimination between those in benefits and those not in benefits….also any change to the lettings policy would affect all tenants not just those in benefits. Most tenancy agreements have a clause where any major change to the management of properties have to be agreed by both parties. Therefore the council will have to re-negotiate all the tenancy agreements of all tenants. How many working parents with children are going to agree to a change in the lettings policy which would mean that they also are over occupying? This also depends on the letting policy of any given council too.

  22. Kenny SantaTiger Patterson February 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm Reply

    under occupying sorry :)

  23. [...] point and correct but not the right strategy.  Aside from the above economic basis there is also the point I made about social tenants being more harshly treated under the bedroom tax and indeed di…  No let’s adopt a strategy that the bedroom tax is perverse [...]

  24. kittysjones February 20, 2013 at 9:37 am Reply

    Okay. I rent privately. Moved here in early 2011. I was eligible for a bedroom each for my two sons. I didn’t get full housing benefit as I was appealing regarding ESA benefit, and the support or work – related activity component are used to calculate rent allowance. You don’t get either when appealing, just basic rate. When i won my appeal, my ESA was backdated , so I asked the council to backdate my rent. They wrote to me and told me that because my oldest son wasn’t 16 then, they were not going to pay for a 3 bedroomed accomodation, as he could share with his brother, and this was because of the rule about under occupancy. Please note that this wasn’t the LHA, as that had also changed, and I lost some rent because of that too.

    I know three others that rent privately that this has happened to. The government said that the under occupancy rule only applies to social tenants. Anyone any idea why some of us private renters have to pay a bedroom tax, others clearly don’t?

    • joehalewood February 20, 2013 at 10:49 am Reply

      Two separate issues. LHA (the private rented version of HB) is paid on family composition and the council appear to have correctly applied the rules here. This is not a bedroom tax deduction, which in any case couldn’t be as it doesn’t come into force until April and you are in private accommodation which it does not affect. Rather it is based on your family composition size and specifically your children’s ages at the time.

      Note well that whereas HB in social housing typically covers 100% of the rent charged on average it typically only covers 65% of the private rent charged as a national average. Average HB in social housing is £81.12 and average rent is £83pw yet in private rented average LHA is £106.32 and average rent £163pw

      • kittysjones February 20, 2013 at 9:09 pm

        The Council said in the letter that the deduction was due to the under- occupancy rule. My son was under 16 at the time. So they had previously paid enough for a 3 bed house, when I moved here, They supported me in finding a 3 bed accommodation and said I was entitled to that. Then they told me I wasn’t until my son as 16. That was some months after I had moved in and they had paid for the 3 bedrooms.

        I was told the LHA was a separate issue, and I lost a little HB because that changed, too. I am very confused here, because I am hearing of others that are renting privately and being told by their councils that deductions are being made based on the rooms, and childrens ages, not on family size

      • kittysjones February 20, 2013 at 9:15 pm

        When the rest of the benefit cuts happen in April, we will also see thousands of privately renting tenants become homeless too. There is the new council tax to come, and the benefit cap. :-(.

      • joehalewood February 20, 2013 at 9:32 pm

        Yes and No. The real biggie in terms of creating homeless families is the overall benefit cap (OBC) which was due in April but has been delayed until, we are informed, “the summer.” The figures on this are 171,000 households with an average weekly cut of £93 per week. So yes when that happens but No not from April. The OBC affects private tenants (54%) and social tenants (46%) and it will catch more people each year too. The number of additional families made homeless we will measure in tens of thousands and perhaps as many as 130,000 in the first full year.

        This is what I was writing about all last year and the government has known this will cost more in homeless costs than it is projected to save since July 2011 yet still went ahead with it! A leaked letter known as the ‘pickles’ letter confirms this. A google search on speyejoe and OBC will bring plenty of discussions up about this

      • kittysjones February 21, 2013 at 1:07 am

        Thanks for the reply. I didn’t now the cap was put back until summer. But I don’t trust Government to stick to what they say. There are people having DWP rules imposed on then that are not due to be implemented until April – October ( Mandatory Review, clause 99) . They lie!

  25. [...] for one has been on a roll this week. He started by asking the deceptively simple question ‘what is a bedroom?‘, which is to say, if there is no legal definition of a bedroom then how can you tax it [...]

  26. Kevin Leonard February 25, 2013 at 6:24 pm Reply

    I wrote to a Lib Dem MP the other day and am still awaiting his reply perhaps you too could ask your local MP the same things… http://ktarcus.hubpages.com/hub/Letter-to-a-politician-LibDem-in-particular-BEDROOMTAX

  27. stoleninnocence2012 February 26, 2013 at 12:55 am Reply

    Reblogged this on stoleninnocence2012's Blog and commented:
    This is a very interesting blog please share so the Bedroom Tax – Under Occupancy Charge can be challenged using the law as the weapon!

  28. Frontline Friday round-up 22nd February 2013 September 10, 2013 at 8:27 pm Reply

    […] for one has been on a roll this week. He started by asking the deceptively simple question ‘what is a bedroom?‘, which is to say, if there is no legal definition of a bedroom then how can you tax it […]

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