I have placed this on my website in MS Word so you can simply cut and paste and fill in the blanks. The link is below and it is the only MS Word file there called Standard Letter.
The same download can be used to print off as a two page letter to circulate if you wish. It was written this way and for that purpose and hence oversimplifies some aspects.
The wording is below and as you can see it also gives strong pointers about what to ask in the initial request for information which will also give you a strong indication of some legitimate appeal grounds for the follow-up appeal letter.
You can see why I have always maintained that all 660,000 bedroom tax affected tenants have legitimate grounds or reasons to appeal. The bedroom tax decision-making process is so riddled with holes and, for example, how can a HB Officer decide what is a bedroom when there is no legal definition and this will tax the very learned legal minds of judges? More in-depth detail and standard appeal arguments will follow
THE BEDROOM TAX APPEAL
If every tenant affected by the bedroom tax decision appealed then the system is brought to its knees. The government expects just 3% to appeal and estimates an appeal costs the local council £200. It wont and it will cost the council £1500 for everyone that appeals and about £18m to Liverpool City Council if all 12,000 appeal.
Do I have a right to appeal?
Yes. You have a right to ask the council to reconsider which is pointless. You also have a right to ask the council for more information and explanation or simply HOW they made the decision and then put in a formal appeal after this which is the way to do it.
A standard letter (overleaf) asking for HOW the council made the decision means the council has to answer and provide you with information in writing. So one question you must ask the council is “Please tell me how the council defines a bedroom and provide that in writing?”
The reason for that is there is NO LEGAL DEFINITION of a bedroom. So how can you tax something you can’t define? Every council will have a different definition of a bedroom! It is up to the individual Housing Benefit officers to decide what a bedroom is and how many bedrooms your home has. It is NOT up to your landlord even if your tenancy agreement says you have a 3 bedroomed property that doesn’t mean you have 3 bedrooms. Janet Bell has a 3 bedroomed property that only has 2 bedrooms and will NOT be hit by the bedroom tax.
Once you get a response from the council you then write another letter which is the APPEAL. This then gets heard at a tribunal – an informal court – and they decide whether the bedroom tax applies or not. Remember each one of these appeals will cost the council £1500 to defend the bedroom tax decision which the government forced them to make.
If everyone APPEALS then ask yourself why would Liverpool City Council spend £18m of council money defending the bedroom tax decision which takes £20m out of the city! If the council does not defend the APPEAL at the tribunal then ask the tribunal to overturn the decision and the bedroom tax does not apply! If the council disgracefully does defend the bedroom tax decision at the tribunal there are still plenty of good arguments you can use to have the decision overturned.
This is why you have asked the council for their definition of a ‘bedroom.’ If the council says your landlord told us it was a 3 bedroomed property then that is not the same as having 3 bedrooms in a property just like Janet Bell (the lady in Echo and on Granada Reports and Look North with a vertical lift through the ceiling). If your smallest bedroom is less than 70 square feet is this a bedroom? Maybe not. If your smallest bedroom is less than 50 square feet then it definitely IS NOT a bedroom in law. Anyway how does the HB officer at the council know the size of your bedrooms? He doesn’t and so how can he make the decision in the first place? He or she can’t make any decision they can rely on in court as they have not seen your bedrooms!!
STANDARD LETTER – asking for more information
Your HB reference number
(insert you name, address and postcode here)
Please provide the following information in writing so that I can submit a formal HB appeal with the given time. Please advise when that date is by return.
- A copy of the council’s written policy that includes a definition of a bedroom.
- Failing that a copy of the councils informal or working definition of what is a bedroom for under occupation / bedroom tax purposes.
- A copy of the council’s written policy which states precisely how the council makes a bedroom tax decision.
- A copy of any letter or other correspondence you sent to my landlord (insert landlord name) asking for information about my property.
- A copy of any correspondence you received back from my landlord in response to your request.
- Does the council’s policy in making a bedroom tax decision differ from the guidance given by central government in the A4/2012 HB circular and/or the SI 3040 of 2012.
- How can a HB Officer decide what a bedroom is if there is no legal definition?
- If defining a bedroom would tax the minds of the most learned judges then how does IDS expect a HB officer to make such a decision!
- Has the council seen your property or how many bedrooms it has? No – so a 3 bedroomED property does NOT mean you have 3 bedrooms does it?
- A property is not the same as the number of bedrooms it has!!
- Has the HB Officer simply accepted your landlord’s word that you have 3 bedrooms? Yes. So this is a decision taken without the HB officer knowing is this is true or not!!
- The government (DWP) issue very detailed guidance (48 pages long!) on this and if you council has not followed this then this is also grounds for appeal.
Simply put in your details on the first standard letter asking for more information and hand in to a council office such as a one-stop shop and get a receipt for it. I will draft standard APPEAL letters ready for when this information comes back and then submit the APPEAL
The APPEAL – You can attend in person and doesn’t need a lawyer and is free to do so a welfare rights officer or anyone else will do and the tribunal is at 36 Dale Street Liverpool. This court is very informal (no wigs on judges etc) will last an hour and they will take between 3 to 8 months to decide or likely much longer if all appeal. This is your LEGAL RIGHT SO USE IT!
The above is as simple as I can make it and is written so that it can be handed out as a one-page flyer printed on both sides.
This and the previous version has been viewed read or downloaded over 150,000 times on my blog or website and many thousands of times more elsewhere. How strange that IDS and the DWP think that only 20,000 will appeal!
I would also advise you look at the “How to Appeal” brochure the tribunals produce and you can access this here - Note well it says last year there were 200,000 appeals heard and that is for every benefit. Imagine what adding 660,000 will do to that figure for just the bedroom tax appeals and to the time it takes to be heard and what cost that will bring. Imagine what it will be like to have your say in court too!
You may also wish to look at the views of a leading QC and what he thinks of the simple question What is a bedroom here - Ask yourself does my local HB officer know more about this than a leading barrister?
If you want some more questions you could ask and some more legitimate grounds for appeal then have a look at this lengthy post here
It all boils down to the tenant submitting an appeal over the bedroom tax. The more that do the quicker this nasty unfair policy is history.