Last week I said that Simon Collins QC who is deciding the first bedroom tax appeal in Scotland had issued some very encouraging opening remarks around the bedroom tax decision making process. I said this gave encouragement to those who had already appealed and gave just cause for everyone that had not appealed to appeal. The judgment was delivered today and it was even better than I hoped for as not only is room size a critical issue so is room usage and so is the original and actual purpose of a room as is usable floor size.
In the simplest terms councils need to know all of these before making the bedroom tax decision and they cannot simply rely on the landlords word. Here is a concise overview of this very significant judgment:
- A landlord tells the council its a 3 bed property.
- The council imposes the bedroom tax on the single tenant.
- Tenant appeals to tribunal on process grounds
- Tribunal finds the property is a 1 bed and
- Tribunal directs council to pay back the bedroom tax it has deducted.
The tribunal also ruling that the council was wrong to take the landlords word as determinative, that room size matters, room usage matters, room purpose matters and even further that it is not just the floor space in terms of room size but usable floor space too!
Note well that this is not Scots Law and therefore different from the law in England & Wales before the naysayers dismiss it as such; this is a First Tier Tribunal that could have taken place in Liverpool or Cardiff and it applies nationally.
The judgment confirms that all 660,000 should appeal on process grounds and even adds to it with the usable floor space issue and with the room usage issue which I have also advocated as being legitimate cause and grounds for appeal.
It seems clear that the QC heading this tribunal had the long standing housing law and Rent Act precedent in mind of Prout – v – Hunter (1924) which I have also advocated is significant and pertinent to the bedroom tax decisions, though it is not mentioned by name.
So my long advocated strategy of appealing the decision making process has been upheld and was used in this significant case and proven but enough of my gloating and I told you so attitude, let’s look at the issues that have emerged which are relevant to all bedroom tax appellants.
The first 6 paragraphs outline the process taken by Simon Collins QC and the meat on the bones begins in paragraph 7 when he concludes that the property is a 1 bedroom and not the 3 bedroom property the landlord said it was!
Paragraph 8 then states the landlord Kingdom Housing Association informed Fife Council the property was a 3 bedroomed one and Fife Council merely took the landlords word for this as all councils have done nationally. He says the council is entitled to take this approach of believing the landlords word but it is not determinative which is the same as his opening remarks I reported here which said it is not up to the landlord but is a decision for the council.
Paragraph 9 disappoints me as I wish the Tribunal had seen the data transfer between landlord and council but as it appears this was not needed. The council had told the tribunal the landlord said it was a three bed property and it is clear that what data Kingdom Housing gave to Fife Council was NOT revealed to the court; it was merely accepted as being fact and it was not disputed.
My disappointment is because the courts should see the very flimsy data passed to councils from social landlords as I revealed in the post of a social landlord and Bury Council in Greater Manchester. I have also attached that again below and the relevance of that meagre data transfer between landlord and council to determine and then impose the bedroom tax deduction is a key issue
Paragraphs 10 through 14 sees the tribunal discuss the original purpose of the property and while this specific property is highly unusual dating back to 1660, the issue of the original purpose is an interesting and significant one. It also contains some very significant points about room usage.
The original purpose and the room usage points ARE EXTREMELY SIGNIFICANT and especially in light of the meagre data which was transferred to councils by social landlords and HOW councils acted upon this data in imposing the bedroom tax deduction on the tenant with such meagre data and failed to process this data into information. Data needs to be processed to become information and especially meaningful information. Data on its own means nothing and only becomes relevant when it is processed into real information.
Yet councils across the country imposed the bedroom tax based on landlord supplied data and not on the facts of each case – the real information. I cannot stress how important this is and have repeatedly made the point which the court backs up in looking at the original purpose and at room usage and then at 14 and 15 on room size.
Councils merely asked landlords for their word on the number of bedrooms. They did NOT ask landlords for the original purpose of each room or for the room usage or for the room size of each room in the property, they merely asked for the (landlord view of the) number of bedrooms!
What the tribunal is saying here is that merely asking the landlord for their view on the number of bedrooms is not sufficient and not enough data upon which to make the bedroom tax decisions they did!
In simple terms the decision making process was and is a farce and is legally unreliable – the precise points I have been making all along.
I make my final point of the room size issue as stated in the final substantive paragraph number 15.
- The tribunal ruled that a room of 67 square feet is NOT a bedroom.
- It discusses usable floor space and concludes this is relevant!
- It has never been used as a bedroom (an issue that will provide some hope to those appealing a purported bedroom is a storage area for disability equipment or some other ground of appeal on room usage!)
- It may be possible to fit a single bed in but it is not a bedroom!
- The room is not fit for use as a bedroom or should be classified as such.
In summary this is an incredibly important legal judgment which shows that (a) room size, (b) room usage, (c) original purpose, and (d) usable floor space are all relevant issues that should have been considered by a council when making the bedroom tax decisions.
An appealing judgement if ever there was one!
An example of the meagre data (Bury) – Note well landlord not asked on room size, room usage, original purpose, present purpose etc – As I have argued all along how the hell can the bedroom tax be imposed on this meagre data sent from a landlord who has a vested interest!! All decisions to impose the bedroom tax based on such flimsy data reveal the decision-making process to be a farce and that view confirmed above