Bedroom Tax – ONLY the tenant can get rid of it and here’s how!

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THIS HAS A MAJOR UPDATE AT 18:00  FRIDAY 29 MARCH 2013 SO PLEASE READ IN FULL

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Dear Social Tenant,

The bedroom tax is wrong and nasty, it is pernicious. On a personal level my heart bleeds for you and I am behind you 100%.  Yet on a professional level I want to slap your face and tell you to stop moaning and see the wood from the trees.   If you do you will see that the way to get rid of the bedroom tax if (a) simple and (b) you have the power to do it!

Slapping your face and stop bloody moaning?

Yes strong words.  What I mean is that all the moaning in the world won’t get you anywhere and you have to act instead. As you will see below all it takes is a few simple letters from all of you and the bedroom tax is history.  The ‘moaning’ has seen the bedroom tax appear in your daily papers day after day and on the TV and radio news a lot and on other TV programmes, even mainstream one such as the One Show – yet what has all of that achieved? Very little and still leaves 95% of you in the brown smelly stuff financially.

A one spare room exemption for 5000 foster carers but not for two rooms or more and each foster carer can often have two foster children at one time.  An exemption too for soldiers as long as they live with mum and dad in a council house; and a discretionary exemption which only applies if your local council says so for a small percentage of severely disabled children.

If all the media attention for the battle for the hearts and minds of the general public can NOT even see all disabled children be entitled to a room of their own then you begin to see how limited all this press and TV and radio attention has been.  Even if all disabled children and all disabled adults were made exempt we would still have the bedroom tax.  Even if the government exempts the gentleman in Caerphilly whose box room has a plumbed-in dialysis machine yet is being taxed as a bedroom were made exempt and all the other deserving human interest cases were made exempt, we would still have the nasty bedroom tax!

So all the media attention and all the protest marches and all the admittedly brilliant song You cannae have a spare room in a pokey council flat song won’t get rid of this hated, nasty and pernicious bedroom tax.  You dear tenant are still in the shit and yet the best way of getting rid is entirely in your hands and you hold all the aces – you just do not realise that you do hold the best cards!

Yes you – the social tenant – are more powerful than the House of Lords who rejected this yet the government overturned.  You are more powerful than the Labour Party and all other political parties put together.  You, social tenant, are more powerful that the papers, the TV and the radio and the rest of the media put together.

That is why you want to stop moaning.  Moaning achieves nothing and tomorrow or next week or next month another group will start moaning and your moan will be forgotten.  Then when the even nastier welfare reforms come in later this year you will moan again and the Daily Mail and the government will portray you as perennial moaners – it’s just moan after moan after moan etc.

So top and think and see the wood from the trees as you DO hold all the aces you just don’t realise it and don’t know how to use that power you have.

Use your power to get rid of the bedroom tax

Yesterday, the first successful challenge to the bedroom tax was won by a brave lady I advised called Janet Bell.  Yet that doesn’t make me an expert it just says I know HOW to challenge.  I have been challenging local councils all over the UK for the last ten years as my job when they have tried to take away money from vulnerable people.  That doesn’t make me an expert either.  Yet it does show I know HOW to challenge.

The social tenant needs to harness the huge powers they have to challenge the bedroom tax and it really is a simple strategy of writing letters which if you all do will see the bedroom tax gone as a policy.

Some detail of what to do and why this will work

Read this in case you haven’t done so already which would be surprising as it has been read and or downloaded over 140,000 times.  It is a simple letter saying that all social tenants should query the bedroom tax decision.  They should write to their local council asking HOW they made the bedroom tax decision and request further information such as written copies of the bedroom tax policies it has.  Using Liverpool as an example it would see the council there needing 632 officers just to deal with such requests from the 12,649 bedroom tax tenants in Liverpool.  This would apply to every council of course and give huge cost and huge disruption to the councils and is perfectly lawful, and in fact is your absolute right.

It need not even cost you the price of a stamp as you can hand it in to your local council one-stop shop.  There is also nothing to stop you asking for more information and more explanation on a daily basis with different questions each time – heaping chaos onto chaos onto chaos.  That meltdown is of course unfair on your local council and they have only made the decision following orders from central government.

Yet they will start ‘moaning’ and moaning en masse to central government over the cost and pressure starts to build on central government.  Because Housing Benefit staff at your local council are running around like headless chickens complying with your request for further information and explanation, their normal work suffers.  The landlords, both social landlords and private landlords will see delays in deciding and paying HB claims and private landlords may well decide the benefit claimant is too much trouble and start evicting….which means your local council has more and more work and cost of much higher homelessness cases…as does central government too.

The Second letters

Just as the tenant has an absolute right to ask for more information and more explanation the tenant has an absolute right to put in a formal APPEAL over the bedroom tax decision.  The social tenant should do this too and if all did the system really collapses and big time!

A formal Housing Benefit appeal is decided by a tribunal, a court in other words and there are just 8 of these around the country that deal with all benefit appeals not just Housing Benefit.  These tribunals have a leaflet or brochure entitled “How to Appeal” and this says each individual appeal takes between 3 and 8 months, you can attend in person if you wish and along with any representative which need not be a lawyer – it could be a welfare rights advisor, someone from the CAB, any of the thousands of people who know quite a lot about the bedroom tax.  It also says you may get a ‘bundle’ of up to 150 pages from the local council which they have to prepare for each case.

That is very interesting for a number of reasons WHY you should challenge the bedroom tax decision in this way and I used Liverpool City Council (LCC) figures to explain but this applies to every council.

Firstly, I estimate it would cost LCC at least £1500 in each case to prepare such a bundle, to get all of these documents together, to take internal legal advice and a lot more if they take external legal advice, to collate all of this and give you a copy and to attend the tribunal or court to defend their decision.

Secondly, the bedroom tax decision that LCC are forced to make by central government, sees the 12,649 tenants have a HB reduction of £8.2m per year.  That is £8.2m less money to be spent in Liverpool and so Liverpool will suffer for this as local shops will go out of business and generally there is millions of pound less being spent in the local economy.

Thirdly, and very interestingly, LCC will have to decide whether they can afford to defend the 12,649 HB appeal cases at the tribunal courtAnd they can’t afford it! LCC like every other council are free to decide whether to go to the cost of defending the bedroom tax decision they have had to make or not.  Why a local council would incur huge costs – and in Liverpool for 12,649 appeals each at £1500 this would be £19m! – To support a decision which takes money out of the local economy?  That is truly perverse and they shouldn’t do so even if the local council is a 100% Tory council.  It makes no sense whatsoever and is economic madness as well as being a huge waste of taxpayer’s money.  The key issue for all local councils is that the choice to defend the bedroom tax decision at court becomes an economic one and not a political one.

Fourthly, many local councils have said they will adopt a no-eviction policy for bedroom tax cases.  I admire the sentiment but this just won’t work and can’t work.  Those councils would be better saying we will not go to the cost of defending the hated bedroom tax decision at the tribunal as it is uneconomic and not a good use of public money.  LCC could and should say that £19m is better spent on care for the elderly or libraries or anything else which of course it is.  And that decision over to defend or not on economic grounds is entirely up to LCC and the government can’t force them to spend that £19m and I’m positive the coalition government won’t give LCC an additional £19m for this.  If all 660,000 do appeal and each one costs £1500 then that is £1bn the government would have to give local councils to justify a £500m saving!  I will give £2 if you save £1 in other words!!

If local councils refuse to go to the cost of defending the bedroom tax decision at the tribunal then the bedroom tax tenant who is appealing can ask the tribunal to quash the bedroom tax decision.

This is precisely what happened 10 days ago when the government exempted the severely disabled child in what is known as the Burnip Case.  The government lost in the Court of Appeal over this and were challenging that in the Supreme Court.  Yet the government decided to stop their challenge and instead the reduction of Housing Benefit they wanted to keep (the same as the bedroom tax in the private sector in simple terms) they now had to pay and now do pay.

A few general tips on HOW and WHY to challenge

I have received some feedback on the standard letter I drafted and circulated and has been even more widely circulated by others.  It said the 2 questions looked a bit legalistic and not what the tenant would write and also some tenants were struggling to see what it meant.

The Standard Letter

  • Please feel free to rewrite in your own words
  • Please feel free to ask as many questions as you want from the list below
  • If you have sent or handed in a standard letter there is nothing to stop you putting in another one or another ten if you so wish.  Yet if you do always remember the basics of including your HB reference number and asking the council what is your deadline for launching a formal appeal.

Below is a list of questions you may want ask instead.  You can keep this as simple as you wish from a basic request for information as in Question 1 or you may wish to ask a more detailed question such as number 20 which require your council to explain in detail.

The overall purpose of asking questions for more information or indeed specific explanation is that these can and will provide more reasons – or grounds as they are called – for a subsequent formal appeal.

Many of the questions below will show you legitimate grounds for appeal if you read them carefully and I have 20 more questions I can think of about HOW the council made a bedroom tax decision.

Questions you may want to ask.

  1. Please send me a copy of the procedure the council followed in assessing my property for bedroom tax purposes
  2. Please forward copies of information you received from my landlord for assessing my property for bedroom tax purposes
  3. Please forward a copy of the information you requested from my landlord about my property at (insert address)
  4. As the process for deciding how many bedrooms my property has rests with the HB decision maker please tell me the council’s formal definition of what is a bedroom
  5. Please advise me of the council’s working definition of the term ‘bedroom’
  6. Please advise where in the council’s written decision making policy on the bedroom tax says it will refer my case to the Rent Officer Service
  7. Please advise how many of the anticipated 12,649 bedroom tax decisions in Liverpool were decided on the basis of a determination from the Rent Officer Service
  8. Please advise on and forward a copy of the council’s policy on referring a social housing property to the Rent Officer Service on the basis that my property is unsuitably large as contained in the Housing Benefit Guidance Manual or HBGM at 4.1440
  9. Please advise how your policy at 8 above differs from if my property was managed by a private landlord and I was a private tenant
  10. Please advise of the council’s policy for formally notifying me of the bedroom tax decision
  11. I note the council’s letter does not follow the draft letter it was advised to send by the Secretary of State in the A4/2012 Housing Benefit circular.  Please advise why this was the case and please supply council minutes of where the form and timing of the notification letter was decided
  12. I note the council’s alleged notification letter of your bedroom tax decision does not state that I have a formal right of appeal the bedroom tax decision.  Please advise why you maintain this is a lawful notice and not a deficient one
  13. I note an alleged notification letter from the council purporting to notify me of your bedroom tax decision was issued before 1 April 2013 and despite the Secretary of State guidance in the A4/2012 Housing Benefit circular stating it cannot be sent until after the bedroom tax policy comes into effect.  Please advise why this was the case and please advise whether you maintain this to be a deficient notice.  I further request a copy in writing of the minutes of any council meeting where this was agreed.
  14. Please forward a copy of the council’s policy for the bedroom tax where an alleged bedroom measures less than 50 square feet or its metric equivalent.
  15. Please advise by return a copy of the council’s written policy for bedroom tax purposes where an alleged bedroom is less than 70 square feet or its metric equivalent.
  16. Please advise of the councils written bedroom tax decision making policy for an alleged bedroom size of between 50 and 70 square feet or its metric equivalent.
  17. Please advise how if the council’s policy on bedroom size for determining whether a social property has a bedroom differs from its policy for a private tenant in a private property.
  18. Please advise whether in your request to my landlord (insert landlord name) specifically asked my landlord for the exact size of each purported ‘bedroom’ or not.  Please forward copy of the correspondence sent to my landlord.
  19. I am under the assumption that the council asked my landlord for the same information the council or District Valuer uses for assessing my property for rateable value.  If so is the council happy that this information details accurately my property in terms of the number of bedrooms my property contains and if so please state why.
  20. I received a letter from my landlord before March 12th 2013 indicating they had been informed by the council that a bedroom tax deduction would be made to my Housing Benefit claim.  As the exemptions for bedroom tax purposes were changed on that day by the Secretary of State to allow an extra bedroom for an approved foster carer and the parents of a soldier then please advise how and when you reassessed my claim due to this regulatory change.  If the council did not reassess my claim after this change please advise how you know my household does not contain an approved foster carer or a soldier.  Further advise by return whether you have asked or written to me as the tenant whether mu household contains an approved foster carer of soldier.  If not then please advise how the council maintain it can rely on the decision to reduce my Housing Benefit as a correct decision.

There is nothing to stop any tenant asking all 20 above and a further 20 more all in one letter.  There is nothing to stop every tenant asking questions 1 to 10 in one letter and then asking questions 11 to 20 in a further letter the next day.  Please feel free to rewrite any of the questions too.

It is up to you as the tenant to ask whatever you think is best.  It is you right after all and you are only asking the council for further information to decide if your formal appeal should go ahead or if the information they provide gives you further reasons to add to your appeal.

Alternatively or even additionally, you may also want to submit a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to your local council asking them how many social landlord properties they have referred to the Rent Officer service for a determination in each of the last 3 years and how many private properties they have referred.  You may also wish to send the same to the VOA and ask how many of the 219,000 Housing Benefit determinations they did in 2010/11 were for private properties and how many were for social landlord properties.

Similarly you may ask the council if they asked your landlord whether your property had disabled adaptations that had converted former bedrooms into a walk-in bathroom or a vertical lift.  Or in the alternative ask your council whether it simply accepted the landlord’s word that your 3 bedroomed property indeed had 3 bedrooms and not 2 for example.  Further asking whether they have the same policy of accepting the word of a private landlord or whether they would refer any such matter to the Rent Officer.

Summary

Stage 1asking for more information or more explanation is as simple as can be as I have explained.

Stage 2 –the formal appeal – is not so simple.  It requires the tenant to think carefully and put in a lot of work to have their ‘say’ in court but note well that while the tribunal is a court it is very much informal with no bewigged judges and the rest.

Yet the tenant is already stressing to death over how they will cope with the bedroom tax deductions so why not stress and worry over how you can appeal instead?  Even if you fail you will know you have done all you can and you will not look back and say I wish I had fought and had my say in court!  All you are doing is putting down your arguments on paper and there will be thousands of welfare rights advisors, hundreds of tenant groups, thousands of articles on the internet all looking to find standard paragraphs for you to include.

Standard paragraphs? What I mean by that is some wording on each of the likely appeal issues.  Take the size of a bedroom as a simple example.  If you want to appeal that your smallest alleged ‘bedroom’ is (a) less than 50 square feet and so cannot be defined as a bedroom; or (b) that your smallest ‘alleged’ bedroom is between 50 and 70 square feet and is also not a full bedroom – then there will be many examples of how you should word that argument.

I will be drafting ‘standard paragraphs’ and making them freely available here or on my website as one example.  I will also be drafting some very complex ‘legalistic’ arguments too that I advise all tenants to consider.  I am sure some of them will be good but others not so good.  I am also sure many others will be drafting the same and of course there is freely available in the public domain the advice of counsel such as this by Jonathan Mitchell QC on the subject of what is a bedroom which is the key to the bedroom tax and the key to all bedroom tax appeals.

Finally don’t forget the main point.  The tenant and ONLY the tenant has the power to get rid of the bedroom tax.  If all 660,000 write and put in the standard letter to ask for more information the bedroom tax policy is going to come under massive pressure from all quarters.  If you they put in a formal appeal you allow your council – who despise the bedroom tax as much as you do – to say they will not spent their money, local taxpayer’s money better spent elsewhere, on defending the bedroom tax appeals.

One final matter which will cause untold amounts of controversy will interest the social tenant who are struggling with the ‘can’t pay, won’t pay’ dilemma the bedroom tax creates.  While you are formally appealing the bedroom tax decision any arrears you run up may only be in essence theoretical and not real or actual arrears.  I don’t advise tenants to not pay the bedroom tax shortfall and to be clear I am not advocating they do not  pay but this theoretical arrears issue is there and requires airing here.

Scenario – Tenant has appealed formally as above and either can’t or won’t pay the bedroom tax shortfall and the landlord wishes to go to court for these arrears.

The landlord serves a legal document on the tenant called a Notice of Seeking Possession (NSP) and this NSP has to state the correct amount of arrears.  Yet (a) if whether the bedroom tax applies or not is still being decide by another court, the tribunal, then the landlord cannot state the real or true arrears amount.

The district judge, who decides possession cases, will if told of the formal HB appeal that is with another court, the tribunal, may have no option but to adjourn or out off the hearing until the other court, the tribunal, and decides on the bedroom tax appeal of the tenant.

Note well that any arrears possession case for a social tenant is not a question of a landlord turning up saying the tenant owes £xxx.xx and the judge saying to the tenant ok you need to be out tomorrow.  It is very much different and if the paperwork the landlord supplies is not right in any way then they have to go back and start this long process again.  Judges will only evict as a last resort and when the facts are proven and only then if the paperwork – the legal documentation – is correct and in the correct form.

I say this as so many social tenants are under the false impression that if you owe rent a judge will put you out on the streets.  The stress this false perception has is making the social tenant worry and stress massively as probably 80% or more of social tenants have never been in arrears at all, ever.  And of the other 20% about 80% of them only have as they have been in and out of short-term low paid jobs and there have been problems with HB payments.  Social landlords collect about 98% of the rent due and arrears are a minor issue before the bedroom tax.

Now go back to the earlier point I stated that the benefit tribunals take between 3 and 8 months to make a decision.  That is with a normal workload of appeals for all benefits.  Yet if the system is swamped with 660,000 formal HB appeals it is going to take a lot longer than 3 to 8 months for each case to be decided isn’t it? 

All this time the social landlord’s finances are badly affected.  Even pre-existing arrears cases nothing to do with the bedroom tax which after 1 April and have a bedroom tax element cannot see a NSP being issued correctly with the correct proven arrears amount because the bedroom tax shortfall is still a legal issue and has not been decided.

That is a nightmare scenario for the social landlord as – and I restate I am not advocating this – it means a social tenant has virtual free rein not to pay the bedroom tax shortfall!!

Yet it also shows what the bedroom tax policy is – a transfer of £500m per year from central government to social landlords.  The same social landlords who feel they have no alternative but to pass this cost to the poor social tenant.  The bedroom tax is that classic case of top-down structure passing the shit onto somebody below them and in this case the social tenant.

It is also a transfer of a £1 billion risk to local government in deciding whether to defend the bedroom tax decision central government imposed on them.

The bedroom tax is unfair on the social landlord and the local council yes, but it is much more unfair and life-changing on the social tenant who is thought powerless at the bottom of this structure.  Life-changing as if the social tenant only gets £71 per week dole which is the lowest level of subsistence can from next week see that reduced by £14 per week and take income 20% below the minimum they are allowed to live on and subsist.  Truly life-changing consequences!

Yet as I have argued above it is the social tenant who in fact holds all the aces and are best placed to get rid of the bedroom tax. They should bloody well stop moaning and do something about it!

Anybody got a stamp?

MAJOR UPDATE OF THE ABOVE – 18:00 GOOD FRIDAY

Sample letter 1 – Asking for more information on HOW your council decided the bedroom tax applies

DATE

ADDRESS

MY HB REFERENCE NUMBER

Dear Sirs,

You have informed me that I have a spare bedroom and therefore you are applying a 14% under occupation charge, or bedroom tax, to my award of Housing Benefit.  I disagree with that decision.

The under occupation charge can only be applied to a ‘bedroom’ and to no other room as the Secretary of State says clearly at section 10 of the highly prescriptive A4 / 2012 Housing Benefit circular and the same wording is found in the Statutory Instrument SI 3040 of December 2012.

Therefore please provide the following information and explanation in writing to me and indicate how long after I receive I have to formally appeal against your decision:

1.  A copy of the formal policy of (insert name of council) which states the council’s definition of a ‘bedroom.’

2.  If no such written policy and definition of a ‘bedroom’ exists then please provide a working definition of how the council defines the term ‘bedroom’ and what constitutes a bedroom for under occupation purposes in the council’s view

3.  A copy of the any request you made to my landlord (INSERT NAME OF) with regards to making this under occupation decision and a copy of the information you received back from my landlord.

4. Please explain when or if the council refers a social housing property to the independent Rent Officer service and any formally written or informal working policy for the same

I understand I can reserve the right to ask for further information on or further explanation of your decision to apply an under occupation penalty at any time ahead of a formal appeal which is my current intention to make within the allotted time.

Yours etc

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Notes:

The above asks for some very important details that you will need in making an appeal.

For example as there is no legal definition of what is a bedroom then how can an individual HB officer make that judgment?

I am strongly of the view that the best legal minds in the country would struggle to define a ‘bedroom’ in law, and despite the governments highly prescriptive guidance to the HB officer that there is no legal definition and the government themselves will not be defining what a bedroom is, it is the individual HB Officers decision to say what is a bedroom.

The bedroom tax can ONLY apply if there is a spare BEDROOM and not merely a spare room hence the council’s view on a bedroom and what a bedroom is is critical.  That same council opinion on what is a bedroom is a huge ground of appeal for all 660,000 tenants.

Please do not write a straight appeal letter and ask for the information above first.

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Sample Letter 2 – An appeal argument if your bedroom is less than 70 square feet.

Note: This is a quick draft off the top of my head but used to show how an appeal could be written and AFTER you get the information from your council

I contend that my smallest alleged ‘bedroom’ is not a bedroom and the under occupation charge, or bedroom tax, made by (inert council name) on (insert date) should not apply and that decision be overturned or quashed.

The alleged ‘bedroom’ measures 7 feet 8 inches by 8 feet 6 inches which is by my reckoning 65.17 square feet in size.[i]  This being less than 70 square feet I contend does not make this (a) a bedroom, and (b) a full bedroom; rather following the opinion of a noted QC in the public domain it is in effect half a bedroom.

The highly prescriptive guidance given to the HB Officer from the Secretary of State in 48 pages of the A4/2012 HB circular at 10 and stated in the same language in the Statutory Instrument SI 3040 of 2012 says for the under occupation charge to apply then the property must have one bedroom more than the housing need.  Yet if my property is not the claimed 3 bedroomed property but has 2 bedrooms and a less than full ‘bedroom’ or half a bedroom then my property does not have one (that is 1.0) bedrooms more than the need.  It has less than 1.0 bedrooms more and the 14% deduction made from the decision of (insert council name) is wrong and the under occupation charge or bedroom tax should not apply.

NOTES

The above is a very basic way of arguing the boxroom / bedroom debate that has been raging these past few months.  If I was drafting it fully that one simple argument would be 8 or more pages in length and would refer to specific acts such as the 1985 Act in much more detail.

It would also emphasis just how prescriptive the A4/2012 is and how it steers the HB Officer down a very dodgy legal path in the decision-making process.  The A4/2012 is much more than simple guidance (look before you cross the road) and ordinarily a HB circular can be dismissed or downplayed by a tribunal as simple guidance.  Yet the average HB circular may be 3 or 4 pages longs and not 48 pages and full of highly prescriptive steer from the Secretary of State to the HB officer.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT write this bedroom is not spare as I use it for my grandchildren who I mind while their mum goes to work or any similar reason why it is unfair. Such an appeal reason will go nowhere.

If the HB Officer who has made the decision has no idea that your alleged ‘spare bedroom’ is now converted to a wet room as you are a wheelchair user or it only measures 48 square feet or doesn’t know you are a foster carer as the decision was taken before the recent change or for any other reason THEN how can the decision made be relied upon?  It can’t.

That I would strongly argue is a much stronger ground for appeal than it is used for my grandchildren when they stay over.

There is a legal opinion on the internet and in the public domain where a Barrister, A QC no less says that any room size between 50 square feet and less than 70 square feet is in effect half a bedroom.  A barrister has a much more learned view of what is a bedroom than a HB Officer and so that is also a much stronger line of appeal than my grandchildren use it or any other emotive argument.

However, you need to know precisely how your council has determined what a bedroom is and then how many bedrooms your property has.

Further, as I say above, because there is no legal definition of the term ‘bedroom’ and this would tax the minds of the most learned judges then how in hell can a comparatively lowly HB Officer make that judgement?  No disrespect to any HB Officer but if the Supreme Court would struggle to define a ‘bedroom’ then just how is the HB Officer supposed to decide?

Then look at the impact of any such decision.  A tenant may only get JSA or IS of £71.70 per week and is then asked to pay £14 or so of this each week for the bedroom tax shortfall.  The HB Officer who has very little information on and has never seen that tenants property and alleged ‘bedroom’ is taking a decision which will see the tenant have 20% of his subsistence income being taken away!!  This is a decision from the HB Officer with life-changing consequences for the tenant.  That is not hyperbole or exaggeration it is simple fact.  Yet if a Supreme Court judge would struggle to define a bedroom just how the hell can a lowly HB Officer?

Moreover, and keeping that life-changing context in mind, go back and look at the A4 / 2012 ‘simple’ guidance again and look at section 17:

 “It is likely that the easiest and most cost effective way to gather the required information on the number of bedrooms in a property will be to work with the registered landlords in your local authority area to gather this information, rather than writing directly to tenants.”

The EASIEST and MOST COST-EFFECTIVE way!!!  I see so bugger getting the correct information on whether to cast the tenant into abject poverty the only thing that matters is finding the cheapest and easiest way to make a best guess!!

That is not mere simple guidance that is heavily prescriptive political steer from the Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith.  I doubt any judge at the lower tribunal or higher tribunal or Court of Appeal or Supreme Court would see that as mere guidance like look before you cross the road!!!

Section 20 of the same ‘mere guidance’ says “In some circumstances it may be necessary to contact a claimant directly for information about the number of bedrooms in their property.”

“Some” circumstances!! It “may” be necessary!!  My arse!!  It BLOODY WELL IS NECESSARY IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES given this is such a life-changing decision made by the HB Officer who is not qualified to make such a decision. Nor should the HB Officer have been placed in such a situation!

In summary the judgement call of a HB Officer of what is a bedroom and what constitutes a bedroom is totally irrational.  Yet that is what Iain Duncan Smith believes is acceptable.  I doubt even a kangaroo court would accept that and why that is a very strong appeal ground for every one of the 660,000 tenant households affected.

I could and will go into much greater depth on this one issue and to date I have merely said I see a number of meritable grounds of appeal for all.

This document attempts to explain (a) why the tenant asks for information first; (b) why the tenant then and ONLY then launches a formal appeal; and (c) discusses in the smallest amount of detail on just one appeal ground what an appeal is all about.  It is not about and should not be phrased as the room is not spare my grandchildren use it; rather it needs good arguments such as the one briefly outlined above put down on paper.

As I have said before in well meaning general advice to tenants, stop moaning and do something.  Then all the huge stress you feel about the life-changing negative impacts the bedroom tax has, channel that waste energy into formulating arguments such as the one above – make that stress positive and fight.  And for fucks sake, the above is one simple example of why and how every one of 660,000 tenants could and should appeal.

If you all do the system collapses and the bedroom tax is history!


[i] 7 feet 8 inches x 8 feet six inches is 92 inches by 102 inches = 9384 and divided by 144 (a square foot is 12 x 12) becomes 65.16666 square feet

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31 thoughts on “Bedroom Tax – ONLY the tenant can get rid of it and here’s how!

  1. We vote, they don’t listen. so a few simple letters is going to solve the bedroom tax problem, or bedroom tax extortion! This is absolute bull and you know it. Sorry for the upfront attitude but that is just the way I am

  2. Thank you Joe. For all your hard work putting this together for us.
    Many people are worried about paying it or not whilst they are appealing.

    It ALL makes perfect sence. And I particularly like the idea of sending a letter a day!!

    I am sharing this everywhere. It is SO important.
    The issue is getting people to do it on mass. To create the most chaos and disruption,

    We have now started up a new group on Facebook. Specifically to deal with appealing.

    Bedroom Tax Appeal Group.

    We also have very good information on appealing the Council Tax.
    Another, huge issue.

    So, please come and join us.

  3. Where were you all when the private sector were affected. The private sector do not get HB, they get Local Housing Allowance – which is paid on whatever the amount of bedrooms you are allowed. The same criteria as Social Housing Providers.

    If it is good enough for private please explain why it is not good enought for Social Housing People.

    Nothing wrong with the new rulings, and to call it a bedroom tax is absurd.

    1. The private tenant gets 30% more in LHA than the social one gets in HB and gets more subsidy amounting to £2.17bn per year and 4 times more then the bedroom taz The private tenant LHA benefit was NOT retrospective whereas the bedroom tax is The social tenant is treated more harshly in determining bedrooms than the private tenant as explained above Please enjoy your bicycle ride to work while my transport is a lear jet

    2. It was labour who introduced the so-called bedroom tax first when it happened to us renting in the private sector, all the Tories have done is picked up the ball and run with it and introduced it into social housing where to be fair rent is by far cheaper than private tenancy and that is why it’s unfair across the two sectors but tougher for those in private tenancy due to the higher rents. Seeing as the Tories sold off most of the council stock under thatcher and continue to do it while moaning about an urgent need of housing and relaxing planning laws to get more built.. it’s absolute folly for the Tories to continue down this road.

      We know the bedroom tax has nothing to do with freeing up properties for homeless families seeking two or three bedroom homes. If it was the case why have they stopped at applying it right across the spectrum on benefits and off.. for example.. do you know how many working class people rent properties where maybe there are one or two people living in a two or three bedroom home?… the number is high!, this alone makes a mockery of the whole bedroom tax policy.

      Of course they will remove two mentally and/or physically disabled couple from a two bedroom property, and hand it to a problem family relocation process, and yes they are on benefits too… a typical scenario of stupidity….how long before we start becoming happy about the government considering Gulags in all but name. United Kingdom is no longer united nor is it any longer Great in Great Britain. If we think what has past to date as bad we shall be witness to things one would consider unlawful but for the fact they change laws as and when required. There is more fascism in the tory party than any place in Germany.

    3. No prizes for guessing what group you belong to. Why is there always someone who wants to stand up and complain when another person or people are trying to make a change for the better? Did you set up a blog or webpage exposing the government on exploiting the lower classes? ill make an uneducated guess and say no. So now we make 3 groups out of 2, the ones who want to exploit, the ones who are exploited and the ones who have been exploited and revel in it now happening to others. Congratulations you have shown how selfish you are.

  4. Yes I agree that it was not retrospective, some private tenants are still on HB and not LHA. However, that is not the fault of this Government as that ruling was brought in by the Labour Government.

    SHP are not in the business for making money and their rents are cheaper for that reason. So why should the SHP and PL allowance be the same? In addition, I disagree that the determining of bedrooms is different for the two. And, private tenants do not have the foster child or child in armed forces release either.

    You have conveniently sidestepped the issue though, LHA has been in for 5 years now and there was not the uproar there is now. So please again explain, why it should be one rule for one and one rule for another?

  5. But doesn’t a bedroom have to be habitable to actually count as a bedroom? If so it has to meet Building Standards for ventilation (>1/15 floor area – used to be 1/20th) … and of minimum daylight / illumination (this used to be be 1/10th floor area but is now 1/15th in Scotland and 1/20th (or thereabouts – taking into account energy efficiency) in England.

    see my article at https://www.facebook.com/david.primula or in Herald http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/letters/definition-of-a-bedroom-needed-before-new-tax-can-be-imposed.20653398.
    This refers to the Scottish Building Regs – but English ones are Part F (ventilation) at http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/buildingregulations/approveddocuments/partf/ and http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/br/BR_PDF_AD_F_2010_V2.pdf – and Part L Conservation of Fuel & Power Part L 1B at http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/br/BR_PDF_AD_L1B_2011.pdf – see para 4.2. The English Regulations are a little blurred by addressing energy efficiency targets – and the concept of a “habitable room” is now removed.

    Sorry that its so bleeding technical!!! I would be arguing that the “bedroom is non-habitable” because “the glazing area is less than 1/20th of the floor area” … and make sure that its blocked up to be below this level by the time there is any inspection.

    Comments? Suggestions?

  6. Hi,I found this site a couple of days ago, wondering how to defend myself, and others from this ludicrous nonsense, nice work Joe. Today I handed in my first letter asking for clarification on a number of issues, not expecting a prompt reply . ..also informed my HA of my position and asked for their position on non payment while my (eventual) appeal goes thru’ have pretty good relations with them, they aware of my disabilities etc. I’m in NW, my HA,Accent, are ok in all respects, tho’ I guess they not lobbied on this issue, or not allowed to?? A tiny shoe box flat across the road from me,same HA costs£15 more than my house, cost savings??? Stephanie Lee, traveller name, you left comment, comment to your council, write the letter, bung up the system,or get trampled by Cameron and his TOFFS,you ok with that?? Write a letter, using Joes template, or get somone to do it for you, inaction is being a sheep, WAKE UP!!!! I can’t speak after throat cancer some years ago, makes life difficult, especially when faced with this kinda crap, they hear me loud and clear !! Thanks for the insight Joe, think I may be learning for a while yet.

  7. Hi i sent the draft letter u wrote by email here is the reply i have just received

    . The word “bedroom” is not defined in the legislation. Wiltshire Council follows the guidance of the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) as set out on paragraph 12 of circular A4 2012, namely that it is for the landlord accurately to describe the property in line with the actual rent charged.

    In simple terms, we accept the information that we receive from the relevant landlord with regards to the number of bedrooms in each of their properties.

    2. In terms of the Social Security (Information-sharing in relation to Welfare Services etc.) Regulations 2012, we received information in the form of a spreadsheet from your landlord setting out the number of bedrooms in each of their properties. The information indicated that your property has two bedrooms.

    3. There is no formal policy as to when Wiltshire Council would refer a social housing property to the independent rent officer service. This would only be done in exceptional circumstances where the authority considered that the rent was unreasonably high.

    4. Paragraph 3 above is not relevant to the decision that you are under-occupied by one bedroom. The decision is based on the fact that your landlord informed us that you are living in a two bedroom property, and the fact that, as you live alone, the legislation states that you only require one bedroom.

    5. With regards to a possible appeal, you cannot appeal against the legislation itself. If you believe that your property does not have two bedrooms, it is suggested that you take this up with your landlord in the first instance, as we have simply accepted the information that we received from them.

    If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Yours sincerely

    ___________________________________________

    John Caulfield
    Benefits Operations Manager
    Wiltshire Council (South Hub)

    How do i respond?

    1. The standard letter specifically asks you put your request in writing – a letter – so you get a letter back on letter headed paper from your respective council. this is important, very important.

      I shall explain this in more detail over the weekend with the answers one tenant in another authority has received back and as the answers are much the same as these and I will provide a full discussion then of such answers which reveal an absolute number of grounds of appeal for all bedroom tax tenants including you

  8. our local council have told us we have to pay un till they make there decition which could be some weeks i sent the letter 6 /7 weeks ago and iv got to pay it all up and a week in advance as well ??? getting fed up with one person saying its not my department but if we don*t pay up front we could loose are property
    A.B.C

  9. i am living in a 4 bedroom council house there is 3 of us my mother is disabled, my nephew, and me the son. i asked the council for a ramp so it helps me to get my mom out of the house insted of braking my back the council cum round and said thay carnt do it so im not paying there housing tax. im the career for my mother.

  10. Our council replied to my neighbours request for housing officer. They say that its down to our HA to determine how many bedrooms a property has. They also refused to provide further information that she asked for.

  11. i have been hit by atos first, they said my disabled wife has improved (which is impossable) so i have lost my carers allowence,and it looks like i have lost my appeal,even though they made up the information. and now i have been hit by the councils bedroom tax,i have a so called three bedroom house, there is only my wife and me and the house has been adapted for the disabled, the box room is only 58.18 square feet, there is no smaller properties i need to fight this and need help.

  12. I am living in a 3 b/room propety myself,in which my 3rd b/room is abox room & mesures too small (7ft 3in by 6ft 10in),however i am been charged 25%& my housing office or only making me pay £2 extra they said i would have to be moved to a 1 b/room,They have found a 1 b/room flat in the area i live now & physifically asked for.i’v agreed to view it. i,m really frightend to say no incase i get made to move & iv lost out on the area i now live, but i really really do not want to move.due past mental health problems my 2 sons or living with family members,in which i eventually would like to have them living back with me.if i move to a flat they will not be able to return back to me or even stay overnite my oldest son has downsydrome needs his own room.also since i agreed i would move & view a 1b/room flat,my circumstances have changed my sisters son has been took in the care of the local athority.He has overnite stays on a weekend at my house the overall aim is for me to take care of him full time.If they make me move to a 1 b/room this will have a huge inpact on my nephew also.My housing officer appiled for discretionary housing payment but they have declined me,due to limited funds & my circumstances do not qualify for payment because i could move to afforadble propety.If i disagree with the decision i can ask them to carry out an internal review in writing by 13/07/2013.providing reasons why i disagree.i only said i could not afford it on my 1st application.I do not want too move this will have a massive impact on my future,my childrens,also my nephews.please give me your adivise i am runing out of time .What is an internal review? What other reasons can i give?can they evict me if i say no to moving?I cannot afford to pay the 25%.Should i be charged bedroom tax for caring for my nephew on a weekend as he is in care of the local atthority??
    D. ELLIOTT

  13. Existing regulations of the “spare room subsidy and the A4/2012 Housing benefit circular in regards to “supported accommodation” Has this also been conveniently missed by the DWP and IDS?
    “I meet all the criteria (I have written evidence) for my property to be exempt from the “bedroom tax” on the grounds that it is classed as “supported accommodation” under the 1996/2006 Act. I also fulfill the “other consequential provisions” in that I receive tenancy support directly from my social housing landlord and have a support plan in place, Yet since April last year my local council/Liberata refuse to accept my claim for exemption, my MP and landlord claim to have no knowledge of this piece of legislation and there seems to be no mention of this exemption anywhere.
    I would be grateful for any advice, help or knowledge of similar cases and any legal challenge i may have, preferably before this “loophole” is also closed.
    I am not trying to get out of paying this bedroom tax but the law is the law and if it applies to one “exemption” then it should apply to them all.

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