Surveying the damage? The bedroom tax decision are not all Bristol fashion!

Yesterday I published a response from Cornwall Council who disgracefully and wrongly are saying the tenant has no right of appeal to the bedroom tax decision.  Every tenant has an absolute right to this.  Today I publish an intriguing response from Bristol City Council and I suggest an incredibly important one as it encapsulates two key issues I have been saying consistently.

  1. The first is that every bedroom tax decision has been taken on an ease of administration and ease of cost basis rather than seeking a correct decision and that includes simply taking the landlords word rather than seeking to establish if it is fact before making the decision.
  2. The second is that bedroom size matters and clearly Bristol City Council recognise, admittedly after the fact, both of these matters.

Point 1 – I am strongly of the view that a council simply accepting the word or view of the landlord as to the two necessary questions, what is a bedroom and how many bedrooms a property has  – are strong grounds to appeal the bedroom tax decision.  Note well that even if a council simply does accept the landlord’s view then that council has DECIDED to do that.  The final decision is the council’s and nobody else’s!

Let’s look at what Bristol City Council HB department has said in response to being asked HOW they decided upon the two necessary questions.

The opening few paragraphs are illuminating with BCC saying we merely took the landlords word – “…to provide the number of bedrooms specified… –  and we don’t maintain that the 1985 Housing Act applies  – “…our advice is not to use this to work out if a bedroom is a room for HB purposes…” – though now Bristol “… is sending surveyors to the addresses to measure rooms where this is a dispute

So BCC is that confident over its own decision making it is now sending out surveyors to measure up alleged ‘bedrooms’ for floor size even though they don’t believe they say that the size of a bedroom is an issue!!!

Can you see a very strong argument that if Bristol City Council is not confident in its decisions that a tribunal judge will see them in the same way as decisions made that nobody can have any confidence in!

Perhaps more significant is that BCC have (a) made the decision on which they should reasonably be able to rely upon, yet (b) are now and only after the fact checking to see if the landlords word was correct or not – the same landlord’s word they assumed was fact when they made the decision!!

This is exactly what I mean by repeatedly stating the bedroom tax decisions were made out of ease of administration and its cost rather than making the correct decision.

Here Bristol took the landlord’s word and now are so worried that they have made the wrong decision and that all cases will be appealed at huge cost to them that they are sending out surveyors to measure the size of rooms  In this case what makes this all the more outrageous is that Bristol City Council are sending out surveyors (cost anyone?) to their own council houses to measure up yet seem relaxed about whether other social landlords in the city send out surveyors to measure up rooms in HA properties.

BCC HB department are also saying that if the tenant has an issue over the size of an alleged bedroom that this is a matter of dispute or complaint between landlord and tenant and NOT an issue that is part of the bedroom tax decision-making process!!  That is absurd.  Whether a room is a bedroom or not for bedroom tax purposes is a matter of fact or law and is not a matter simply between tenant and landlord.

The landlord is a third-party to the bedroom tax decision which ONLY involves the claimant (the tenant) and the decision-maker (the council HB department).  It has absolutely bugger all to do with the landlord EVEN IF the council simply took the landlords word on what is a bedroom and how many a property has.

Would the DWP say for example that whether a claimant gets DLA is a matter between the doctor and the claimant and nothing to do with them?  Of course not.  Yet that is what they are saying here and proves how absurd that notion is.  God help the tenant who seeks an exemption for a severely disabled child in the bedroom tax!!!   The Councils will be telling them to make a complaint or take up a dispute with a GP or consultant!

2.  Bedroom Size

The full explanation of why I still strongly maintain that the floor size of a bedroom matters for the bedroom tax decision is very lengthy.  Very briefly and simplistically I see the statement in section 326 of the 1985 Act which says under part (b) “No account shall be taken for the purposes of either Table of a room having a floor area of less than 50 square feet” as a general statement or a legal definition of what CANNOT constitute a bedroom.  If such a room can’t be a bedroom for the much more exacting space and room standards then it cannot be one for the bedroom tax purpose.  I don’t accept the CIH view as read on the way ‘statutory interpretation’ is viewed either which in effect says that the 1985 Housing Act does not apply.

  • Note well the A4/2012 does NOT say there is no bedroom size definition in legislation, rather only in (HB) regulations.  
  • Nor does it say there is no legal definition of a bedroom anywhere.  
  • Additionally if bedroom size is not a factor then why did DWP title paragraph 12 as “Bedroom Size?”  
  • Further why did DWP not simply say at paragraph 12 that (a) a bedroom is what the landlord says and (b) size of a bedroom is not relevant?

This is why the Bristol City Council response is very intriguing.  They now – after the fact – see an issue with the size of a bedroom and clearly are running scared of decisions they have made on council houses there being appealed and overturned.

If the Council has not got confidence in the bedroom tax decisions they took then how can a tribunal judge have any confidence in those decisions?

The Bristol City Council letter is below.bristol reply bedroom tax

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13 thoughts on “Surveying the damage? The bedroom tax decision are not all Bristol fashion!

  1. Interestingly in that letter they go on to say that size does indeed matter if an adaptation has take place that has reduced the size of a room, ie a 2bedroomed 3 bed house… but they said it didn’t matter, but it does, sometimes, possibly, lol.

    Thats the problem with arbitrary, rushed, and idealistic legislation… it often forgets long established legislation that may impact on it from another angle in unforeseen ways.

  2. Joe
    I handed my 2nd letter requesting further information into my local one stop shop on the 11th April, I have not had a response back from them WMBC yet, even though I stated “”I note that the tribunal guidance says I should be allowed 14 days from receipt of information before the deadline to appeal expires, hence I look forward to your response by the 19th April””
    I have just checked my letter that they scanned and have just noticed I put the 11/05/13 instead of 11/04/13.
    Will it make any difference? Will I still be able to appeal

      1. Hi Joe my local council in Stoke-on-Trent tell me that I cant appeal. It has stated that as a council tenant when I signed my contract with them I signed for a 3 bedroom property and that is what my house is. It also states that there is no definition of a bedroom, that size does not matter and that I have to pay. Also added to this we now have to pay 30% of our council tax meaning I have to find £20 per week out of my benefits. As the government pay me what I need to live on, where does this £20 per week come from? Despite being disabled I cannot claim severe disablement allowance on this because both adults have to be disabled.

  3. There seems contradiction in the letter the paragraph after, Cases Where The Property has Been adapted For Disabilities. the last sentence does not say fit a bed in but ‘too small to accommodate a bedroom.’ So surely they are suggesting themselves a room can be too small to be a bedroom and they expect HB to judge this for themselves without measuring the space. Itys ok I have been made aware of the 70sqft.

  4. Joe,
    WPH phoned my mate up yesterday, threatening her with court proceedings if she does not start paying her bedroom tax, she is under occupied by 1 room, she explained that she has applied for a DHP and that she is appealing HB decision, she was told by WPH that makes no difference she still has to pay now, as the appeals and DHP can take up to 8 months, and if successful with the DHP they will refund her, Joe can WPH start proceedings at this early stage or are they just using scare tactics to make her pay up, she is really scared now Joe.

  5. I have just had a demand letter from my housing association saying that i am in arrears and i have got to pay or else serious action will be taken they state i am in arrears since 1/4/2013 but my housing benefit was paid up to 8/4/2013 which includes 1/4/2013 my h/a have just added an extra week of arrears to my rent i wonder how many other h/a / councils are doing the same and if they accept housing benefit in arrears why cant they do the same for us. I dont think 2 weeks in arrears warrants a threatening demand letter even if the sums added up correctly this is what they call being there to help us yeh right!

  6. Pat
    I read that they cant do anything for at least 8 weeks of arrears and whilst she has an appeal or application in for dhp they couldnt take legal action as they wouldnt be able to provide an accurate amount of debt to the courts and the courts would only make a decision after appeals/applications had been decided. I have had a demand letter aswell i owe 2 weeks for 1 bedroom like your friend. Get her to check dates when her full h/b was paid up to and does it include the 1/4/2013 cause they are trying to tag on an extra week of arrears onto our rents

    1. catwoman,
      when i phoned our local council up earlier, i asked when my full rent was paid up to, i was told that the last payment received to my HA included 2 wks at full rate and 2 wks at lower rate up to the 15th April, as my mate lives around the corner from me, same HA i would imagine it would be the same for her also.

  7. It’s unlawful for them to ‘demand’ payment. Whilst you are in the Appeal Process….
    Pat, I would re-send your letter again. With the correct date on… It’s the FIRST letter, that is asking for information…. You still have time. As it came into force on April 1st.

  8. Catwoman & Debbie, thanks for the advice, i emailed my local radio station earlier today as they had a panel of HA staff, welfare rights team and someone from the NHF on the phone in, re the bedroom tax i emailed the details of my mates phonecall.
    The presenter of the radio phone in read my email out to the panel, and they stated the my mate should just ignore the phone call, and if she recieved anymore phone calls from WPH, she should tell them that any Correspondence to be by letter only. i also phoned my local council up, as i was concerned that i had not received a written reply to my 2nd letter, and that i was concerned that i would miss the deadline to appeal, they informed me that they had received my 2nd letter, but have such a backlog of letters to reply to, they also told me that the time lapse for my formal appeal will be from the date when they send my 2nd letter out,

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