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.
- 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.
- 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?