It seems size in the bedroom does matter…yet again and especially in Nottingham
I have consistently stated that the floor size of a ‘bedroom’ is a relevant and pertinent factor in the bedroom tax decision. This view was rubbished by CIH in a thinly veiled personal attack on me and my professionalism which I successfully argued was nonsense and I held my ground and insisted that the 1985 Housing Act was relevant and a factor in the bedroom tax decision.
Last week Bristol City Council agreed that size was a factor and excluded all rooms with a floor size of less than 50 square feet from the bedroom tax. Today I add to that with a letter from Nottingham City Homes which says exactly the same and is below:
What is deeply disturbing about all of this is that it has come out AFTER the fact and AFTER the bedroom tax decisions were taken by in this case Nottingham City Council
Bedroom size has ALWAYS been an issue because the 1985 Housing Act does have a general definition of what a bedroom cannot be. As such there is a legal definition in place and at the time the bedroom tax decisions were taken.
This makes every single bedroom tax decision legally unreliable. Councils DID have to ask landlords for the size of purported ‘bedrooms’ and their failure to ask the size question does for me mean that every decision is unreliable.
However I am perplexed and bemused over this. If the 1985 Housing Act does apply and this is where it says this then all of the 1985 Act applies and not just the less than 50 square feet issue. The same 1985 Housing Act says a room of between 50 and 70 square feet is only half a bedroom and so that size criteria must also be part of law and has to be taken into account when making the bedroom tax decision.
Councils cannot dip eclectically in an out of legislation and the 1985 Act either applies or it does not – which is exactly the argument the CIH and NHF and social landlords have been saying all along. They said it does not apply and I said it does.
The real relevance of this is that I have estimated (and its only an educated guess) that less than 5% of social housing properties have ‘bedrooms’ of less than 50 square feet yet 20% or so have ‘bedrooms’ of less than 70 square feet. This needs to be looked at in bedroom tax numbers.
660,000 social housing properties are affected by the bedroom tax. So 5% of these or 33,000 would be taken out of the bedroom tax or have a reduced bedroom tax percentage applied if the less than 50 square feet issue applied. This would also reduce the governments saving by £24m per year and take away a £24m risk of arrears to social landlords and bring smiles to the faces of 24,000 social tenant households
Yet 132,000 statistically are affected by the under 70 square feet issue which means the government savings reduce by £96m per year and social landlords also reduce the risk to arrears by £96m per year. And 132,000 more happy social tenants.
However, the fact that increasingly the bedroom size issue IS an issue exposes what a sham the bedroom tax decision-making process was. If your Council did not ask your landlord for room sizes and if your landlord did not provide room sizes to your Council – and having seen scores of Council responses to these questions not one Council did ask -then every bedroom tax decision is unreliable and should not be allowed to stand.
Bedroom size is a very legitimate appeal ground against the bedroom tax HB decisions made nationally and all social tenants should ask for a review and should appeal the bedroom tax decisions, even out-of-time, on these bases.
PS – All tenants have an absolute right to receive from their landlords what information or data more correctly they did supply to your Council. Today I came across a DWP document about frequently asked questions they published in March 2013 (after this data transfer had taken place!!) and I draw your attention to paragraph 32 and to point (c) of that: –
(c) updating or amending privacy notices. Claimants must be informed about any use of their data. While they will not be asked to provide consent, claimants should be told where their details are going to be onwardly disclosed to the landlord
In plain language you are entitled to ask your landlord and they must respond with what data they sent to the Council under the protocol. The tenant will realise this is the same as one of the questions I drafted in the standard template letter asking for more information to explain the bedroom tax decision – yes the same one that most Councils refuse to release to you citing highly spurious and incredulous Data Protection Act grounds. Just how difficult is it for Councils to cut and paste one of two rows from a spreadsheet!!!
So the tenant should get requesting the same information from your landlords