Bedroom Size – It is a bedroom tax issue more developments

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:

nottingham

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

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15 thoughts on “Bedroom Size – It is a bedroom tax issue more developments

  1. a bedroom between the size off 70 and 90 sq ft is only suitable for 1 1/2 people so two children over the age of 10 cannot share a room of this size….. I pointed out myself a while back that the government have tied their hands with regards to part X of the Housing Act 1985. They are unable to change these regulations in retrospect because if they do the cat will be out the bag…. their argument that 1/4 million homes are overcrowded so we need to free up space to re-home those that are overcrowded will be show as a lie…..

  2. I requested several things from my landlord on 2nd April, one was – 2. What information did you provide to the Housing benefit department regarding my property, with respect to my claim for housing benefit. – Did they answer? No.They fluffed & faffed just like their chair ahemmm

    1. Linda have they ignored ur request or gave u a load of nonsense, waffled on the “subject” but told you Nothing? I have took my letter to broadway onestop 2day explaining my original request was 4 info, not a FOI request and STILL REQUIRE THIS INFO! According to lady in onestop LCC got info from H/A regarding my property…. I did point out questions in my original letter asking 4 this info and as LCC had not answered my ?, I was now having to ask again! Maybe I should see what my H/A HAVE 2 SAY?

  3. In response to my request, I received a cut ‘n pasted row from Wiltshire County Council of a spreadsheet from my HA. Apparently, they received five pieces of information from the HA:
    Property Reference, Address, NG Property Ref, No. of Bedrooms, Property Type

    WCC told me: “… 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, Sanctuary, setting out the number of bedrooms in each of their properties. The information indicated that your property has two bedrooms, as per the “cut and paste” from the said spreadsheet below

    They also said “…The council used various data bases at its disposal, such as those held by our Children’s Services, Adult Social Care, as well as records of adaptations for disabilities, in an attempt to identify both vulnerable households and those claimants affected by the more recent changes to the legislation.”

    I am appealing my HB decision. Is any of the included information relevant (besides what your blog(s) already identified?

    If anyone wishes to share any of the other information that has been sent to me by WCC, then please get in touch.

    Please sign my “STOP the Bedroom Tax” petition at
    http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-bedroom-tax-3
    Thank you.

  4. Humm, I wonder if there is about to be an even bigger cat let out of the bag.

    If the 50sqft rule is applicable as not being a room suitable as a bedroom, then while the social landlord would not be exposed to the shortfall caused by the bedroom tax, it would however mean that it could no longer count the room in its “bedroom” count for rent purposes… so would have its rent availability/value reduced by a single room.

    While I think the “bedroom” issue on the 50-70sqft is also applicable in that its only suitable for a child under 10 (whats done with it after that is up to the person occupying, and doesn’t affect over crowding as the living room can be counted as “a space” so not an issue with regards to statutory overcrowding) and as such cannot be rented to a lodger (subsequent housing act, can’t remember the year; re: HMO) this also could (but I think it would be harder to argue as it is “a bedroom”) have an impact on rental income, as if its only a “half room” or can only have “half a person” then it could be argued that as such it can only incur half a rooms rate of rent….

    if the above is the case, I’m just a layman but if I can see such problems then just imagine what a legal mind can think of in specific terms, then the housing associations could be in for a whole world of problems with reduced rental income; although from what I can gather (I think Joe mentioned figures some time ago) it will be much less of a hit than non payment of the missing 14/25 odd quid; at least for old stock, as for newer “% of market rents” the difference between a 2 and a 3 “bedroomed” house could be more. If however the 3 bedroomed house re-evaluated for rent because of the bedroom tax it could potentially be reduced from 3 bedroom house to a 1.5 bedroomed house (1 double bedroom, 1 bedroom < 50 sqft now discounted, and one 65sqft bedroom now reduced to a .5 room) the hit could be huge.

    And that is what happens when you introduce legislation that is idealistic and had no intention of actually doing its stated intention (free up housing stock) as was stated in various debates and is typical ineptitude on the part of IDS. Even Freud stated in debate, something along the line of "I expect landlords to be clever/intelligent" I bet he didn't think that others would be attacking this from the other side, that of the tenant, and as usual they messed up everything by not actually understanding all the potential side impacts of existing legislation… guess thats going to need another retrospective change in law, wonder if Labour will abstain again?

  5. Bedroom size AND SHAPE are both issues that can be used as grounds for appeal. Our smallest bedroom, which measures 62 square feet, is L-shaped and the shape restriction means it will only take a single bed or bunk beds. It will not take a double bed, therefore it could not be occupied by a couple. The “rules” imply that since a couple is only allowed one bedroom, for a room to be a bedroom it must be able to take a double bed. Therefore even though a bedroom is not under 50 square feet, if the shape means it cannot take a double bed then it is not a bedroom!

  6. Linda I do hope you put in a complaint to the Information Commissioner about that landlord. There Chair has two feet, let him shoot himself in both of them just for wearing two hats now!

  7. The Housing Act 1985 also defines living rooms as bedrooms so if a small bedroom is then classed as a boxwoom under the 1985 act what is to stop the council redefining your living room as a bedroom? The 1985 act isn’t an a la carte menu for people to pick and choose the bits that are beneficial to them – either the whole acts applies or it doesn’t?

    1. Yes it can do that I agree and I gather the point youre making is that a proper consideration could see the bedroom tax increase. That still means the original decision is a sham process in fact it adds to that and another reason why decisions are legally unreliable

    2. Point taken Fen, but an appellant can gain a lot of mileage for their appeal process by making it specific to their individual circumstances. In my case: (1) if you class my living room as a bedroom you leave my home without a living room (2) my living room acts as a passageway, i.e. the only route to get between the kitchen and upstairs, and if it were re-classified as a “bedroom” I can argue that it is not a “bedroom” but a “passageway”.

  8. My HA rang me on Monday, for an update of my situation. As I’m appealing and STILL waiting for a response to my first letter, requesting information.
    I wasn’t able to tell her much.
    She asked me, if I had paid anything. I replied, No, of course not. It’s the law, you don’t pay, whilst in the appeal process. She replied, oh, I don’t think that’s the case.
    However, I’ve now received a letter from my council. And they are, ‘allowing’ me a bedroom for my overnight carer. So, now it’s, my 3rd. bedroom, which is my son’s. Who is at University at the other end of the country. But, comes home, during the holidays. He finish’s Uni, this summer though, so I don’t know how that will affect things.

    Are there any links to information, regarding the law, and not paying whilst appealing please?? That I could send my HA.

    The start of the court case today. So, we wait, with everything crossed!!

  9. joe, i have received a notice of seeking possession of a tenancy let on an assured tenancy from my HA, great news to come home to today after spending 8 hours at my local hospital having futher investigative tests after being diagnosed with a tumour on my pancreas. yesterday, court proceedings will not be started until after 17th june. i have just phoned them up and explained the bad news i received regarding my health, they were very apologetic and said they will get back to me. i dont need this stress over worrying about the bedroom tax at the moment.

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