Get appealing the bedroom tax now – a QC gives all 660,000 legitimate cause!

All bedroom tax households should appeal the bedroom tax now – and here’s why!!

I have for the last 8 months and more advocated that tenants should appeal against the HB bedroom tax decision and specifically  I have stated that tenants use process or procedural grounds for appeal as opposed to the legal grounds presented directly to the High Court by way of judicial review.

In simple terms HOW each council took the decisions to impose the bedroom tax is where you will find just cause to appeal.

I note that a HB tribunal in Scotland got under way this week and the judge in this tribunal is a QC no less and he said about the bedroom tax that

“… the regulations were harsh but made it clear his job was not to take into account the effect they would have on tenants but to apply them according to the law”

In other word the process and procedure of how the decision was made…and what I have said all along.

Yet so many appeals and so much of social media has been about the bedroom tax being ‘unfair’ or ‘unjust’ or have devastating and life changing consequences – all of which are true, YET the clamour for media ink over disability and other very strong moral or just issues have seen too many overlook HOW THE DECISION WAS MADE – The process and legality of that and not the consequences.

The rest of the article about the first bedroom tax tribunal case in Scotland focuses on the individual circumstances of a tenant but, and very significantly so, contains some verbatim remarks from the QC hearing and deciding the case and the extract below starts with the council spokesman….

“Kingdom Housing has confirmed this is a two-bedroom property,” he said. “By applying the regulations, the council has no option but to apply the reduction in housing benefit.” He added: “We are relying on landlords to accurately describe their properties. There is no definition of minimum bedroom size.”

However, Mr Collins QC said that was “slightly ambiguous”, adding:

“It’s up to the local authority to make its own decision that the landlord has accurately described the property.

“Because this is an appeal, it is now for me to decide what a bedroom is.

In this case, the council has made a decision based on the landlord’s description but hasn’t even gone round to inspect the room.”

Summing up, the QC added:

“These are harsh regulations about which people may have legitimate grievance, but that’s not a matter for me.”

“I have to decide what they mean and apply them. I hope you appreciate this is a new and controversial matter the tribunal needs to get to grips with.”

The purpose of this post is NOT for me to say I told you so to the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), to the National Housing Federation (NHF), to every social landlord and to every local council who:

  • have repeatedly said it is up to the landlord to decide
  • who have said the decision rests with the landlord not the council
  • that the decision is not for councils to make
  • that a council has to decide what a bedroom is in order to make the bedroom tax decision…

As that is precisely what Simon Collins QC says above and I don’t need to! 

I am also drawing attention to the language he used and as this is verbatim we must presume he meant for this to be publicly aired –

“the council…hasn’t even gone round to inspect the room!

That line will put the fear of God into local councils and rightly so as I have always maintained that local councils taking a HB decision need to KNOW the facts and not just take the word of the landlords, which they did because it was the cheapest and most convenient option for them…and scandalously shafted vulnerable tenants on benefits in that distasteful process!

If councils have to go and inspect any disputed room / bedroom or have to KNOW what is a bedroom or not, whether in terms of size or any other matter, then not having done so and prior to imposing the bedroom tax deduction renders all 660,000 decisions as very legally dodgy indeed and presumably unlawful and at best chronic maladministration.

These opening remarks of a QC hearing the tribunal and he will deliberate on these matters and then rule are hugely significant.  The fact he states that he has to decide what a bedroom is and that the council hasn’t even been round to see the room and confirms that the decision on what is a bedroom is solely a council decision and not a landlord decision will scare the life out of local councils and social landlords.

To date my views have been just opinion. Yet so have the views of councils and landlords and the CIH and NHF and while I have expressed my views forcefully so has every council and every social landlord …yet these comments made by the QC all support my views and all work against the views of hundreds of social landlords and hundreds of councils in their views which not to put too fine a point on it, they have all tried to ram down the throats of anyone who has argued against them.

What is more the standard template letter I drafted which asked 6 questions for more information shows that every council simply took the landlords view on what is a bedroom and how many bedrooms each property has. That is a matter of record and in writing too from all councils and they all still maintain these views.  The scope for all of the 660,000 bedroom tax affected households who have yet to appeal has seen the stable door opened wide because of this.

Note well – A tenant has 13 months to appeal any HB decision such as the bedroom tax.  Within the first month is classed as an ‘in-time’ case and the tribunal have to rule on it.  Months 2 to 13 the appeal is classed as ‘out-of-time’ and the tribunal can decide to dismiss without hearing the appeal during this time. 

Yet if your appeal has substantive merit the tribunal will likely and should hear the appeal – and I would advise they do so because they have been strongly and repeatedly dissuaded from appealing precisely by the councils who made the decisions and told they couldn’t appeal.

These appeals may well be classed as ‘out-of-time’ appeals but they have substantive merit and the tribunals can choose to and should hear them on that basis alone – the fact that councils repeatedly misinformed them and constantly stated and restated that this was a landlord decision on what is a bedroom and how many each property has and the fact that councils didn’t know room sizes or room usages before they imposed the decision.

Tenants have absolutely nothing to lose by submitting an appeal on these procedural or process grounds of HOW a council made the decision that I always advocated have legitimate merit and that a tribunal would have to decide.  Only the tribunal can decide not to hear these cases so don’t be put off by councils telling you that you are ‘out-of-time’ which they inevitably will or that you can’t appeal on these grounds as many have already said in writing or any other shenanigans and dirty tricks that local councils have played ever since April by overtly dissuading tenants from appealing.

Tenants still have a legal right of appeal to every single bedroom tax decision and just these preliminary words and directions of Simon Collins QC has opened the barn door very wide indeed to have an out-of-time appeal heard by the tribunals and not dismissed.

I listed well over 20 similar points to the above as a by no means comprehensive list of appeal grounds of the bedroom tax decision-making process on April 9th and you can access that here.

Get appealing as you have nothing whatsoever to lose and everything to gain by issuing such an appeal and not least the fact that will a district judge award an eviction caused by bedroom tax arrears if it is still to be decided by another court as to whether the bedroom tax should have been imposed in the first place?  I would strongly argue they should not and likely will not. The district judge cannot be certain the claimed arrears figures issued by the social landlord are correct or not!

Cue every single social landlord finance director gone ashen in the face at that line of argument!!

Get appealing people it is your right and you have just and legitimate cause and the worst that can happen is the system gets inundated with paperwork and huge cost to councils and the judiciary and forces the arm of central government to review this pernicious and deeply offensive bedroom tax policy which will cost FAR MORE than it could ever save.

******************************************************************************

Postscript – Just for good measure I was looking at the coalition’s financial rationale for the bedroom tax which they stated less than a month after the last election was to reduce the ‘inherited’ and ‘burgeoning’ HB bill by £2bn per year.  It is now well over £5bn above that target and on course for far more as the simple little graph below shows.

The Coalition’s HB performance since the Election

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Mind the gap! And yes the figures do mean BILLIONS of pounds MORE each year!!

Oh did I mention you should be appealing the bedroom tax decision?

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27 thoughts on “Get appealing the bedroom tax now – a QC gives all 660,000 legitimate cause!

  1. I’ve followed your posts Joe and found them really helpful, and no doubt you’re right in what Simon Collins said in his opening remarks. I was there though, the first appeal of the afternoon and he didn’t say any of that to me. Whatever judgement he comes to, like all of us he was groping in the dark, but I think he did spend a lot of time listening and trying to give a fair judgement under very unfair circumstances.

  2. Re your postscript: Considering the reductions in new starts in the SRS, that’s about £1b’s a year extra public money being paid to the PRS. Inside Housing published a report that a quarter of Tory MP’s are PRS landlords. Along with the 12.5 per cent of Labour MPs and 15 per cent of Liberal Democrats who are also PRS landlords, the BT bill was almost certain to pass! Some of those politicians hold substantial portfolios that can only grow now that all that additional funding has been made available to them along with the right conditions to drive demand!

    As to the rest, hats off to Simon Collins QC. Looking forward to hearing the outcome.

  3. Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    Here’s more proof of something this blog has been saying ever since the bedroom tax became part of UK law: Anyone affected should appeal. The article contains everything you need to know about how to do it, and on what grounds. So do it.

  4. What about people like me , disabled and trapped in a council property (that is deemed to have two spare bedrooms) because there are no suitable alternative properties available. Pay it or live under the threat of eviction. PS a council representative has been out to measure a room that i thought too small to be a bedroom , she said the room was twice the size required for a bedroom , some folk must sleep in a wradrobe.

    1. Hi Pete Humphries. You still have good grounds to appeal.. Firstly look at FOI requests to see how many smaller adapted properties are available.. First point in your appeal… Do you need an overnight carer?? How many adaptations have you had and at what cost?? What support systems do you have where you live now?? What affect would it have on you to move??? Have you measured the small bedroom?

      1. Thanks debbie , but i have tried all that already, We are in a council property , been here 18 years , it was adapted by the council when we moved here top enable my wife to loive downstairs, so in their view we have two spare bedrooms because we dont have a carer ever stopping overnight, the council themselves came out and measured the disputed room , see my original post . I have explained to the council in letters etc the circumstances , we have good supportive neighbours and relatives very close by who support us, all to no avail , council says we do not qualify for the discresionary benefit basically because we can still afford to eat in my view, we have tried everything , even applied for an exchange even though we dont want to move, on top of being well settled here it would probably be detrimental to our health to move, council just say it is up to us wether we want to move or not , waste of time , no suitable properties available. it’s like banging your head on a wall.

  5. Same here Pete all my rooms are more than 50sq ft So don’t know if this applies to me. I do have an overnight carer who stays reguarily. But they are still trying to charge me for 1 other extra bedroom. Now I thought people who have overnight care are supposed to be exempt from bedroom tax! One room is for my carer the other room is used fro my Occupational Therapy, I have loads of craft items which fill all the cupboards and shelves, there is too much stuff to put in any of my living rooms, I cannot put them on floor space as I use my electric wheelchair. I have been in this house over 21yrs, my husband died in May last year after almost 36yrs of marriage. But 14% of £128 amounts to a lot of money taken from benefits, we were already in fuel poverty, now this! I haven’t paid a penny, not because I don’t want to but because I just don’t have the money. I cannot starve myself because it would be life threatening with the medication I’m on. My HA has been liasing with the council on my behalf, all this has made my physical and mental health a lot worse, GP can verify that. If it is detrimental to your health to move, this comes under the Human Rights Laws under Torture. It specifically says in the Human Rights Bill about detrimental to health is unlawful. If you are forced to move and you can prove it is detrimental ie. GP’s letter then the Equalities commission says you can sue your council. For any pain or suffering caused by moving. I have already said to my HA that if I am forced to move I will sue the Council for damage caused. But they do try and grind you down and hope you will go away, sadly to say many people do give up. But I hate Injustice and will fight tooth and nail to keep my family home! If you have support from family and neighbours, get them to write a letter saying exactly what they do for you, I think you could then have a strong case. Get your GP to write a letter to say it would be detrimental to your health to move. With that sort f backing you have a good case Pete! Appeal now hun 😉 get all your evidence as well to support your appeal 😉 Good Luck Pete

  6. Hi Joe, I received my appeal papers last wk with a letter stating copy has been sent to Tribunal Service who would contact me to explain what happens nxt but heard nothing YET! They have included H/B forms I completed because it asks “how many bedrooms in property”? I have ticked 3….. They are obviously aware that taking landlords word is not acceptable if they have never even visited the property and will use this as “proof”! HELP! What are your views on this and HELP again!

  7. Strange days are these. Received a letter from my landlord/council;

    ‘Thank you for your recent letter disputing your housing benefit entitlement

    Housing Benefit is awarded in line with….Regs 2006

    The property is let as a two bed property and therefore your Housing Benefit has been reduced accordingly…. you under occupy…

    Your Housing Benefit entitlement has been correctly assessed.

    If you disagree with the decision…one month to appeal….If we cannot change the decision it will be prepared for an independent tribunal to hear your appeal.’

    Hear my appeal. Does that mean if it goes to that stage I’ll have to attend a court ?

    So, my appeal using the 1985 regs failed, and now I’ve got a different appeal form to fill in with slightly different questions, wanting different answers/reasons for appealing. Lost in space.

  8. Reply to Carmen above. You say “Now I thought people who have overnight care are supposed to be exempt from bedroom tax!”

    That is not correct and many make the same mistake. If the council accepts you need a bedroom for an overnight carer then that bedroom is disregarded and that is all. It does not make you exempt or the property exempt it just exempts the one bedroom from the bedroom tax calculation. So for example if you are a single person in a 3 bed property and paying 25% bedroom tax, the exemption of the overnight carers bedroom still means you are under occupying by 1 bedroom and so the bedroom tax reduces to 14% of the eligible rent.

  9. This is still no comfort or solution to a disabled person living in a ADAPTED COUNCIL PROPERTY that is deemed to be underoccupied. Another point , to apply for a disabled adapted property you have to fill in a medical assesment form to the council , when you send the form you get a reply saying you need to supply a doctors letter , for which your doctor will charge. SO on top of being charged an extra £100 per month you are expected to pay even more to apply for an exchange when the council want you to move from an “Underoccupied property” they wish you to pay to apply for an adapted property knowing full well that there are no adapted properties available. We do not want to move we have good local support and relatives very close by , We feel we are being forced to apply for a move (Which we have done ) we have jumped through hoops to go through the exchange procedure and at every juncture another obstacle is thrown in by the council.Now they expect us to pay for a doctors letter to apply for a move that we do not want but are forced into doing.

  10. Do you by any chance live in Stockport Pete… or are ALL councils doing the same thing !!! we have spent the past 10 months and nearly £2000 getting the house to their standards for us to move, even though we have no wish to move, when all the work was done they told us, they have no where for us !!!! and as they will not allow us a three bed house, we would have to go on the swap list, they refuse to put us on the downsize list as they can only give us a two bed house on there!! both my husband and myself are disabled and need separate rooms and our 22yr old Son is still at home, so what would I do with a two bed house???
    because of this we cannot get the Discretionary housing payment, so have to pay £139.05 a month for two extra bedrooms…we have a four bed house, well three and half, our boxroom is 68sq ft, they told us to rent out the spare room, which is the box room, but on looking into it we would be breaking the law to rent it to anyone over the age of 10yrs as it is too small !!! so does anyone know of any 9yr olds who need to rent a room??? lol. Sorry but if I don’t laugh about this I will cry, it is so ridiculous there are just no words for it. but as you say they have an answer for everything, and keep moving the goal posts so you never seem to get anywhere, apart from SCREAMING PITCH !!!!

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