I have read that the Upper Tribunal in case referenced CH/140/2013 the term “bedroom” has been defined with a plain dictionary meaning, the link is here
Just how significant this is I discuss below but first lets look at what the Upper Tribunal said:
“19. The word “bedroom” is not defined in the legislation. It is an ordinary English word and should be construed as such. According to the dictionary definition in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary a bedroom is “a room containing a bed”, whilst in the Collins Dictionary it is “a room furnished with beds or used for sleeping”. In the Merriam Webster Dictionary it is “a room used for sleeping””
Read those definitions again carefully: A bedroom is
- “…a room containing a bed”
- “…a room furnished with beds or used for sleeping”
- “…a room used for sleeping”
They first state a bedroom has to be furnished with a bed yet then say it’s a room used for sleeping and the two operative phrases I have highlighted.
So if a room is not furnished with a bed AND is not used for sleeping in, then according to the Upper Tribunal the room is NOT A BEDROOM.
The significance is this is the first definition of the term “bedroom” and because it is so defined by the Upper Tribunal it sets a legal precedent which councils and first tier tribunals have to follow.
A few weeks ago I published a post which argued that room usage would be a far stronger and more widely used argument in bedroom tax appeals than room size. I supported that view by reference to what Lord Bingham said in Uratemp Ventures –v- Collins (2001) which was a case in the House of Lords and then the highest court in the land. This post attracted legal commentators who did not like my argument.
Then two days ago we had the Rochdale successful bedroom tax appeal case in which a room was ruled not to be a bedroom on the room usage argument and it cited the Uratemp case that I have done earlier.
Now we have a legally binding Upper Tribunal decision with a definition of ‘bedroom’ in it which says a room is not a bedroom if it is not furnished and not used for that purpose.
Or in simple terms a study is a study and is not a bedroom if it has a desk in it and used as a study
At this point it is worth remembering what the bedroom tax regulations say and note well that it is only a ‘bedroom’ (however defined) to which the bedroom tax can be imposed. If a property has two living rooms you cannot simply say one COULD BE a bedroom if it has never be used as or furnished as a bedroom. The bedroom tax regulations state and this is the SI 3040 definition: –
“(3) The appropriate percentage is—
(a) 14% where the number of bedrooms in the dwelling exceeds by one the number of bedrooms to which the claimant is entitled; and
(b) 25% where the number of bedrooms in the dwelling exceeds by two or more the number of bedrooms to which the claimant is entitled.
What this means is a ‘bedroom’ has to be defined FIRST and before any deduction (the bedroom tax) can be made for having more than the housing need for bedrooms.
Yet as we all know and know well local councils did NOT define a bedroom as they maintained they did not have to define what a bedroom is; rather they simply took the landlords word on how many bedrooms a property has. Again the sham of the bedroom tax decision making process is revealed.
Does the landlord know that every bedroom they claim a tenant has is furnished and used as a bedroom? Of course not! Yet that is the underlying assumption and huge assumption the local councils relied upon in order to impose the bedroom tax.
Again the decision making process is exposed as a sham.
There is another very interesting aspect to this Upper Tribunal definition of a bedroom which will really set the cat amongst the pigeons.
Councils to date have argued that there is nothing in HB regulations to say they have to come out and look to see whether a room is a bedroom or not. This expedient cost factor has been criticised by many First tier Tribunal judges with comments such as this by Simon Collins QC ahead of the now infamous Fife judgments:
“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.”
I now contend that as a working and legal definition of “bedroom” in relation to Housing Benefit has been set down by the Upper Tribunal that councils will have to come out and visit each property that disputes a room is a bedroom!!!
Sorry reader did I say cat and pigeons rather than proverbial and fan!!
Now just imagine the public purse cost if every tenant appeals the bedroom tax on the basis that the alleged ‘bedroom’ is in fact a storage room or a study or a dining room or a computer room or any other usage purpose! How much will this cost local councils and the public purse? The only reliable estimate for that is a shedload!…unless you wish to describe it as an “absolute shedload!”
The bedroom tax will cost local councils more to operate lawfully than central government could ever claim to save from it.
So dear reader, as I have maintained all along, the best way to get rid of the bedroom tax is to appeal the decision.
The tenant has 13 months from the original decision in which to appeal the bedroom tax and as most will be dated March 2013 that means until the end of April 2014. So get appealing it is not too late.
Also in about 6 weeks time the new bedroom tax decisions for 2014/15 will be landing on tenant doormats. So ALL tenants and yes I mean every single one of you should be appealing that decision too.
Let’s not beat around the bush and let us all act as a mass direct action by appealing the hated and pernicious bedroom tax. Again as I have always maintained the original 2013/14 decisions were made with a sham of a decision making process and every tenant has an absolute right to appeal them because of the lack of legitimacy that sham decision making process gives. Those decisions in 2013/14 and those to come in 2014/15 are not legally reliable and should be appealed out of merit let alone as part of direct action.
Direct action is somehow ‘not British’ or not the right thing to do in the minds of too many, but that view needs to be changed and because ALL decisions are flawed and ALL decisions have been made without any semblance of consideration.
All councils have to come to a considered decision, have to give the bedroom tax decision consideration and so think on what the word ‘consider’ means in its ordinary everyday language.
Councils did not consider the facts of each case they just carried on a hugely assumptive and flawed decision making process by believing the word of the vested interest landlord. They did not consider whether your purported bedroom had a bed in it or was used to sleep in, yet they needed to and yet they did not.
The arguments they used such as “you signed for a 3 bed 30 thirty years ago therefore it’s a 3 bed” are hogwash and not a consideration or a considered decision. That excuse and all the other they used to get out of doing a proper consideration can no longer hold. If you maintain a room is a study or dining room and has never been used as or furnished as a bedroom then it’s not a bedroom.
Councils in doing the dirty work of the DWP in this risible and pernicious and ill-considered policy have decided that just because it could be a bedroom then it is a bedroom. Yet that naive and errant view can no longer hold from this UT decision which does define a bedroom. If you can fit a bed in it then it is a bedroom is a load of codswallop and a legal fiction.
All those social landlords who went out and checked to see if a bed and a wardrobe and chest of drawers could fit into a room they wished to call a bedroom have wasted millions in doing this fruitless exercise which was always a legal fiction too. They may have and indeed did believe their opinion mattered but it does not even with the ordinary language definition of ‘bedroom.’
It has to be furnished or used as a bedroom to be a bedroom – that is what the Upper Tribunal have said here.
If it’s not then it’s a mere room and NOT subject to the bedroom tax!
And that is what this Upper Tribunal case says
Not just a nail in the bedroom tax coffin the fire has been lit to cremate the bedroom tax coffin with the pre-1996 issue and this Upper Tribunal ruling which defines a bedroom has just poured a gallon of paraffin on the top
We now have a legal definition of ‘bedroom’ for bedroom tax purposes start striking the matches!