There IS a legal definition of bedroom for bedroom tax purposes

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!

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26 thoughts on “There IS a legal definition of bedroom for bedroom tax purposes

  1. Joe, I objected to your Uratemp argument because it was, and is, wrong in law. You are also wrong in saying that the Rochdale statement of reasons refers to Uratemp. It does not. At all. The submissions might have, but that is simply by the by. It is also a good thing, because if the reasons relied on Uratemp, an appeal by LA or DWP would be simple.

    I also saw that blog quoting the UT decision, and tweeted it. I want to see the full decision, because context is everything, not least when an apparent definition is being offered. No FTT will follow an excerpted, unverified, quote from a UT decision. We need the UT decision in full.

    But I agree that the passage quoted is intriguing and that there may well be arguments flowing from it. I don’t think current use would be the only factor, but it would seem to open up use as an argument a lot. We shall see.

    The inspection by benefits authority point goes nowhere, I’m afraid. You cannot conjure that requirement out of thin air. The Fife judgment line was in reference to the appeal – once the grounds of appeal had been filed, disputing room size, then one might expect the LA to gather evidence by inspecting if it opposed. But on first decision, the LA is entitled, in law, to go on the available evidence.

  2. I argued in April of last year, when asking my local authority to re-examine their decision to impose the bedroom tax on me, that the law required a bedroom for the bedroom tax to apply; and that a bedroom is clearly defined by the OED as a room which is either used as a sleeping apartment or set aside as a sleeping apartment. I only have one bedroom, plus a study full of bookcases and office furniture, and a box/storeroom which is only 62 sq ft. Now, if I understood this without any legal advice or assistance in the spring of last year, why is it that council officials and legal departments and benefits sections still don’t get it? And why have I spent a year wondering whether I will have a roof over my head every month for the last ten months? And how much compensation should I demand for having this Damoclean sword suspended over my head by a council that plainly does not know what it is doing or cannot be bothered to do it properly?

  3. Almost lost for words. This ruling destroys nine months of denials, contradictions and outright lies. And opens the way for yet more appeals. Following so close on the heels of the pre-1996 regulation, it is all the more welcome. Another battering ram to stove into the very guts of IDS/DWP!

    One thing I would love to know is, will DWP be able to quickly and easily remove the pre-1996 regulation? Or is that just bluff?

    You’re a diamond, JH xx

  4. Even after reading the leading passage about the meaning of the phrase bedroom for bedroom tax purposes i suggest that people are still not sure whether to appeal a decision or not when it comes to the usage of any room the council have defined as a bedroom, can we not have a definative answer on this matter as it’s either a bedroom or not a bedroom, are we also suggesting that the public withhold payments for alleged extra bedrooms whilst there case is being heard or continue to pay then get told thers nothing we can do about it therefore making all these protestations pointless

    Stephen huyton
    manchester

  5. I’m torn on this one. I despise the bedroom tax wholeheartedly but don’t totally understand the room usage argument. If a social housing provider has a house that is a 3-bed property on their books then lets it to a couple with one child, say. That is 1 spare bedroom by definition. If the father decides that he would like a study and starts to use the bedroom as such, it doesn’t stop it being the bedroom the property was built and let as, surely. It is up to the discretion of the housing provider, and should be in their allocation policy, to allow an extra bedroom if it is required for a carer or other specific reason. For all that, though, they should just do away with this tax and be done with it. It is costing more than it is saving in money and in people’s lives.

  6. I think one group, perhaps small, but important are people who work from home where the room is an office. Deprived of that, they may be unable to stay employed, or to meet the various regulations for home working , which for people who are disabled or chronically ill may mean loss of livelihood.

    I was a home worker supported by the Access to Work and my employer. The need arose though disabling chronic illness acquired while in employment. The office room had to be inspected as if it was a commercial office to meet H&S regulations. I was a home owner, but this would also apply for tenants.

    For many disabled people with onset of chronic illness later in life, a room that was originally used for children can become storage for equipment, space for carers or spouses to sleep, etc,. So the post above saying a 3-bed home stays the same throughout the tenancy can be wide of the mark, as peoples lives do not follow standard patterns. For someone needing care, it can be the cheapest option to keep them in their homes & community and family networks. (Unless, of course, the well-documented route of killing frail, elderly or ill people by causing upheaval and forcible removal from their “homes” is in fact an unstated aim?)

  7. Florence. I did point out in my post that, although the 3-bed house is still technically the same, the provider does have discretionary policies to allow the extra room for carers etc, as you say. There tend to be specific reasons of need to allow the extra room. If someone simply decides to stash all their old junk in one and say it’s needed for storage or, as I said, someone decides they want a study but don’t need it for work, rather to have somewhere for their home computer, that is taking advantage of the system. Still hate the tax!

  8. i live in a two bed but at one time i was told it was a three bed i still have the same amount of space so they are not charging you for space but as an excuse to tax or charge

  9. so if i fit a toilet in my spare bedroom then they cant charge me for it, i dont see in my council tenancy that i cant fit a toilet in a room, it only states i cant change any structural stuff with out permission, nothing about fitting toilets so this should stop the tax if we all fit toilets in our rooms.

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