Room usage bedroom tax appeal – so much bigger than room size and standard template letter here

In March 2013 just before the bedroom tax began I drafted a standard template letter that asked councils to state how they defined ‘bedroom’ as at the heart of the bedroom tax policy this is what councils have to do, decide what a bedroom is.

Then they have to decide if the tenant has too many bedrooms (however defined) and then apply the bedroom tax which is a deduction of housing benefit if the tenant has too many ‘bedrooms.’

Without a definition of bedroom that process of deciding was a sham and all decisions were a highly subjective piece of guesswork by local councils who are I remind the ONLY decision makers as the bedroom tax decision has absolutely nothing at all to do with the landlord.

When in late 2012 landlords did submit their views on how many bedrooms a property has it was still 100% up to the local council as decision maker for the bedroom tax to choose to believe those landlord views, as that is all they were and remain, the view of a third party to the HB decision which is between the tenant as claimant and the council as the sole decision maker.

Councils universally chose to believe the word of the landlord as (a) it was the cheapest option and (b) because no legal definition of a bedroom existed.

In fact ALL councils that responded to my original template letter from March 2013 said we dont have to define a bedroom at all and don’t have to consider what a bedroom is…Yet now

WE DO HAVE A DEFINITION OF BEDROOM AND FROM THE UPPER TRIBUNAL AND THE PROVERBIAL IS ABOUT TO HIT THE BEDROOM TAX FAN AS COUNCILS DO HAVE TO CONSIDER THIS!

The Bolton case has decided thatbedroom’ has it ordinary English language meaning of in simple but correct terms “a room used for or furnished as a bedroom.”

If your allegedly ‘spare’ room is not used for or furnished as a bedroom it is not a bedroom is a simple and correct way to view it and that is what the Bolton Upper Tribunal ruling means.

Your local council has to determine the bedroom tax deduction with this definition of ‘bedroom’ in mind and cannot ignore this UT decision.

Yet how the hell can your council know your spare room is used as or furnished as a bedroom?

It simply can’t and the ONLY way it can know is to come out and inspect each and every property. Of course your council will not do this as it will cost an absolute fortune and so the question becomes can councils even make a bedroom tax decision at all for 2014/15?

How can a council make a legally reliable decision as to the bedroom tax if they don’t know what your ‘spare’ room is used for?  Is a room used as a study or computer room just a necessary part of ordinary living now for adults or for children doing homework? Yes it is and the room is not even spare but a necessity of modern living.  What if you work from home is an office/study necessary or even a sewing room if you are a seamstress?

So how can your council determine in 2014/15 what they did last year, namely that if a room could be used as a bedroom then it is a bedroom.  That is what they did in the absence of a definition.

Yet now we have a authoritative guide that a room used as or furnished as a bedroom is a bedroom BUT if the room is not used as or furnished as a bedroom then it is not a bedroom and just a mere room!

The bedroom tax can ONLY be applied to a bedroom and not to a mere room (and reveals that “Spare Room Subsidy” is and always was a misnomer.)

Your local council cannot get away with this nonsense and legal fiction this year that just because it COULD be a bedroom then it IS a bedroom (and note even that farcical sham for 2013/14 took no account of room size or any other issue!)

What we have here is fact and individual fact in each individual case and just as that should have been the case for 2013/14 decisions then it HAS TO BE the case for 2014/15 bedroom tax decisions and in every single one of them too.

Below I have drafted a revised standard letter you can use for the 2014/15 bedroom tax decisions and potentially to ask your council to reconsider their current 2013/14 bedroom tax decisions.

Note that you have 13 months to appeal the original decisions which were made in March 2013 to take effect from April 2013 so the current bedroom tax decisions can be appealed at least until the end of March 2014.

This year I expect a huge increase in reviews and appeals of the bedroom tax decisions partly because of the successes appeals have had on easily recognisable grounds such as room size, but mostly because this Bolton UT ruling should see the tenant asking a simple question… How do the council KNOW what my rooms are used for or furnished as? 

If you thought reader that room size has been a big bedroom tax issue or the pre 1996 exempt cock up when tens of thousands have had the bedroom tax unlawfully imposed, then you aint seen nothing yet!

The bedroom tax room usage issue will be so much bigger.

One final thought and addressed to social landlords.  Whenever a bedroom tax appeal is won by a tenant, the arrears reduce and your rent stays the same.  You, the landlord, win. So why the hell are you not actively supporting your tenants to appeal? You have no reason not to and it is in your best business and financial interests to support your tenants to appeal.

Note this standard letter letter is below and when printed boxes should print to enable you to inform your council of the number and usage of each room type.It can be downloaded here

 

STANDARD TEMPLATE LETTER – asking for more information and a review

Date

HB Address

HB ref number

NINO

Dear Sirs,

(insert you name, address and postcode here)

In light of the Upper Tribunal case in Bolton referenced CH0140/2013 which determined a bedroom for Housing Benefit purposes at paragraph 19 please provide review / reconsider your decision in light of this and provide by return:

  1. A copy of the council’s written policy that includes a definition of a bedroom.
  2. Failing that a copy of the councils informal or working definition of what is a bedroom for under occupation / bedroom tax purposes.
  3. A copy of the council’s written policy which states how it makes a bedroom tax decision in accordance with HB regulations and UT binding decisions.

The UT definition states ‘bedroom’ is a room that is used or furnished as a bedroom.

  1. Please advise how you know a room or rooms in my property is/are used as or furnished as a bedroom or bedrooms?

My property has ¨ rooms in total and a breakdown of their uses is as below

Living Rooms               ¨       Dining Rooms        ¨   Kitchens       ¨

Bathrooms                   ¨       Bedrooms              ¨    Other            ¨

Yours faithfully

UPDATE – Reclaim campaign pack here which includes standard template letters for room usage, pre 1996 exemption and parliamentary ombudsman complaint against DWP and much more is here

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

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11 thoughts on “Room usage bedroom tax appeal – so much bigger than room size and standard template letter here

  1. I received a letter from my local council 3 weeks ago telling me that we are exempt from the bedroom tax and any monies paid since last April have been credited to our rent account , i asked how we get our money back they told me i have to request it in writing ,EVEN THOUGH THE COUNCIL KNOW THAT THE MONIES WERE TAKEN WRONGLY. I was also informed that I cannot claim interest accrued on the money as it was rent that HAD to be paid. I took a letter requesting the monies back to my council offices in person . I contacted the council a week later to ask why i have heard nothing , they informed me that they have not received the letter. I took another letter today and actually saw a person from the housing dept . I GOT NOWHERE, like banging my head on a brick wall. I asked the head of the dept just how many people who are exempt from the bedroom tax have actually received any money back, straight answer NONE ! What is more the head of the housing dept made out that the delay was entirely my fault. I am now awaiting the council to refund the monies yet again. I am not at all confident that we are going to get our money back at all

  2. Hi, I’m a welfare benefits caseworker at cobalt housing. I’ve been unable to locate this upper tribunal decision, can you send me a copy of the decision, web link or let me know who the Judge is. I’ve been on the UT decision site and this decision has not been published there. Cheers

  3. Any way of downloading Reclaim’s templates other than via Facebook, Joe?

    I’m trying to publicise this on Gransnet but have just been asked that question.

  4. what really bothers me is the number of disabled who use spare bedrooms for storage of or use of necessary equipment. like my nephew. a dialysis patient of 30 years. apart from 5 when he had a kidney transplant that lasted only that 5 years. he has dialyse’d at home for a number of years before the transplant and for a good few years (forget how many) in the house he rents now from our ,local housing association. he was actually given a 3 bedroom’d house. as he also had both his lads from his marriage stay with him half the time n their mother the other half. one now lives with him. the other room is used as a dialysis room 3 x a week for 4 hours each time,approx.. he has to pay bedroom tax on it. he did manage to get the help with the payment.for now. but how long that will last no one knows. our LA is being very tight and very mean on this.he did appeal but lost.

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