Bedroom Tax – the Court of Appeal loss is useful as it makes you THINK?

Be Machiavellian, sod morality, ignore the disability lobby’s and use any lawful means to and end to get rid of the bedroom tax.  Controversial enough for you reader?  Good, and the Court of Appeal ruling this week should make you get out of your moral indignation fugue and start to think!

The purpose of ALL challenges to the bedroom tax is to get rid of it and get rid of it for ALL those affected and that has to be the purpose and that has to be achieved by whatever lawful means it takes.

That should be written in stone yet the judicial review challenges in the High Court and Court of Appeal focus have been proven NOT to be the best way to challenge and get rid of the bedroom tax.  The best way is for all disabled bedroom tax tenants to appeal the bedroom tax through the tribunals.

For all those disabled tenants and those who support their case then the strategy of the challenges to the bedroom tax needs to be as Machiavellian as the government arguments in supporting the discrimination that the bedroom tax encapsulates.  Sod morality in other words and focus on HOW to get rid and that is by appealing the Housing Benefit decision which imposed the bedroom tax

Let’s start with a few facts.

  1. The High Court and then Court of Appeal cases which both lost were all about whether the bedroom tax POLICY was unlawful.  That is what they were and are ALL about.
  2. A bedroom tax appeal is about whether the DECISION to impose the bedroom tax was LAWFUL or correct. It deals with Housing Benefit regulation and not with policy.

There is a huge difference between the two approaches and it is that difference that is being lost and or not understood in the first place.

The disability lobbies wanted to knock out the bedroom tax for ALL those that are disabled on a collective basis and to do that they had to argue the POLICY was unlawful through discrimination.  I fully understand why the disability lobby’s and the lawyers went this traditional way

Yet for the individual tenant who launches a bedroom tax appeal the decision is on the individual merits of each case and as we have seen the tribunals ARE saying that:

(a) a couple who have to sleep apart for medical reasons relating to a disability ARE entitled to a bedroom each in their consideration of ‘housing need’ and thus getting out of the bedroom tax.  See the Glasgow, Hereford and Redcar cases (and the rest here.)

(b) a bedroom for an overnight carer of someone who isn’t the tenant or the tenants partner is also being allowed as in the Liverpool case

(c) a bedroom is being deemed to be a room and not a bedroom and for many uses in the cases in Rochdale and Monmouth and so issues such as storing disability related equipment should be appealed to the tribunal on that basis.

The Bolton Upper Tribunal case said ‘bedroom’ is a room used and/or furnished as a bedroom’ and this was applied very closely in the Monmouth case at (c) above and these are here

The DWP has stated they will not appeal the Bolton UT case, and as the UT sets precedent, then the room usage issues which form a part of so many disabled tenants arguments in the storage of equipment is a better route to take than the traditional legal route.

Note too that it took 7 months from High Court decision to Court of Appeal decision and this was supposedly an expedited case!! That’s a further 30 weeks or so of having to pay the bedroom tax and a further 30 weeks of stress and worry and a further 30 weeks of hardship – all of which relies upon the POLICY being deemed unlawful which is NOT going to happen and never was.

The disability lobby’s ran away with the fairies on the bedroom tax and their arguments were all about morality morality morality.  They are great arguments to win the hearts and minds of the public but a court deals with the law which is very different.

A tribunal while still being a court decides on what the HB regulations mean.  So in the Liverpool case we see the judge saying the HB regulations surely could not have meant to provide a bedroom for an overnight carer ONLY for the tenant or the tenants partner.  They surely must have meant to allow for a bedroom for an overnight carer for ANY family member.  To not mean this must mean that the HB regulations are incompatible with the ECHR as enacted by the Human Rights Act.

Those human rights arguments are very much the same yet the High Court and Court of Appeal judicial review route does not allow BUT the tribunal route DOES ALLOW.

It is then a no-brainer for all disabled tenants to go down the bedroom tax appeal route to get what they want which is the bedroom tax disapplied in their circumstances.  Yet disabled bedroom tax tenants and that is two-thirds of all bedroom tax households have relied upon the traditional judicial review route which has failed.

They ALL now need to launch a formal appeal of their bedroom tax decision which is the route I have always advocated that has borne success and the same route I was accused of giving vulnerable tenants false hope over.  It is neither here nor there the fact that I have been proven right, the only thing that matters is to get rid of the bedroom tax in whatever lawful ways we can.

Appeal? – If you look at the hundreds of thousands of post on social media such as Facebook you will see disabled tenants saying the council rejected my appeal!  No, no no!!!  You did not APPEAL all you did was ask your council to reconsider or REVIEW your decision.  You need to state that is they do not reconsider and revise your case then you will appeal that to the tribunal.  So many tenants are ill-advised on this and you have to ask WHY haven’t the disability lobbies focused on this simple misunderstanding and why haven’t they advised tenants to launch a formal appeal to the tribunal?

That is what ALL tenants not just disabled tenants hit by the bedroom tax should do as if they follow that the bedroom tax is dead.

Tenants have 13 months from the original decision in which to appeal.  The earliest bedroom tax decision dates I have seen were 27 February 2013 in the North East and so you can appeal by 26 March 2014.  Use the GL24 form to appeal and that is here and is a very simple process as all you need to do is put your arguments in outline.  For example, I maintain one of my rooms is used for the necessary storage of my disability equipment and is not a bedroom.  Or I maintain my housing need is for 3 bedrooms not 2 as one is needed for an overnight carer for my adult son.

Such simple and factual statements are all that is needed at this time and you have plenty of time to submit a full written argument to the tribunal. Whatever your arguments are you will find similar arguments that have been successful at tribunal already and I have collated here for your consideration.

What are the consequences of appeal?

When you win at appeal the original decision is revised and the Housing Benefit you have had wrongly deducted (the bedroom tax) has to be repaid.  It costs you nothing to appeal too!

Mass appeal?

If everyone appeals it will cost the government – yes the same bar stewards who introduced the bedroom tax – far more than they could ever save from it.  The cost of the tribunals falls to the government as the tribunals are part of the Ministry of Justice and the average cost to government of the tribunals has been estimated at £1500 or so or DOUBLE the maximum bedroom tax saving of £728 per case per year.

It is time to be Machiavellian with this direct and lawful action and hit the government where it hurts.

That is not to say you have little chance at an appeal tribunal, quite the opposite in fact and the cases I refer to above of winning an extra bedroom for a disabled couple or a bedroom for an overnight carer for ANY household member and especially that your room is not used and can’t be used as a bedroom as it is necessary to store your disability equipment.

Yes you can also appeal next years decisions too on the same grounds when these decisions land on your doormat in a month or so time.  What ARE you waiting for?

You can sit and mope and get angry that the Court of Appeal ruled the bedroom tax is discriminatory but is still lawful OR you can get off your backsides and appeal to the tribunal service and get rid of the bedroom tax.  The traditional methods of going to the High Court and Court of Appeal have failed yet the bedroom tax tribunal appeal route has succeeded.

I advocated the tribunal route and was told I was giving tenants false hope!!! I’ve given them a lot more hope and a lot more success than the lawyers and the disability lobby’s…oh dear now I have said it haven’t I reader….Yes the truth!!

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

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32 thoughts on “Bedroom Tax – the Court of Appeal loss is useful as it makes you THINK?

  1. I just wish everyone WOULD appeal! We keep advising them to. What is stopping them? It costs nothing, takes 5 minutes, and would end the bedroom tax! Ive always thought, if appealed singularly, these disabled tenants would have probably gained exemption by now – especially with all the latest Tribunal wins.

    1. Yes I agree they would have likely won. I can see why people chose to believe the lawyers and disability lobby’s obviously but that has not worked as it challenged the POLICY and not the FACT

  2. As in all things that need stopping, that need adjusting, that need the people behind it, we are yet again seeing that the people don’t want to do anything! Everything is laid out for them, everything is easy for them, they only have to sign it and pop it into the local council office, or send it in – but no, they want everyone ELSE to do it for them!

  3. And that is why they are muting the possibility of charging for appeals, circa 250 quid a pop, basically making any access to legal recourse to expensive for the individual already pushed to breaking point by their policies.

    1. Yes that is a prime example Jonathan of what Machiavellian means. You fight fire with fire and as all tenants can still appeal and it costs nothing and that will bring bedroom tax to its knees, then as I end the article WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR!!

      1. Hi Joe! Thanks again for all your hard work on this. I saw you on the Ch4 documentary. You should have your own programme!
        I think it’s appaling that the govt are planning to charge for appeals. A nominal fee of five pounds might be just about justifyable to reduce those who may be ‘timewasters’ (if that truly is the govt’s aim), but 250 quid is extortion. This is on top of thee decimation of the Legal Aid budget, restricting justice for all but the already ricch and powerful.

  4. Not often I disagree with you Joe, but there’s always a first time! As you know the JR was to examine the lawfulness of the policy given that the EIA itself showed a discriminatory effect on disabled tenants. To conform to the Equality Act a discriminatory policy must then prove that the discrimination is justified and/or mitigated by some means or another for it to be lawful. The Judges decided that the system of DHP both mitigated and justified the discrimination of the policy. This went against previous observations made in the Burnip judgment where DHP was declared totally inadequate for the needs of disabled tenants.

    But for the bedroom tax JR to have come to similar conclusions as Burnip would have caused uproar as it would have signalled the end of the bedroom tax for ALL tenants. So it was a political judgment. The policy only survives because of the discriminatory effect: it is built into the very design of the bedroom tax. It is built on the backs of the majority, the sick and disabled tenant. The media does tend to treat each case of a disabled tenant like an anomaly or as a hardship case but in doing so they miss the point. To exempt all sick and disabled tenants would make the policy economically unviable as it would mean losing 300 million of the 450/80 million pound ‘saving’. The JR was never going to come up with solutions to the discriminatory effect like the Judges in Burnip where the tenants affected in that case were in the minority. But what we did try to do was demonstrate that the supposed ‘mitigation’ of the DHP fund was not working, nothing to do with morality.

    Most of the bedroom tax claimants have their own separate ongoing appeals and I certainly encourage, and assist, everyone I can to appeal. Perhaps a media campaign with the Mirror is in order with an appeal letter that readers can cut out or print off?

    Now I’m off back down to the garden to talk to those fairies!

  5. We have had successful appeals to give hope to those whose rooms are too small, to those whose rooms are not used as bedrooms, and to those who need a room for a visiting child. How ironic that the most vulnerable group of all, the disabled, might soon end up being the only people left paying this cruel, punative tax , even though so many of them can prove beyond any doubt that the room in question is indispensable.

    How does that make you feel, IDS? Is this what is meant by the ‘moral’ crusade that Cameron was spouting about?
    (I doubt it – we have known for a long time that the Government doesn’t know the definition of “bedroom”, “tax” or “spare”, so why expect them to know what “moral” means?

    Come on, folks – appeal, appeal, appeal!

  6. Sue, not agreeing is healthy yet the disability lobby’s went 1005 along a route that has not succeeded.

    The courts have ruled that the points raised were debated long and hard in Parliament and they were recognised by government and as such the discrimination is not unreasonable. The case was about much more than DHP as mitigation or not and did raise hope and falsely. Putting all the eggs in one basket was simply wrong.

    It was also not just about Burnip et al as the exemptions there for children would only apply to less then 5% of disabled children and this case was not about getting parity for 5% of disabled adults (which did come after the HC case I agree but was mooted ever since Burnip a year or so before)

    The challenges to the bedroom tax need to be evaluated and taken in a moral vacuum and on the basis of what is the best chance of winning – a Machiavellian approach if you will – and they were not and were taken on and with a crusading basis steeped in morality and right but not in law and chances of overturning government policy.

    There is more than one way to skin a cat and appealing is the best way for (a) the individual tenants to get rid and (b) the tenants collectively to get rid, something I have advocated from the start and as you know this is not an opportunistic hindsight issue.

    All tenants. disable or not, have a much stronger chance of getting rid individually and collectively if they appeal and that is the ONLY message or view that matters. It is all about getting rid and appealing is the way to do that. No point going back to navel gaze and pass judgment, the issue is what to do now and that is as it should have been (even alongside the JR route) one of appeal

  7. Sue, not agreeing is healthy yet the disability lobby’s went along a route that has not succeeded.

    The courts have ruled that the points raised were debated long and hard in Parliament and they were recognised by government and as such the discrimination is not unreasonable. The case was about much more than DHP as mitigation or not and did raise hope and falsely. Putting all the eggs in one basket was simply wrong.

    It was also not just about Burnip et al as the exemptions there for children would only apply to less then 5% of disabled children and this case was not about getting parity for 5% of disabled adults (which did come after the HC case I agree but was mooted ever since Burnip a year or so before)

    The challenges to the bedroom tax need to be evaluated and taken in a moral vacuum and on the basis of what is the best chance of winning – a Machiavellian approach if you will – and they were not and were taken on and with a crusading basis steeped in morality and right but not in law and chances of overturning government policy.

    There is more than one way to skin a cat and appealing is the best way for (a) the individual tenants to get rid and (b) the tenants collectively to get rid, something I have advocated from the start and as you know this is not an opportunistic hindsight issue.

    All tenants. disable or not, have a much stronger chance of getting rid individually and collectively if they appeal and that is the ONLY message or view that matters. It is all about getting rid and appealing is the way to do that. No point going back to navel gaze and pass judgment, the issue is what to do now and that is as it should have been (even alongside the JR route) one of appeal

      1. I’ve looked online and can’t find any info about appealing against Council Tax decisins, only appealing against CT Band decisions.
        I guess there’s no precent – like the Bedroom Tax – because all this is new territory.
        also, my local Council are increasing their rent charges for social housing by almost SIX percent!!
        any help would be gratefully appreciated.

  8. I think the cast of Eastenders in the last episode was trying to get the country and the people suffering under this government to stand up and fight for there rights ,don’t let these pigs sit on us and get there own way,if I was a bit younger I would be fighting ,and it doesn’t even affect me , but I am a pensioner and they did insult me by giving me 27p rise in my pension.

  9. Hi
    Having been to citizens advice with some of the info gathered from your sitei I did send local council a letter asking for a review, their only response was to revise my claim , followered by a letter saying I will again be subject to the bedroom tax in March when the government close the loopholes, so it seems I will be right back where I started. Is it worth asking for a tribunal hearing?

    Jessica

    1. Always worth appealing if you beleive there are any genuine reaons (so-called ‘grounds’) for appealing. If your ‘spare’ room is not being used as a bedroom, this is a reason to appeal. Best of luck!!
      i’m in the process of appealing too, and I won’t giive up until i’ve tried everything!

  10. We’re doing both.
    I do agree and think that many – if not most – people affected are not really aware of what appealing is. I have also heard of several who can’t face the idea of ‘going to court’ [as they see the tribunal].
    I am also very aware that here in Pembrokeshire at least, there have been a curious lack of applications for DHPs.
    According to TSol, if I understand them correctly, the time limit for appealing a HB decision is a lot less than you say. Can you point me in the direction of more info on this please Joe?
    Thanks

    1. I’m definately going to appeal the Council Tax ddecision too, but i’m not sure how to go abouit it.
      as for the fear of ‘going to court’, if people can’t face it at all, they can choose to have your written ‘evidence’ considered in your absence.

  11. @ Joe – What do I put as a reason why I am appealing late within the 13 months instead of within the standard one month against my housing benefit decision of last year?

  12. PS I am appealing on the grounds of room use – I only use my bedroom as a bedroom! I have adapted your template letter to appeal last year’s decision and will be sending it off this week, but they seem to require a reason for what they call a late appeal. Nothing has changed in room use since last year when they made the housing benefit decision. I have written a letter to my local paper urging others to appeal but that was before I read on your blog that you are also able to appeal last year’s decision also as long as you do so within 13 months of the decision.

  13. I’ve now sent a letter to them using your template. I didn’t bother giving a reason for lateness – if they question it I will say it is late because of council misinformation. I have also written to the Chief Executive of my housing association asking that the association support and encourage tenants in appealing their bedroom tax decisions. I sent both letters by special delivery so that they can’t say that they didn’t receive them.

  14. I appealed my first tier tribunal decision on room usage. Have just been told it was dissalowed as the landlord says its 3 bed house and if it went on market to relet it would be aadvertised as a 3 bed house so in their opinion it is a 3 bed house and i am supposed to keep all my disability equipment in my bedroom. And before bedroom tax came in i was sent a letter telling me to fill in number of occupants and number of rooms was told if didnt fill it in then my h/b would be stopped so they have used that to say it is a 3 bed house. Feel like taking all my tablets but i wont it wouldnt be fair on my family and i wouldnt see my grand daughters grow up. Council have said the first tier tribunal decision is binding on my case so i have no right of appeal in future bedroom tax decisions by them .

  15. Joe, what are the chances of a new thread dedicated to appealing the Council Tax Support reductions?
    Last year the reduction was 19% for working age people. This year it is 26% !!!

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