What is a bedroom – There is a minimum size and specification…from the coalition

This coalition government DO have a minimum room size and minimum room width and a detailed specification of what constitutes a bedroom and below is a game changer in the bedroom tax and especially in appealing this ill-conceived policy.

In the bedroom tax everything hinges on the term ‘bedroom’ as Housing Benefit is only reduced (the ‘bedroom tax’) if you have a spare bedroom. Nothing is deducted for a spare toilet or any other spare room, it is only on a spare bedroom, however defined.

Until now it has been believed there is no definition of the term bedroom and the DWP infamously issued the U6 HB circular in September 2013 to say a bedroom is merely a room that can accommodate a single bed.

Yet in August 2013 this coalition government put out a highly detailed definition of what is a single bedroom, a twin bedroom and a double bedroom.  A single bedroom the government say measures at least 75.55 square feet in floor space and includes:

  • A bed
  • A wardrobe
  • A chest of drawers
  • A bedside cabinet
  • A table and chair

And with access space in between the above so the bed can be made and the wardrobe can be accessed and also further activity space for which they give the example of room to get dried after a bath or shower and room in which to get dressed.

This is a game changer for the bedroom tax appeals.  The government cannot hide behind IDS’s nonsense and for me legal fiction that a bedroom is merely a room that can fit in a single bed and nothing more.

I am urging every bedroom tax affected household to ask their local council to review all of the 481,000 decisions in which a room is deemed to be a bedroom when it is less than this 75.35 square feet and / or is not of a size to accommodate all of the above items of normal bedroom furniture.  If your council does not revise its decision then I am urging all to formally appeal to a Tribunal on the ground that the disputed room is not a bedroom as it fails to meet the government’s own definition of a bedroom.

What does the Government’s definition say?

Fig 1 – The Requirement

hs requirements all

Note well point 1.3 above which says that ALL bedrooms should provide a minimum area and minimum width.

Figure 2 – The Minimum size and width

hs bedroom size

The minimum size in floor space of a SINGLE bedroom is 7.0 square metres or 75.35 square feet and the room must have a minimum width of 2.15 metres or 7 feet 1 inch.

A DOUBLE bedroom (or twin) needs to be 11 square metres or 118.41 square feet with a minimum width of 2.55 metres or 8 feet 5 inches.

Yet the government, this coalition government go much more detailed into what a bedroom is and needs to include and the above dimensions are minimums and assume a regular shaped room.  A bedroom needs to include typical items of bedroom furniture that a fair minded observer – the legal doctrine of the man on the Clapham omnibus – would include and say are reasonable in a single, twin or double bedroom

Figure 3 – What a bedroom must include according to Government

hs furniture schedule

The above is in list form but you can see a SINGLE bedroom has to have a bed, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers etc all of which have a typical size for a room to be deemed a bedroom according to this coalition government.  This is a government definition of bedroom lets not forget

The government also says there is a need for typical access and activity space in a bedroom

Figure 4 – Bedroom Furniture Schedule

hs bedroom space furniture

Comment

Everything hinges upon the definition of a bedroom in the bedroom tax and one of my earliest arguments back in January 2012 was how can you tax something you refuse to define?  Yet we have a government definition of what constitutes a bedroom and a definition which is the government’s position on what is a bedroom has been since at least at least August 2013 when they released it.

The DWP said in the bizarre U6 HB Circular of September 2013 that a bedroom is a room that can fit a single bed in it, just that and nothing more.  That has always been a nonsense and legal fiction yet some tribunal judges have ruled that way citing the absence of a definition of bedroom and going along with the knee jerk view the DWP expressed in the U6 of September 2013.

The DWP has also argued in seeking permission from the Upper Tribunal to appeal decisions it has lost that any room which is capable of being a bedroom is a bedroom and citing this U6 circular.  Yet the above is the coalition’s own definition of what a room needs to be to be capable of being deemed a (single) bedroom which it says is so much more than a room that can fit a single bed in it!

Where is this government definition to be found?

It is the “Housing Standards Review” from the Department of Communities and Local Government or CLG which is the government department that looks after housing.  In August 2013 they issued a consultation paper and with that part 2 was called “Illustrative Technical Standards” which contains all the drawings used here.

The Housing Standards Review is an attempt to set a national standard of minimum housing size and quite cynically some say it reduces the overall size of new properties.  However, that is another issue for another day notwithstanding that we have the smallest house sizes in Europe.  The real issue is that we do have a coalition government definition of bedroom and that is hugely significant.

The DWP cannot argue that the term bedroom’ is merely a room in which merely a single bed fits and nothing else.  They cannot state this is the government position because another government department and the one which is responsible for housing in CLG says a very different thing.

Some of the naysayers we chirp up that this is not a definition in legislation or regulations.  They are right it is not; yet the purpose of the Tribunal is to find fact in the absence of a definition in regulation or legislation and Tribunal judges rightly adopt a position of what would a reasonable fair minded person say is a bedroom – the legal doctrine of the man on the Clapham omnibus.

The phrase ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ was reviewed by the UK Supreme Court in the case of Healthcare at Home Limited v. The Common Services Agency [2014] UKSC

“The Clapham omnibus has many passengers. The most venerable is the reasonable man, who was born during the reign of Victoria but remains in vigorous health. Amongst the other passengers are the right-thinking members of society, familiar from the law of defamation, the officious bystander, the reasonable parent, the reasonable landlord, and the fair-minded and informed observer, all of whom have had season tickets for many years”

Would the man on the Clapham omnibus, or a fair minded member of the public if you will, say a single bedroom for everyday use is a room with a bed a chest of drawers, a wardrobe and space to make the bed and to get dressed reasonable?  Yes he would.

This, in short, and there are many other arguments, is why this is a game changer.  It matters little that this definition is found in a document that aims to reduce overall property sizes or does it matter that it is not a definition found in legislation or regulations; we have a government definition and a highly detailed definition of the central question in the bedroom tax policy of what is a bedroom.  It is not an unreasonable definition and accords with what a reasonable person would say a bedroom is and constitutes and it comes from the same government that IDS is a part of.

It cannot hold that any Tribunal can accord with the narrow IDS view of a bedroom being a room with just a single bed in it and not can any local authority administering the scheme too.  Of course LAs will not change as it costs them too much to make a proper and legally reliable bedroom tax decision and it will only be the Tribunals which do give a legally reliable decision so the bedroom tax affected household will have to go to Tribunal to get one.  That will cost central government a fortune and if it does then that is its own and the First Tier Tribunals with their remit and purpose of fact finding are going to be very busy.

 

UPDATE 16:00 hours

Some have argued, and wrongly, that this government definition above is just a proposed future issue that only applies to new build, and as such has no relevance.  Here I discuss in some detail why that view is fundamentally wrong and Tribunals will have to consider all of the above.

 

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45 thoughts on “What is a bedroom – There is a minimum size and specification…from the coalition

    1. It doesn’t matter that this is not Government policy. Read what Joe has said. He explains in great detail that as the DWP have failed to define a bedroom. When taking this evidence to tribunal a Judge can/will use the Clapham Omnibus rule of thumb in absence of a definition of a bedroom.

  1. Glad to have found this as my appeal seems to have hit a brick wall with my council. They are passing the buck by saying that my housing assoc’ are stating that its a 2 bed. Council are telling me to take it up with my HA.

      1. I sent in the appeal 14 July and have phoned them twice and the last time they said that I shoud get a reply in 3 weeks – Still waiting. So, when I get that, I should tell them I am appeasling against that decision or just tell them I want to go to tribunal (or are they the same thing).

      2. I appealed and lost.
        I’m now fighting the Council over the Council tax. I live in a council property and I know the risks over being in a Council property and not paying it. But they don’t play fair anyway. I can ask them for the correct legal documents and I know they can’t deliver.

  2. Pingback: What Is A Bedroom?
  3. could a room, designed and used as a dining room with a glass door from the hallway… a full length glass patio door out to garden and an open access hatch through to kitchen be classified as a bedroom if its over 75sq ft?

    1. I would strongly suggest not. What is and is not a bedroom is based on individual facts. So designed as dining room suggests no. Also if glass door original design suggests no. Hatch to kitchen suggests no as well and if only access to kitchen is via this room then categorically not a bedroom

  4. surely the amount of bedrooms are defined by the landlord who you are renting off. The council pay housing benefit based on what the tennacy agreement states the property has in bedrooms and household composition. the tennant should take the challenge up with the landlord if they think a bedroom dosent meet size criteria.

    1. The binding UT case of Nelson says the landlords view is a starting point (‘a’ being one of many and not definitive) yet that is ALL it is – a starting point and nothing more.

      The landlord – even if a council landlord – is NOT a party to a bedroom tax decision which is a HB decision and purely between the tenant as claimant and the council HB department as decision maker.

      Tenants who dispute the number of bedrooms a tenancy agreement states for bedroom tax purposes need to challenge that with the HB dept and NOT with their landlord.

  5. I would love to see the government have to put up with the size of a single bedroom that they say is big enough for a bed, a wardrobe and a single one at that and lets face it a double wardrobe is not always big enough for one person to keep all their clothes in let alone a single one, a chest of draws, a bedside cabinet and a table and chair. And still have floor space for activity. I live in a 2 bed flat with my partner, we have no shed’s, we are not allowed a washing line, we have no room for a tumble dryer in our kitchen, one little store cupboard that we keep our hover, mop and bucket, dustpan and brush and broom in and it will not hold anything else in it. So our spare bedroom has no bed in it but a tumble dryer. We hang any washing that is not suitable to tumble dry in the window to dry, we have a double wardrobe where we store things as we have no room for storage and yet we are charged bedroom tax for a room that we use for laundry, it make me so angry.

  6. Hi Joe
    I have two bedrooms both the size of singles one for me and one for my wife who has osteoporosis so we now sleep in separate rooms. We’re being changed for the second room. My question is: can I make a case, because I don’t have a double room according to the sizes now anounced and therefore not have to pay council tax.
    Thanks for any help.

    1. There is a FtT case and a recent one which said that a property which claimed to be a 3 bed – consisting of a double bedroom and two singles – saw the tribunal rule that neither of the two single rooms were capable of being bedrooms as neither was big enough to accommodate the two teenage children who lived at the property with mum and dad.

      Tribunals decide cases on their individual relevant circumstances and so your individual circumstances you briefly explain above are worthy of an appeal to the tribunal. Like every case what do you have to lose?!

    1. Hello Joe
      Could you please let me know about the link to this case not being double rooms.
      I posted over a month ago. Please reply.
      Thanks in advance

      1. Each case is decided on its merits of the individual facts of each case. In your case you say both ‘bedrooms’ are single bedrooms and so how can they accommodate a couple (or as in the case I refer to above two children sharing?) The HB regulations say a couple are entitled to one bedroom yet the bedroom they are entitled to much be able to accommodate a couple and so if the alleged bedroom(s) cannot accommodate a couple then they are not bedrooms that meet your entitlement to a bedroom.

        In short your entitlement is to a suitable and functional bedroom and so a room that is a single bedroom cannot meet the housing need and entitlement for a couple … unless they say a couple sleep in bunkbeds!!

        The case I refer to which won at FtT is now under consideration at the Upper Tribunal and hence is still a live case but an arguments in it I have concisely summarised above.

        You can also appeal on the need for a separate bedroom for each member of a couple though you would need medical evidence and support for that need – which again is all part of what Nelson says at [54] when it says decision makers (council then FtT) need to consider ALL relevant circumstances and on an INDIVIDUAL basis.

  7. I just found this.
    Overturning “bedroom tax”
    For the last two years, Kerry has been battling with the local Council after her housing benefit was cut without warning because of a “bedroom tax”. With the support of Muscular Dystrophy UK and her MP, Kerry was able to get the decision overturned. She will now be getting the full amount of housing benefits.

    “It’s been a long and hard road, but without the amazing hard work of Muscular Dystrophy UK we wouldn’t have got where we are today. Their endless hard work to make life that little easier can never be praised enough.”

    What is Bedroom Tax?
    The “bedroom tax”, otherwise known as the spare room subsidy, is a cut in housing benefits for tenants living in a council or housing association property who have what the Council determines to be a spare bedroom.

    Kerry, who has Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, is one of many people with a muscle-wasting condition who needs an extra room to store specialist equipment. This equipment helps her to manage her condition. Kerry’s husband, who is her primary carer, also uses this room to sleep in between his care hours and when Kerry’s sleep is disrupted due to the condition.

    However, without a proper assessment of Kerry’s needs, her Council insisted that Kerry should be paying “bedroom tax” for this spare bedroom.

    Apart from the income her husband earns from his part-time work, the couple are reliant on the benefits Kerry currently receives to support them, which includes housing benefit. However, they found that this only covered the basics, with nothing left over. The “bedroom tax” would leave them in debt and they would be unable to continue living in their home.

    Muscular Dystrophy UK supported Kerry by contacting her local Council and her MP as well as helping her search for legal advice.
    I don’t if she went to court or not maybe someone on here knows.
    Here is the internet address http://www.musculardystrophyuk.org/news/news/overturning-bedroom-tax/

    I’m interested in the part about the husband sleeping in the other room when her sleep is disrupted!

    Any help from anyone and I hope this may help someone else.

    Thanks Joe and all

    1. This tells us nothing. It doesn’t say WHY the bedroom tax decision was changed or whether it is a first tier tribunal decision or not, though I suspect it is, and if so it is of no use to others in appealing the bedroom tax.

  8. Hi Joe

    Just to clarify.
    I thought this information would be most useful if one could find out if the case went to court etc.

    “I did say I don’t know if she went to court”
    Therefore I thought that you or others, whom have the tools and knowledge to find the information, would be able to help.
    Especially as you say in your, if I may say, rather negative comment, “ though I suspect it is”,
    referring to: if it was a first tier tribunal decision or not.
    “and if so it is of no use to others in appealing the bedroom tax”
    Surely, if someone is in the same position as Kerry, they must be able to go down the same route or so and give them hope for a positive outcome.
    Main Points I thought would help others:
    Kerry was able to get the decision overturned.
    Anyone who needs an extra room to store specialist equipment.
    Her husband also uses this room to sleep in between his care hours and when Kerry’s sleep is disrupted due to the condition.

    I just thought I was helping! Maybe not!
    But for me it felt like I was trying to help and you just shot me down abruptly.
    Though, I’ll keep on trying.

    All the very best and thanks for any future info.

    Kind regards

    1. No such decision is recorded at Upper Tribunal (which makes case law) hence my presumption this was a First-tier Tribunal. I did not intend to shoot you down rather this decision could give false hope to many if they believe a room to store specialist equipment would be replicated (in general terms) or that a husband and wife can have a bedroom each (which is a matter under consideration right now at the Supreme Court and with very specific other additional circumstances in the Carmichael case)

  9. OK. I don’t certainly want to give force hope, let’s make that clear.
    But the fact is, she doesn’t pay bedroom tax any more, which is the whole point of this site or otherwise why are we here! I also think in some written articles, that they have said about giving force hope about the bedroom size, but you were right in the end! All the very best and thanks for all that you have done and continue to do. PS Is there any more light on the Carmichael case, how long do these decisions normally take?

  10. Hi. I visited a tenant of The Guinness Partnership who lives in Gloucester who has been told her rent has been increased due to a small room on the first floor now being defined as a bedroom – it is 1.70m x 2.34m. It can accommodate a single bed but nothing else and still give room to move! What are her options? Thanks, Steve.

    1. This is a 42 sq feet room…Note NOT a bedroom.
      Few obvious issues. First it is NOT a bedroom so the bedroom tax cannot be levied on this room.
      Second, I fail to see how, legally, the landlord can increase rent by somehow claiming the property is bigger than they contracted with the tenant over in the tenancy agreement.
      Puzzled and bemused

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