The perilous UT bedroom tax lead case – some thoughts on homes unfit for heroes

The Great War, the war to end all wars, or World War 1 began 100 year ago.  It ended with the promise to build homes fit for heroes to live in which as let to architect and soon to be Paymaster General Sir Tudor Walters to bring this to fruition.

The Tudor Walters report laid down criteria of what a decent home should be, a home fit for returning soldiers to live in and part of that was a minimum size of a single bedroom at 65 square feet.

tudorwalters report 1918

Almost 100 years later Iain Duncan Smith and his 5-strong team of DWP lawyers tells the Upper Tribunal that a ‘bedroom’ is nothing more than a single bed surrounded by 4 walls and an outwardly opening door making a size of 21 square feet  (6 feet 6 inches by 3 feet) or less than a third of what a home fit for heroes was almost 100 years ago

Could that really have been the intent of the legislators of the bedroom tax?  A 21st Century bedroom is less than one third of the size of a bedroom that was accepted as reasonable 100 years ago?

Yes according to the perverse warped mind of IDS and that room is capable of accommodating a couple too as a couple is entitled to a bedroom.

Entitlement is something the Secretary of State Work and Pensions did define and chose to define yet he chose not to state the prefix ‘single’ or ‘double’ in front of the word bedroom. So the term ‘bedroom’ needs to be of a size to accommodate a couple as one of the classes of persons ‘entitled’ to bedroom.

‘Bedroom’ becomes a universal and not delineated into single and double in the regulations, regulations IDS was free to delineate into single and double yet chose not to do so. Therefore does ‘bedroom’ need to be of a size to accommodate all those persons entitled to bedroom? It must do.

If the social tenant takes in a lodger as IDS says they should and gives them a room twice this size at 42 square feet that tenant is exposed to a criminal charge and a criminal record. But hey if it fits a single bed in it then its a bedroom says IDS.

Is there anywhere in legislation or regulation or guidance that says a room of under 50 square feet CAN be a bedroom? Outside of the mind of IDS the answer is no, it cannot be found anywhere. His 5 strong legal team were asked to find any such evidence at the UT. They, unsurprisingly, could not.

The month before IDS made his view in the U6 of September 2013 the government department responsible for housing, the CLG, issued a very prescriptive definition and view of what a single bedroom is in their Housing Standards Review – 75.4 square feet of usable floor space and including a bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers, table and chair and room to get dressed and undressed in and room to make the bed.  A definition of a single bedroom by virtue of both size and necessary constituent parts from this coalition’s housing department!

Note well the Upper Tribunal were deciding that central question of what is a bedroom by virtue of size and usage and NOT just whether the overcrowding provision of statute could be ‘read across.’

Hopefully now that the Upper Tribunal judges have had time to consider all the late papers submitted in the Fife cases they will shortly be releasing their judgment on what a bedroom is by reference to size.

I don’t see how they can rule a room of less than 50 square feet of usable floor space can be a bedroom and I could go on speculating as to what they will decide. yet whatever they do decide will undoubtedly be appealed.

Yet it is not looking good for IDS and the DWP AND for the future of the bedroom tax policy.  At 50 square feet of usable floor space it may possibly rule out 10 – 20,000 currently ‘taxed bedrooms.’  At 70 square feet of absolute minimum floor space it would take perhaps 100,000 + cases out of the bedroom tax.

All such households will have had the bedroom tax imposed wrongly by complicit local councils who made their decisions out of expediency and who chose not to read regulation B(13)(2) as one Newcastle judge did this week as a statutory duty upon them to define bedroom BEFORE they imposed the bedroom tax.

The explanatory note of SI 3040 the statutory instrument which enacted the bedroom tax says:

Regulation B13 makes provision for the calculation of the maximum rent (social sector). The local authority must determine how many bedrooms are necessary for the claimant’s household, in accordance with the criteria set out in paragraph (5), and how many bedrooms the claimant has. The local authority must then determine the claimant’s limited rent

In simple terms councils had to define what a bedroom is and how many bedrooms a property has and then come to a decision after determining what a bedroom is and how many; and not as in the case of Newcastle City Council (and all others) SOLELY rely upon the word of the landlord.  The landlords view is just one pointer to what is a bedroom the judge correctly stated and for a council to SOLELY rely on that alone is a breach of their statutory duty.

The Newcastle decision says the same as my post of January 2013 I released three months before the bedroom tax went live entitled what is a bedroom. Yet these ‘procedural’ challenges were rubbished by some lawyers as being arguments for the administrative courts and not the tribunals AND also, scurrilously, rubbished by the alleged experts of the housing establishment who became fixated on the ‘read across’ of the overcrowding legislation and who simply did not think that even IDS’s perverse 21 square feet notion of a bedroom means a bedroom has to have a defined minimum size – despite being less than one third of the minimum of 100 years ago!!

Whatever way the UT decide as to size the death knell of the bedroom tax policy and the competence of IDS and his welfare reforms is mortally wounded.  Yet if they decide on the bare minimum of 50 square feet it presents major issues for social landlords as they will have been getting public monies in Housing Benefit for rooms which are not bedrooms for HB purposes.  Or put another way social landlords will have been charging for years for rooms as bedrooms when they were not fit to be deemed bedrooms and potentially become, collectively, the biggest benefit fraudsters in history.

I don’t envy the 3 Upper Tribunals judges and how they come to a decision, assuming they indeed can, of what a bedroom is for bedroom tax purposes by virtue of a minimum size.  The minute they do release their judgment then IDS / DWP / Coalition Government and every social landlord and every local council will have huge consequences and this will not just affect the bedroom tax tenant household.

Size has always mattered in the bedroom and the bedroom tax decisions made by councils have always been a sham. it is unfortunate and frankly outrageous that it has taken almost two years of suffering and penury for hundreds of thousands of families to arrive at this point yet shortly Pandora’s Box will be opened with the Upper Tribunal lead case judgment.

Let’s hope it shuts the bedroom tax policy when it does.

 

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “The perilous UT bedroom tax lead case – some thoughts on homes unfit for heroes

  1. I do hope they make a judgment over size that it is indeed important and state a size… but I wonder if they might just say the gove is allowed to define terms as a “right” even if initial legislation stated no definition was to be defined in the BT legislation.

    If they do make such a determination, the cost implications of sending someone out to measure rooms would be substantial as even houses of a similar, or standardised, build from the 40’s-80s would potentially have variances especially for rooms that are close to any size decided upon… lets just say a margin of error could potentially make half of the properties “ok” and half “not” or some other percentage. Less so with modern builds as the floors are usually concrete/steel all in one pre built spans not “made to fit” wood beams.

    Is this judgment only about size, or are there other considerations such as usage etc. In the case of usage there is already precedent, but is this being appealed as not relevent to the BT as the BT legislation makes no mention of usage only the assumption of a room being a bedroom if through some abstract it was so defined and not its actual usage.

  2. Those poor people who gave their lives for this country – if you could only see what has become of the UK and its people who have given up.
    We are told, not asked, to live in smaller rooms, to pay tax on them rooms, to do as we are told by a government that does not care about the people, and one that has killed people just because they feel like treating us, and the country, as third class.
    I am sorry that what you fought for was nothing, but you fought – we won’t and that’s the shame of it.

  3. Reblogged this on Jay's Journal and commented:
    Those poor people who gave their lives for this country – if you could only see what has become of the UK and its people who have given up.
    We are told, not asked, to live in smaller rooms, to pay tax on them rooms, to do as we are told by a government that does not care about the people, and one that has killed people just because they feel like treating us, and the country, as third class.
    I am sorry that what you fought for was nothing, but you fought – we won’t and that’s the shame of it.

  4. Funnily enough, The other day. I was reading the Tudor Walters report. Homes for Heroes

    And the Parker Morris 1961 Report. Homes for today and tomorrow.

    And, here we are. all these years later. 2014.

    Many, many people are hoping and praying for the right decision to be made, in our favour.

    Which, will not only cost so much money for Councils to go and actually measure rooms.
    But the ‘flood gates’ for appeals will open.

    So, these Councils will have to stretch their available budgets, even further. And, other vital services will probably suffer.

    Can you see this Government giving them any extra funds??

    No, I don’t think so!!

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