The bedroom tax ruling by the Upper Tribunal ruling last week perversely encourages the shafted tenant to launch an en masse direct action programme of disruption to the new bedroom tax decisions in March 2015. Below I explain why.
In January 2013 I stopped blogging about the benefit cap and supported housing and other arcane housing matters read by only a small percentage of those in housing and started writing about the bedroom tax. The views of my blogs went from 60,000 a year to almost 4 million per year.
The first post was “What is a bedroom” and came to a conclusion that you can’t tax something you refuse to define and that as a result the entire bedroom tax decision making process was a sham and a legal sham. It is a sham and the UT ruling says so despite being a mess and a perverse mess.
The UT agree what is a bedroom or not is the central legal matter yet they fail to say what a bedroom is and in fact so the word ‘bedroom’ is so common it is impossible to define.
They go on to say the approach to take when defining a bedroom : –
“…reflects the old age that it is difficult to define an elephant but we know one when we SEE one and so we can explain why we think we have SEEN one by describing what we have SEEN.” (my emphasis para 23)
The bedroom tax has been imposed by council decision makers NOT SEEING bedrooms and instead by choosing to believe what a bedroom is or not is “up to the landlord” which is a perverse misreading of HB guidance on the matter – which the UT also found and again I said back in January 2013.
The UT goes on to conclude at  that: –
“…Parliament intended to allow decision makers to take account of ALL relevant circumstances on a CASE BY CASE BASIS”
This is one God Almighty mess of a ruling as well as being a fudge that determined nothing definitive which is going to cause havoc when the new 2015 bedroom tax decisions are decided in the same legally sham way next March.
Cue thousands upon thousands of tenants disputing that decision and asking councils to review and reconsider their decisions which is their right and ask their council for a statement of reasons as to how they made the decision which is also their right.
Cue tenants demanding that their council come out and inspect the disputed rooms which the tenants say are not of a size to be a bedroom citing paragraph  in this UT ruling which says all external size legislation and guidance:
“…provide cross checks that indicate that (or warning bells that) the room may be too small and thus (the council) need to provide reasons why, in the particular case, either it is or is not too small.”
Cue pandemonium and councils denying it means they need to inspect as of course this will cost them a fortune to do and will take forever to do – and especially so if they subcontract HB administration out which will cause huge contractual disputes between the LA and contractor.
That is just one example of the chaos and on just one issue that of size which this UT ruling failed to set down anything definitive upon despite its remit being to determine what a bedroom is by virtue of size and by virtue of usage.
When I first stated the decision making process was a sham and this gave all affected households a legitimate ground of appeal,l I was ‘slated’ for that view by the CIH and NHF in an article in Inside Housing and told my view of the decision making process was nonsense and all I was doing was a direct action en masse stunt.
The irony now is that the UT ruling as I outline above makes a programme of en masse direct action almost inevitable as well as confirming what I said was correct.
The council decision-makers in every local authority were inundated back in early 2013 with a standard template letter I drafted and downloaded in the hundreds of thousands. That letter asked every council 6 simple questions asking HOW they had come to the bedroom tax decision. The council replies stated we don’t have to define, it is up to the landlord and we have no policy on this – all now proved to be a sham by the UT ruling.
Yes every council has admitted in their responses to that standard letter they acted unlawfully and their bedroom tax decision-making process was an unlawful sham.
Tenants and grass roots groups now have 3 months to develop this and decide what they are going to put in writing to their council next March when the new 2015 bedroom tax decision notices land on their doormats. Yet all they have to do is be vague and say they dispute a room is not of a size to be deemed a bedroom and quote paragraph 55 above asking for a statement of reasons as to why their council believe the room is a bedroom reminding the council that they have to take ALL relevant matters into consideration on a case by case basis as the UT ruled Parliament intended they do.
That is what this perverse UT ruling means for challenging the bedroom tax, the same perverse UT ruling that determined nothing definitive on either size or usage appeal grounds but by God did it rule very clearly on procedural grounds of appeal as I outlined above and I predicted way back in January 2013.
I first mentioned the legitimacy of appealing on procedural grounds in August 2012 over 7 months before it became operational and despite the offensive, cowardly and vitriolic attacks by CIH and IH on my personal and professional abilities I stuck to my views because I knew they were right. Yes I can afford to be smug over this now I have been proven to be right but I am not.
Hundred of thousands of vulnerable tenants have been shafted in that time and continue to be shafted on a daily basis by this pernicious bedroom tax. Some have died, all have suffered and that includes everyone in those households even children who have had to go without. I am angry as hell over that and will always be yet this is also not a case of hindsight is a wonderful thing either. Those social tenants who have all been shafted saw their landlords in the main not supporting them to challenge this pernicious policy, the same landlords who chose to believe the great and the good and that appealing the bedroom tax was a stunt and many of whom believed just as perversely that what a bedroom is or is not is up to them.
Now that this UT ruling puts the blame firmly on expedient unlawful practices by councils and helps those landlords achieve what they have been at pains to point out, that the bedroom was not their fault and they were not complicit in it, it is time those social (sic) landlords thought for once about how they can support ‘their’ tenants to challenge this pernicious policy and help to get rid of it once and for all.
Yet ultimately the social tenant cannot rely upon the social (sic) landlord to support them to challenge the pernicious bedroom tax policy just as I said from my first post on this back in August 2012.
An example of how councils admit they acted unlawfully – my post from June 2013 here
A post on HOW the decision was made being the key to appeal from April 2013 here
The What is a bedroom series of posts from January 2013 here that hammered home the bedroom tax decision making process is unlawful
A post from August 2012 – yes 2012! – when I raised the issue of hat is a bedroom and concluded landlords don’t want it defined and it would all be up to tenants to appeal is here