A First-tier Tribunal has ruled a disputed room of 6.31 square metres – 67.93 square feet – is not a bedroom and very interestingly this is AFTER the Fife Upper Tribunal ruling AND the DWP will have one hell of a job overturning this at appeal.
The nicely detailed Decision Notice is below:
The tribunal clearly stating this is post UT in paragraph 10 above and explaining why it conforms to the reasoning in the Fife cases as to what is, and is not, a bedroom.
The judge hints at, yet perhaps cleverly does not state, that in other legislation floor space directly below a ceiling height of 8 feet is discounted in terms of room size and also makes no comment as to whether the boiler was vented to an outside wall or as to whether the boiler and immersion heater form health and safety hazards.
Rather the judge makes a composite decision finding on a number of facts and individual fact and the judge was clearly and correctly mindful of paragraph  of the UT ruling that says:
Parliament intended to allow decision makers to take account of all relevant circumstances on a case by case basis..
The council here, the London Borough of Bexley, did what all other councils have done across the country and NOT take into consideration individual facts BEFORE they took the decision to impose the bedroom tax. LB Bexley and every other council can no longer fail to consider all relevant circumstances and on an individual case by case basis as they all have done to date.
When I said here shortly after the UT ruling that the new decisions for 2015/16 due in about 7 weeks would be incredibly difficult for every council and would give just cause for an en masse challenge, this judgment confirms that view.
These 2015/15 decisions will see a huge upsurge in tenants challenging any such decision by asking for a full statement of reasons from their council as to how they have made the decisions. Such a request is also a tenant’s right.
A further right of challenge for the tenant to the 2015/16 decisions is asking your council to review and reconsider their decision and enquiring strongly as to how they could have made the decision in the absence of all of the relevant circumstances of each individual case.
Of course without KNOWING each tenants individual circumstances and whether or not those circumstances are relevant or not, your local council’s HB department will be bombarded with legitimate challenge of (a) asking for a statement of reason, and (b) asking the council to review the decision before (c) deciding whether to lodge a formal appeal which is the third right of challenge each tenant has.
The questions to ask your council are pretty much the same 6 questions I drafted in the standard template letter of 2 years ago that saw hundreds of thousands of views and downloads. The hugely significance difference now is your council can no longer fob you off with “it is up to the landlord” or any other such unlawful excuse as many did in the past. The UT ruling proves it is up to them as they are the decision maker that Parliament intended to consider all relevant circumstances on a case by case basis BEFORE making the decision in the first place.
Cue, thousands of HB officers updating their CVs seeking alternate employment and cue private organisations such as LDL in Liverpool and Liberata (who administer Housing Benefit on behalf of 20 councils across the country) having their profits slashed as their cost of delivering the HB administration service is about to go through the roof! Cue local councils kicking up a huge fuss with central government over the significantly increased cost and resource of this, and yes even the Tory run LA’s will be spitting feathers at the coalition.
[Obviously cue LA HB departments coming up with more dirty tricks too to avoid doing what they bloody well should have done in the first place but instead decided to merely shaft the vulnerable tenant!!]
In summary, this decision confirms my view that the UT ruling and especially paragraph  above does give just cause to and will result in thousands more tenants challenging the 2015/16 bedroom tax decisions when they hit their mats in about 7 weeks time in early March.
UPDATE Sunday 11 January
A follow up post as to what this means for tenants challenging the 2015/16 bedroom tax decisions is here and says how tenants can proceed with such challenges. It references the unlawful practices of all councils in operating the bedroom tax which I first discussed two years ago and the UT ruling supports strongly
The Nearly Legal view on this decision is here and as always worth reading too.