A few weeks ago I put up a post to say I had a copy of an Upper Tribunal decision which begins to define what is and is not a bedroom. This I said – correctly – is the end of the bedroom tax. That decision is now publicly available here and to all those who doubted my view you have no defence for that view now.
My only reticence in not publishing the decision in full was that the case has been remitted back to the First-tier Tribunal and hence still a live case, although there is no doubt this is still a UT decision of huge import that can be used now by all other bedroom tax victims.
The hugely relevant language is found in the final paragraph and says that for a room to be a bedroom it:“…should be capable of accommodating a single adult bed, a bedside table and somewhere to store clothes (see paragraph 33 of Nelson), as well as providing space for dressing and undressing.”
A number of issues emerge from this with (a) an obvious one being do we have standard sizes for an adult sized single bed and a bedside table – which we do and see below; and (b) what does the term ‘storage of clothes’ actually mean; and (c) what is the dimensions of ‘space for dressing and undressing.’
The DCLG, GLA and Welsh Assembly are three of housing’s regulatory bodies and they all agree on standard sizes of both bedroom furniture and access and activity (i.e. dressing and undressing) space size.
The fact that housing regulators in England and Wales agree on and give the same standard sizes is important as it gives provenance to those sizes and unlike Eastbourne Council did the other week and issue a tenant appealing with a sheet of bed sizes taken from Wikipaedia!
These sizings I computed to give an absolute minimum floor space of a room to be correctly classified as a bedroom for bedroom tax purposes of 65.81 square feet which is an absolute minimum and assumes a regular shaped room – an L-shaped room would need to be greater in overall dimension, as would a 50 pence piece shaped room I came across last week in another UT judgement that upheld the FtT decision that is was not a bedroom by virtue of size.
That 65.81 square feet assumed an inwardly opening door measuring 29 inches in width and a radiator measuring 3 feet in width and also excluded a table and chair or stool as found in the standard sizes which I reproduce below.
Click on to enlarge the above.
What that then leaves is what does “storage of clothes” actually mean?
It is still vague and still undefined however (for once!) we can adopt a common sense or practical approach to this by saying the normal clothes for any occupant will not fit into a standard single wardrobe and will not fit into a standard sized small chest of drawers (which has no hanging space and requires no further explanation.)
The storage of the normal clothes requires both a single wardrobe and a chest of drawers in my view and in any reasonable view, remembering that the Nelson criteria is akin to the elephant, hard to describe but we know one when we see one, ergo it has to be reasonable in lay terms.
Normal clothes we all store in a bedroom excludes overcoats or specialist clothing used for say skiing or golf or any other hobby and simply means underwear, socks, t-shirts, polo shirts, shirts, jumpers, suits, dresses, skirts etc – our normal clothing and also remembering that we all have both winter and summer clothing such as shorts in summer and warmer bulkier jumpers for example in winter.
Do you put your underwear or socks on coat hangers reader, as hanging space is what most single wardrobes only contain. Even if they have two or three drawers is that enough space to store your ‘normal’ clothes? In fact does a single wardrobe have enough space to hang all the ‘normal’ clothes that we all invariably put on coat hangers? Quite simple no to all the above questions has to be the only reasonable answer.
I placed a great deal of stress in my original post that 65.81 square feet is the absolute minimum size for a room to be classified as a bedroom and most rooms will need to be greater in size and overall dimension that this figure. The key reason for the 65.81 square feet benchmark figure is that this definition of what is a bedroom means that any room of less than 65.81 square feet CANNOT BE A BEDROOM FOR BEDROOM TAX PURPOSES!
There are and will be over 100,000 properties – and it could easily be 200,000 -in which the bedroom tax has been applied and the smallest rooms are less than 65.81 square feet in overall floor size and thus these households have had the bedroom tax wrongly imposed.
That is a scandal and an outrage caused by firstly the DWP refusing steadfastly to define the term bedroom and secondly by local councils who are the bedroom tax decision makers simply accepting the word of the social landlord who is NOT a party to a bedroom tax decision.
I have ranted and raved over the bedroom tax decision making process as an outrage from day one and now we find that the law through the Upper Tribunal is in full agreement with that by finally defining what is and is not a bedroom.
Yet it needs to go further as those households who have wrongly had the bedroom tax imposed have no way of getting back the housing benefit they have wrongly had deducted in the bedroom tax! Children have been evicted because of this outrageous and sham decision making process for f*ck’s sake and I give no apologies for that language at all!
First-tier Tribunals have the power to direct the council to go out and measure disputed rooms and they should use that power as they need to be able to make a factual decision based on size, layout and configuration. Personally, I would prefer this option as it would cost local councils a fortune to do, which is no more than they deserve for shafting the vulnerable social tenant in the first place in making the sham decision they did.
The alternative is for the tenant as the appellant to measure them and attest and sign they believe their figures to be correct. That could mean that a tenant says the disputed room is say 63 square feet and below the absolute minimum figure when in fact the disputed room could be the size of Wembley football pitch. That is clearly unacceptable yet many tribunals are stating this.
Social landlords are another issue. They have stated that rooms which the above UT criteria means cannot possibly be bedrooms and also have been charging a rent level based on their own subjective viewpoint that a property contains 3 and not 2 bedrooms. I reported on a classic example of this from Sanctuary Housing last week as the picture below shows all too starkly
As the picture above shows (the room is 35 square feet) a standard sized adult single bed when put in the room means the door cannot open or close. That further means that room cannot be a bedroom as it does not meet the Nelson criteria for ‘privacy’ because the door can neither open or close and also fails to meet the Nelson criteria for ‘access’ too.
In short the bedroom tax decision making system is a joke! Yet a joke that heaps misery and penury upon those affected and even sees children evicted!!!
In the meantime central government gets a reduced HB bill (superficially), local council HB departments have made unlawful decisions and shafted the vulnerable social tenant and social landlords have been defrauding the housing benefit bill for charging a 3 bed rent level on hundreds of thousands of 2 bedroom properties and also overcharging non HB tenants a 3 bed rent level on a 2 bed property.
Your local council would never allow a private landlord’s word to be believed as to the number of bedrooms in a property and the Rent Officer would make sure they did not. Yet the bedroom tax sees the social landlord as creditable, honourable and trustworthy and allows them to get away with this sham rent setting policy and claiming of Housing Benefit on a fraudulent basis.
Is the bedroom tax the greatest top down mushroom syndrome in history in addition to possibly the greatest benefit fraud in history?
Children have been evicted and had their life chances irreparably damaged by this sham of a pig’s earhole bedroom tax decision making process … FOR F*CK’S SAKE
The Conservative government should abolish the bedroom tax immediately, yet I strongly suspect they will not. So force their hand if you are affected by the bedroom tax and download the standard template letter I have drafted which you can get here and cost the Conservatives at least £1 billion per year more in tribunal costs.
This will also cost your scurrilous local council a bucket load more too which they deserve for their complicity in this sham decision making process which amounts to making unlawful decisions and shafting tenants because it is cheaper for them to do that than to make a lawful decision. That includes Labour and all other non Tory councils and they have ALL done this shameful imposition for over 3 years!!
If you are a social tenant hit by the bedroom – and even if your smallest bedroom is the size of Wembley football pitch – then take 5 minutes and zero cost to do that and start the appeal process and the bedroom tax IS history.
The usual naysayers are out saying the above is wrong and the UT do not accept standard sizing as I say above. Here is what Nelson at  says to remind those naysayers:
As such IF I am wrong then the UT decision in CH 454 itself contains an error of law in not being 3JP Nelson compliant by not detailing what those standard sizes are as they fail to provide (full and detailed) reasons why.
It is untenable for the UT to hold that a room to be a bedroom needs to include items X, Y and Z which are of standard sizes yet fails to state and allow those standard sizes to be included. Surely we have had enough farcical decisions in the bedroom tax at FtT and UT (including Nelson) after all this time?
NB – The standard sizes I use above, which I remind are the accepted sizes of three different regulators of housing, were NOT argued in the above case yet there has to be a standard (and reasonable) size of a bed, bedside table and so on, else the UT decision in the above is not worth the legal paper it is written on.
The standard sizes I use anyone can simply check by looking at an Argos catalogue or any other supplier of bedroom furniture to see they are both standard and reasonable and must hold.