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Bedroom tax decisions can be appealed

frank | 11.02.2014 19:44 | Analysis | Public sector cuts

An Upper Tribunal decision defines a bedroom as a room used as or furnished as sleeping accommodation. The decision provides for successful appeals.

Time is running out to appeal bedroom tax decisions. Appeals are allowed up to 13 months. Appeals need to be made quickly.

Tenant has bedroom tax applied as landlord and council say he has a 4 bed. Tenant says 2 smallest rooms are too small (60.7 and 69.4 sq/ft) and that they are used as an art room and as a study.

Tenant at tribunal raises the recently announced Bolton Upper Tribunal decision that gives a definition of bedroom. Time to see what the judgment says:

Paragraph 13

‘Bedroom’ is not defined by the legislation. This has most recently been pointed out in the Upper Tribunal decision 2014 UKUT 48 AAC. A(t) paragraph 19 of that decision the Tribunal helpfully refer to various definitions of a bedroom.”

Paragraph 19 said in simple terms that ‘bedroom’ is a room used as or furnished as sleeping accommodation.

Paragraph 14 of the judgment then goes on to say:

“The Tribunal finds that neither of the two smallest rooms are bedrooms. They do not contain beds, they are not used for sleeping, they can only be occupied by a child under 10, a half person…”

The effect of this outbreak of common-sense is that, potentially, any or all of the original Bedroom Tax decisions taking effect last April are wrong - as councils cannot have known the actual situation and were making decisions based on an assumption that the rooms concerned were bedrooms. What's more, despite the time elapsed since then, these decisions are still appealable - appeals can be accepted up to thirteen months after the date of the original decision. This clearly makes it important to act quickly. Anyone in any doubt about the correctness of their Bedroom Tax decision should write to the local authority decision-maker and seek an appeal in their own individual case. But this must be done soon - it will probably be too late by April.

The implications of this legal development may even go so far as to invalidate all of the decisions. If a room isn't habitually used as a bedroom, it may fall outwith the normal everyday definition of the word - and therefore beyond the scope of the legislation as it stands. Technically, in order to assess whether a particular room qualifies as a "bedroom", the local authority would have to go out and inspect it. In practice, this would be a task on a scale made impossible by limitations on resources. But unless a property has been thus assessed, then no decision can properly be made.