Latest advice on appealing a bedroom tax decision (10th June)

A number of tenants around the country have made successful appeals against housing benefit decisions requiring them to pay the bedroom tax.

Below we have given some of the arguments which tenants have used in successful appeals. If none of these apply to you there may still be other arguments you can use, and you can contact us to discuss this.

There is no guarantee of winning an appeal, as different appeals tribunals may interpret the law differently. There is also the possibility of a win being overturned again by an Upper Tribunal. However, you have nothing to lose by submitting an appeal. If you have been awarded a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) and you subsequently win an appeal, you should not have to pay back the DHP already used. We advise you to apply for DHP and submit an appeal as well. (Ask us for more info about applying for DHP).

You can start the appeal using the form on this page (https://leedshandsoffourhomes.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/appeal-form-21-03-14.pdf ). Make sure you provide all the information they ask for, and take or send it to the address at the end of the form. If you take it in, a person you will be able to get a receipt.

Unless your appeal relates to a new or recently updated claim, you will have to explain why you have not appealed within the normal deadline of one month from the date of the Housing Benefit decision letter. This will normally be because you were previously unaware that you had grounds for appeal (but you could also give additional reasons such as illness, or needing help reading the decision letter).

The space on the second page of the form is for you to explain the reason why you think the decision is wrong. You can give more than one reason as long as the reasons don’t contradict  each other. You may have to attach an extra sheet to give all the reasons.

You should get a response quite quickly, explaining how they came to their decision and stating whether it has been changed. After this, you have two more weeks to write and tell them if you want your case to be passed to an appeals Tribunal. You should tell them you want a face-to-face hearing, as you are more likely to win than if you let them decide on the paperwork alone. During this time you can prepare your arguments and evidence in more detail.

1996 loophole alert: If you, or someone you inherited the tenancy from, have been claiming HB from the same address since 1st Jan 1996 and have not received a refund of bedroom tax paid up to 3rd March 2014, we suggest you contact us to discuss the best course of action. Also, let us know if the HB office has paid the money to your rent account rather than paying it back to you. If you need more help or advice, contact us. We are not experts, but we will do our best, or try to signpost you to someone else who can help.

 

*** SOME GROUNDS FOR APPEAL ***

Room usage

An Upper Tribunal ruling has defined a bedroom as a room which is used or furnished as a bedroom. An Upper Tribunal ruling has to be taken into account by future appeals tribunals. This may mean you can appeal on the grounds that your “spare” room is not used as a bedroom but for another purpose. You should state that you want your case looked at in light of the Upper Tribunal case in Bolton referencedCHO140/2013.

You may have an especially good case if you were originally allocated a home larger than you asked for and so have never used the “spare” room as a bedroom. It could also support your case if you can show that the room is needed for something else (eg as a store-room, a study or a dining room) eg because of a lack of space in the rest of the property. You may also be able to say that the “spare” room is unsuitable as a bedroom, eg because it is too small (see below).

 

Room size

The overcrowding regulations in the 1985 Housing Act state that a room less than 50 square feet should not be counted as a bedroom, and that a room between 50 and 70 square feet is only large enough for one child under 10 (“half a bedroom”). You might be able to use this if one or more of your rooms is less than 70 square feet – especially if you are not in fact using it as a bedroom. You may also be able to use it to justify children under 10, or of same sex and under 16, sleeping in separate rooms, if each room is too small to be classed as a full-size bedroom.

 

Right to family life

This appeal has been used successfully by separated parents who need a room for a child under an access or shared care agreement. The issues here are the “right to family life” contained in the European Convention on Human Rights, and the provision of the Children Act (2004) which requires parenting arrangements to be made with the view of improving the child’s well-being. The appeal could also be tried by other people with a significant childcare role, eg grandparents, especially if they can show that their caring role is very important to the child’s well-being. It can also apply where a child (or a severely disabled adult) is in residential or foster care but needs a room for regular stays at their parent’s home.

You are entitled to a room for a young person who is away at university, as long as they don’t stay away for more than 52 weeks at a time. Also, if the young person is in the armed forces the parental home would still normally be considered their main home.
Needs arising from disability

Bizarrely, the bedroom tax has been deemed lawful despite the fact that it is recognised to discriminate against people with disabilities. Even so, there have been a number of successful appeals around specific cases involving needs arising from a disability or long-term illness. Examples include the right to a room for a child’s overnight carer (ie, not just a carer for the tenant or their partner); the need for members of a couple to sleep in separate rooms; the suitability of a room in light of the person’s access needs; and the need for accessible storage of mobility equipment. Appeals around disability-related needs can obviously overlap with room-usage appeals: for example, a disabled child may need a separate room as a sensory playroom, or a separate room may be needed for carrying out certain medical treatments or for storing bulky equipment.
There have been a variety of other successful appeals, so if your circumstances are different from those above, do still have a go. If you’re online, check out cases reported at http://nearlylegal.co.uk/blog/.

You can read the judges reasons for decisions, and also useful discussions of the cases by benefits lawyers. But remember there is no guarantee that you will get the same result as someone else.

 

If in doubt, contact us
Telephone 07504 017322, Email handsoffourhomes@gmail.com

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