Saturday, 18 April 2015

CIH advises councils to collect data on the size of bedrooms

The Chartered Institute of Housing is advising councils to ensure they gather data about room sizes from social landlords in order to ‘flag’ properties that may be subject to appeals against paying the bedroom tax.

The CIH revealed the approach to Inside Housing following four successful appeals against the bedroom tax in Scotland.

Although the first-tier tribunal rulings do not set a legal prece­dent, one tribunal ruled it is ‘relevant to have regard to statutory space standards’ when deciding what is a bedroom and others could follow suit.

The standards state one person can occupy a room of no less than 70 square feet.

The Department for Work and Pensions has not defined a bedroom, leaving it up to landlords to describe properties to councils.The rulings have raised questions about the extent to which councils should rely on associations’ property descriptions.

 Sam Lister, policy and practice officer at the CIH, said the ‘majority of cases’ are unlikely to be problem­atic and councils can rely on landlord property descriptions.

He did advise, though, that coun­cils should ask landlords for informa­tion such as the age of a property and room sizes. This information would ‘flag’ properties in which there may be problems, so the council ‘knows to investigate further’.

However, Giles Peaker, a partner at Anthony Gold solicitors, said if a large number of tribunals start to adopt a 70 square feet rule, a ‘fair number of properties’ could be excluded from the tax. Fife Council confirmed this week that it does not intend to appeal.

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