Monday, 20 October 2014

Government may have to alter regulations if it doesn’t appeal

Court ruling could force rethink on bedroom tax

The government could be forced to make changes to its controversial bedroom tax policy following a Court of Appeal ruling this week.

On Tuesday the court found that housing benefit rules for private rented tenants discriminate against disabled people, after three claimants challenged the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, which restrict local housing allowance according to property size, were found to be discriminatory because they do not allow benefit to be paid for an extra room where two children cannot share because of disabilities, the court ruled.

This means the government, barring a costly appeal to the Supreme Court or amendments to the Welfare Reform Act, will have to alter the regulations or make more funding available to remove the discrimination.

Lawyers said the decision will affect the government’s regulations to prevent under-occupation in the social housing sector, which are based on those for the private rented sector.

The policy, which will take effect from next April, will see under-occupying social tenants of working age docked £14 a week for a spare room and £25 a week for two spare rooms.

Giles Peaker, solicitor in housing and public law at Anthony Gold, said: ‘I would expect this [verdict] to also apply to the social housing size criteria.

‘If the government did not change them I would expect disability groups to apply for judicial review on the grounds it is fundamentally irrational given the ruling.’

Lucy James, partner at Trowers & Hamlins, said the case is likely to have implications for social housing tenants and could also open up social landlords to challenges under the Equalities Act.

Sam Lister, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said he did not expect the ruling to affect large numbers of tenants, but that it could cost the government ‘tens of millions’ of pounds out of the £500 million [a year] it expects to save from the policy.

He said the government may look elsewhere to claw this money back.

Mr Lister said: ‘We would be concerned about there being nasty consequences elsewhere.’

A DWP spokesperson said: ‘The government will carefully consider its response to the Court of Appeal judgment handed down.’

An independent report - commissioned by the DWP and carried out by Sheffield Hallam, the University of Oxford and Ipsos Mori - examining the impact of LHA changes will be published in the week beginning 11 June.

Bedroom tax: who is only allowed to live in a single room?

  • A couple
  • An adult
  • Two children of the same sex (under 16)
  • Two children under 10 years of age
  • A child
  • An extra bedroom is allowed for overnight non-resident carers

Readers' comments (16)

  • Rick Campbell

    It will be interesting (to say the least) to see where it gets suggested the 'claw back' will come from.

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  • Chris

    Perhaps they will come up with a scheme where tenants must do so many days a month free Labour in Tesco (Shapps would love that idea as his old mat Dame Shirley's family would gain). A sort of 'rentfare' instead of fair rents.

    What will be interesting is if the government break thier tradition and actually accept the law of the land instead of arguing on in arrogance and at taxpayer expense.

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  • The condems are punishing council tenants TWICE OVER For
    having extra space in their existing council home , by firstly
    cutting their housing benefits by £ 490 million p.a , and then secondly,
    for this exact same reason of having this extra space , the
    con dems are cutting their council tax benefit by £500 million pa. ,
    meaning these tenants are facing a shortfall of £1 Billion p.a ,which
    they will have to pay out of their other benefits ,
    which are also being reduced.
    Previously these tenants followed the correct procedures to apply
    for council housing by having their needs assessed and by going
    onto a waiting list and then being allocated a home suitable for
    their family , but who now find that they are being financially
    devastated for being in their own normal home.!!!!!

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  • I have read of the guy living illegally in GB who won his case under the human rights act because of his pet cat and his right to a family life Maybe I could say my pet dog sleeps in my spare bedroom and remain in my home ?

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  • Rick Campbell

    Lord F suggests taking in lodgers -- a brilliant way to solve the housing crisis.

    Still, at least it's something?

    After all, ministers are always right and wouldn't say anything other than what's true according to those who believe or are rewarded to believe.

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  • Housing Troll

    @ Steve King - hook line and sinker for DM/TM properganda there. This person was not allowed to remain in GB due to his pet cat! The cat was raised as an example, amongst other things such as bank accounts, that he and his partner had a long lasting settled life together. The Judge made a joke about the English cat not being able to adapt to Bolivian mice http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15171980 . Don't believe every tall tale you hear just because it suits your outlook.

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  • Housing Troll - interesting to see you rely on the impartiality and completeness of the BBC with regard to this story, try reading the judgement and the actual case reported rather than the BBCs view, which of course may be slightly biased or spun ?

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  • Housing Troll

    @ Steve King, if you are not happy with the BBC, why not read the judgement yourself, the link to the document is on the page I gave you, hence the reason for using that source.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/67437085/Cat-Gate

    Apologies if I am expecting too much.

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  • Housing Troll

    PS, you need to look at paragraph 7 on the third page to find the reference to the cat and Bolivian mice. As you can see throughout the document, the cat was used as a piece of evidence, the judgment is entirely in regards to the relationship the person in question had with his partner. No tin hat lefty BBC conspiracy here.

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  • I have lived in my 3 bedroomed council house for eleven years. It is the longest I have ever lived anywhere. I was fostered as a

    child due to the death of my father and the mental health of my mother. I lived in various bedsits as a teenager (one with half a

    toilet and no bathroom or hot water). As a young adult with one child I lived in a private flat owned by a notorious landlord. When I

    got my first council flat I was very grateful and relieved that my young daughter and I had somewhere safe to live.
    No one is just handed a council house. One has to go through the local authority's system.This takes a long time and involves

    many factors such as the increasing size of one's family and any existing health or social factors. I eventually moved into a two

    bedroomed house. There is also the council's home exchange system.
    This was something I took advantage of to move from the two bedroomed house into a three bedroomed property when my son

    was a baby.
    I gave up the three bedroomed house to work for my local council as a sheltered scheme manager, a position that required me

    and my family to live on site. I only gave up the house on the understanding that if my job changed or I was made redundant, then

    I would be re-housed. My family and I lived on site for four years, until my employers started to do away with on site staff. I then

    had to fight the council to get them to honour the original terms of my contract.
    The property I was offered was in an appalling condition and had been abandoned by the previous tenants and was infested with

    rats.
    I had to accept it otherwise the council would have refused to offer me another place.
    It has taken me all of the eleven years I have been here to get the house up to a decent condition. I have spent a lot of money and

    time making it into a home.
    My husband and I were going to buy the house a few years back but he suffered a pulmonary embolism that nearly killed him, and

    has since been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and a blood disorder. As a result he had to come out of work. I became the

    main wage earner for the next few years until I suffered catastrophic health problems following routine surgery that left me

    disabled. I subsequently was medically retired from work. Neither me nor my husband earned enough in our working lives to have

    a private pension. Our income is from benefits and we receive full housing benefit and council tax benefit.
    My daughter moved out of the house when both myself and my husband were working. Our son suffers with type 1 diabetes. It is a

    constant struggle now to make ends meet and I am very worried for the future. We do not want to give up our home, and having

    lived in council flats, we do not wish to go back to one.
    Surely this bedroom tax is illegal and a punitive strike against the poor and ill. But, don't forget, as David Cameron says," We are

    all in this together". I am sure he isn't.

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