Friday, 27 November 2015

DWP issues 'urgent bulletin' about bedroom tax tribunal decisions

The Department for Work and Pensions has issued an ‘urgent bulletin’ calling on councils to notify it about any tribunal decisions relating to the bedroom tax.

In a sign the DWP is growing increasingly concerned about tribunals upholding tenant appeals, the department has today issued a request for information. It says this is needed as the DWP may appeal against decisions even if councils have chosen not to.

The document said: ‘The DWP needs to get a clearer picture of the number of first-tier tribunal decisions where the removal of the spare room subsidy is the main issue.

‘Local authorities are therefore asked to notify [the] DWP of all first-tier tribunal decisions relating to this subject regardless of whether the decision is overturned or whether you intend to appeal adverse decisions.’

Where a tribunal has upheld a tenant’s appeal against a bedroom tax decision, the DWP is asking councils if they plan to appeal the decision or not.

Under the bedroom tax, social tenants of working age have their benefit deducted if they are deemed to have spare bedrooms. The DWP has purposely not defined a bedroom and said it is up to landlords to ‘describe the property in line with the actual rent charged.’ This has led councils to award benefit using information provided by housing associations.

However, a series of tribunal rulings, including four in Fife, Scotland, found councils have incorrectly applied the bedroom tax using information from landlords.

Tribunals have taken matters such as room size and use into account to decide rooms have incorrectly been classed as bedrooms. The rulings do not set a legal precedent, but if an appeal goes to the upper tribunal it does. The DWP has previously confirmed it intends to appeal cases where tribunals have referred to space standards.


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