Upper Tribunals set precedents which must be followed by First Tier Benefit Tribunals and, in this case, by local authorities making housing benefit decisions, including all local councils in Merseyside.
The Bolton Upper Tribunal has decided that a bedroom is ‘a room furnished with a bed or used for sleeping in’. This means that a room – which is neither furnished with a bed nor used for sleeping in – is not a bedroom. Across Merseyside thousands of tenants are paying the bedroom tax on rooms which are not bedrooms, but which local authorities have decided are bedrooms based on submissions from housing associations. Such rooms – many of them box rooms – are used for other purposes – as studies, computer rooms, storage rooms, or just lie empty.
The judgment confirms Merseyside Federation’s long-held contention that every bedroom tax decision made in 2013 was fundamentally flawed. Local authorities did not define what a bedroom was, did not see such a definition as necessary, and did not inspect each property to ascertain the true facts of tenants’ individual situation.
The Bolton judgement changes this. Merseyside Federation urges all tenants paying the bedroom tax to immediately appeal, citing the Bolton judgment for the financial year 2013/14. We also urge housing associations to support and promote such appeals since it is in their interest to see as many successful appeals as possible.
To conform to the Bolton judgment, Juliet Edgar (Secretary of the Federation) says:
“Local authorities must inspect every single property they think may be liable for the bedroom tax for 2014/15 to determine for themselves the number of rooms in use as bedrooms. They cannot lawfully rely on housing associations sending information derived from tenancy agreements. This will be impossible: decisions have to be made by the end of March 2014. Such inspections will take hundreds of staff weeks to complete – there is no capacity. The bedroom tax has become inoperable, the bedroom tax is dead”.
Merseyside Federation urges local authorities across Merseyside to make this clear to the government. Merseyside Federation also wishes to support housing association who are encouraging their tenants to appeal the bedroom tax decision, they have access to their tenants and should support tenants to do so. The Merseyside Federation will also assist tenants to appeal.
For further information please contact – Juliet Edgar (Secretary) Merseyside Federation of Anti-Bedroom Tax Groups on 07528194137 or Robert Claridge (Wirral) on 07956458331 or email – firstname.lastname@example.org.