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Bedroom tax - The saga continues

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A Scottish Tribunal has ruled that applying the bedroom tax to a couple who cannot share a room because of one partner’s disability is a breach of their human rights.

A woman with multiple sclerosis who lives in a 2 bedroom flat with her husband, whose main bedroom has been adapted for her disabilities, won her appeal against Glasgow Council’s decision to apply the 14 per cent deduction for her ‘spare’ bedroom. Judge L D Boyd ruled that imposing the policy would breach her human rights, because her disability meant her husband had to use the second bedroom due to the fact that the adaptations, which had been made to the main bedroom, meant that he could not be reasonably considered to share this room also.

It’s worthy to note that this was distinguished from a High Court decision in March 2013 which found the policy did not breach the human rights of the disabled, because this newer decision applies to a narrower group of claimants. However the decision does follow a Court of Appeal case also in March 2013 which found the policy should also not apply to children who could not share a bedroom because of their disability.

Judge L D Boyd stated that the bedroom tax should not apply ‘where separate bedrooms are needed for members of a couple who, in absence of a severe disability, could reasonably be expected to share a single room’.

The woman in question, who has opted to remain anonymous, was told in February 2013 that her housing benefit would be reduced come April 2013 due to having a spare bedroom. She was not granted discretionary housing payment, which the Government has previously stated should cover issues like this, and went into arrears in July 2013.

As I have blogged previously at ‘Bedroom tax tribunal rulings’ there have been other tribunal rulings against the current implementation of the bedroom tax, however these decisions are made in Scotland and therefore do not apply to English courts, and furthermore are of the first tier tribunal and do not set a legal precedent in any event.

Even though this may be the case, I will certainly be looking out for similar issues, especially on court duty possession proceedings, to see if an adjournment can be sought so that the tenant can make an application against their bedroom tax deduction. I would like to say that this of course would also be funded by public funding should the client be eligible, however the Government has seen fit to remove this from scope leaving housing lawyers like ourselves unable to deal with the source of the problem and only able to help the client at the 11th hour.

At least though it seems that the party is in full swing and hopefully more decisions like these will be filtering their way through sooner rather than later.

By Victoria Jordan, member of the housing law team

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