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Bedroom tax decision - are you sure your child is really living with you?

View profile for Joanne Ellis
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Further good news has been received in relation to another successful ‘bedroom tax’ appeal. This one has come from my home city of Liverpool and was first reported on in February by Nearly Legal. I have blogged on occasion in relation to ’bedroom tax’ and the new challenges which have been making their way through tribunals, these can be read by clicking here. This decision is an interesting read as it is on wholly new grounds.

The scenario is that the Applicant (“dad”) purposely moved into a two-bedroom property in 2008. Dad needed a two-bedroom property because he would have his daughter, who was seven at the time of his split from the mother, to stay over on most weekends and for significant periods during the school holidays. This was agreed by both parents without the involvement of the Courts and had been ongoing since 2008. All of which to myself sounds like an extremely amicable, sensible and thoughtful approach on how to minimise the effect of a relationship split between parents on their children.

However, due to the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’, dad then had the very real possibility of becoming homeless. He cannot afford to pay this extra amount towards his rent or to try and downsize as he would then be unable to spend quality with his daughter and very possibly, jeopardise their future relationship. The question of downsizing is probably a moot point anyway as many local authorities openly admit that they don’t have enough one-bedroom properties for the demand, therefore removing this option for dad in any event.

Thankfully dad successfully appealed to the first-tier tribunal on the basis that:

  1. He had a right to family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and that the regulations should be read in accordance with that right under the Human Rights Act. The arrangements for his daughter to stay with him were central to his family life and also his daughter’s family and were well established.
  2. Children Act 2004 recognised the importance of parents in improving the well-being of children and that arrangements are required to be made with a view to improving the well-being of children, including physical, mental, emotional, social and economic well-being.

 The tribunal accepted and found that, on the human rights argument, it was possible for a person to be resident in more that one place at a time. The tribunal found, as a fact, that both the dad’s property and the property of his ex-partner, constituted a home for the daughter. Dad’s home could not be regarded merely as a place where the daughter transiently or temporarily resided, this was crucial to the well-being of the daughter, who is a child. Therefore dad was entitled to an additional bedroom to accommodate his daughter staying overnight with him in accordance with his right to a family life, under Article 8 of European Convention on Human Rights.

Cheers all round if you ask me.

Although this is interesting and hopeful (and an argument which I will be raising on any cases which seem to fit this scenario), many should not just think this is set in stone. The tribunal has no authority on the Courts and there is currently an ongoing Judicial Review in similar terms, which has not yet been decided.

I can only hope that this, and many other tribunal cases, will soon lead to similar decisions in the Courts. Again, only time will tell. However, lets hope by that point the damage isn’t irreversible.

By Victoria Jordan, Trainee solicitor in the housing law team