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Further challenges to the bedroom tax: Supreme Court judgment

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Recently the Supreme Court found that the ‘bedroom tax’ could breach human rights, in certain instances where it discriminates against those with a medical need for an extra room.

The ‘bedroom tax’ has often been the subject of criticism among the general public. Tenants in social housing with a spare room are subject to this tax meaning they get less housing benefit; 14 less per pound for one spare room or 25 pence less per pound for two or more spare rooms.

Seven claimants challenged the bedroom tax on three different grounds falling into the following categories:

  1. adults with disabilities
  2. those living with an adult or child with disabilities and
  3. women fleeing domestic violence

For the first two, Category A & B, it was claimed that that the ‘extra bedroom’ was compulsory to cope with the health and medical consequences of the disability in question. It was argued that adults who live with their children who have disabilities are exempt from the bedroom tax therefore, for adults to be taxed on the same grounds would be disproportionate and a breach of their human right to a private life.

For the third, Category C, the claimant was a single parent who had converted a spare bedroom to serve specifically as a ‘safe room’ to protect her from assault and rape she had suffered at her previous home. The bedroom tax financially penalised her for this safe space. She argued this discriminated against victims of domestic violence.

Only claimants in Category A were successful.

The judges agreed that there were unreasonable differences in the way the tax applied to adults and children. It was found unfair that adults whose medical condition forced them to sleep in a spare room were affected by the bedroom tax whereas adults who needed the room for their children’s medical needs were exempt. The judges ruled that these anomalies were “manifestly without reason” and so in both cases, they were entitled to an extra room and exempt from bedroom tax.

The claim made by Category B claimants was dismissed on the basis that there was no discriminatory effect on the family members need for an extra room. It was found this was a social need rather than a financial one and this need could be met by applying for discretionary housing payments.

Finally for those falling in Category C, it was ruled that domestic violence victims do not automatically require an extra bedroom as they received alternate support in the shape of sanctuary schemes.

If you are a social housing tenant who may be impacted by the above and are now exempt from the bedroom tax, the housing benefit regulations will be changed. For those who do not, you are eligible to apply for discretionary housing payments.

Stephensons have a specialist housing team who can assist people who are facing eviction and those who find themselves homeless.  If you or anyone you know is experiencing difficulties please contact our team on 0175 321 6399.