The first-tier tribunal in Scotland has allowed an appeal against the bedroom tax cut for a tenant. Fife Council decided to cut Annie Harrower-Gray’s housing benefit in accordance with the bedroom tax. Annie appealed the decision on the basis she lives in a one bedroom property.
After a hearing the tribunal agreed with Annie. The other ‘bedrooms’ in the property could not be said to be fit for use as a bedroom.
This is the first successful tribunal decision I am aware of. Under the bedroom tax there is no definition of bedroom. There has been great debate about what may and may not be described as a bedroom. The Department for Work and Pensions says it is for the landlords to ‘accurately describe the property in line with the actual rent charged’
It is true to say that the lay out of Annie’s property is unusual. It dates from the 1660 and is said to have been part of a manse. The tribunal decision refers to the ‘unusual and irregular layout and non-standard apartments’. It is also right that this is a first-tier tribunal decision so does not set a legal precedent. Even if this was a court decision it would not bind English courts.
The Chartered Institute of Housing has said ‘There can’t be many social housing properties which date back to 1660’ and that the person living in the property, who has had their housing benefit cut, has to provide evidence that the cut is wrong.
It remains to be seen how many people will appeal the housing benefit decision. Our experience is that the majority of those affected are not aware they can appeal the decision, how to appeal the decision, or where to go to for help. It is concerning that some of those people being evicted as they simply cannot afford the rent with the bedroom tax cuts may actually be evicted simply because their home is said to have more bedrooms then it actually does.
By Joanne Murray, housing law department