The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has successfully overturned a tribunal ruling which exempted two brothers from the government’s hated ‘bedroom tax’.
Brothers James and David Nelson were granted exemption from the controversial policy at a first-tier social security tribunal last year, on the grounds that a spare room in their social home was too small to be considered a bedroom.
The Housing Act states that a room must be larger than 70 square feet to be of a sufficient enough size for an adult to occupy.
However, the DWP appealed against the first-tier tribunal’s decision to the upper tribunal, who ruled on 26 November that room size definitions in the Housing Act are not relevant to ‘bedroom tax’, or under-occupation penalty legislation.
Giles Peaker, partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors, told Inside Housing that ‘room size’ was the most common reason used for appealing against the ‘bedroom tax’.
Writing on his blog, Mr Peaker said the upper tribunal ruling means “any appeal based solely on the Housing Act room size figures will not succeed”, but room size could still be used in a ‘bedroom tax’ appeal alongside other factors – including lighting, ventilation, windows and height.
Households occupying a social home deemed to be larger than their needs are required to downsize to a smaller property, or contribute toward their rent through a deduction in Housing Benefit entitlement.
A national shortage of one and two-bedroom social homes means large numbers of affected households cannot downsize.
Unable to find a smaller home, tenants are trapped into paying ‘bedroom tax’ – whether they can afford to or not – or risk potential eviction.
Labour, UKIP and the Green Party have all pledged to scrap the ‘bedroom tax’ if they win an outright majority in the 2015 general election, while the Liberal Democrats say the policy should only apply to people who refuse an offer of a smaller property.
‘Bedroom tax’ has been effectively banished from Scotland, after the Scottish Government pledged to use Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), and additional funding, to cover rent charges on behalf of affected households.