You may well have seen or heard press stories on a First Tier tribunal bedroom tax appeal decision in Redcar and Cleveland. There has been a lot of excitable comment about it representing a ‘landmark appeal‘ and ‘hope for 440,000 disabled’. Even the tenant’s landlord, who supported her, described it as ‘fantastic news’ which “which should give hope to hundreds of thousands of disabled people right across the country”.
Courtesy of Joe Halewood, I have a copy of the decision notice and summary of reasons given by the FTT. A copy is here.
In view of the interest and hopes this decision has raised, it gives me no particular pleasure to say that the decision is very poor indeed.
Briefly, the tenant and her partner lived in a three bedroom property, assured tenants following the purchase of the property under a mortgage rescue scheme in August 2012. They had owned the property and it had been their home, with their two children, since 1988. But they were now the only occupants.
The tenant is disabled, suffering from a number of conditions and a stroke which meant that she required a wheelchair and stair lift. She sleeps in one bedroom alone, as her sleep is very unsettled and disruptive.
The Benefit Authority had assessed the property as a 3 bedroom property, as reported by the landlord, and the tenant’s need under the Regulations as one bed.
The tribunal found that there were 3 bedrooms. The size of the rooms was noted, all of or above 70 sq ft. The bedroom used for storing aids (bath board, commode, wheelchair) was found to be a bedroom, the belongings could be stored elsewhere.
On the second bedroom, the Tribunal stated:
The Local Authority have not taken into consideration her disabilities and her reasonable requirements, as a result [of] these, to sleep in a bedroom of her own.
The Tribunal reduced the bedroom tax deduction from 25% to 14% and concludes
that the property has 3 bedrooms and although the appellant and her husband are a couple, her particular circumstances (ie the extent and effect of her disabling medical conditions and her resulting needs due to those disabilities) mean that they reasonably require one bedroom each and should therefore be assessed for housing benefit on that basis.
And that is it. That is the extent of the reasoning. The Tribunal appears to have invented a ‘reasonable requirement’ exemption to the bedroom tax regulations out of thin air. There is no sign that an Art 14/Gorry argument was mounted, as in the Glasgow case, or that such issues played a part in the reasoning. Nor is there any reliance on the Equality Act s.149.
I can’t see how this decision could possibly stand on an appeal to the Upper Tribunal, if one is mounted. I also can’t see how it could provide a possible basis for other appeals to the FTT. While it is clearly a good result for the tenant (although possibly only temporarily), it is not a good decision in any other way.