Another First Tier Tribunal bedroom tax appeal decision, this time from Aberystwyth. The Decision Notice is here (and on the FTT decisions page). No statement of reasons yet, but the decision notice gives an outline.
The Claimant lived in what was classed as a 3 bedroom property. He lived there with his wife. A two bedroom reduction had been applied.
On appeal to the Aberystwyth FTT one ‘bedroom’ was described by the Tribunal as follows:
The landlord may have referred to the room measuring 7′ 1″ x 9′ 6″ as a third bedroom but at 63.3 sq metres [sic. Must be feet] approximately it is too small to be occupied by an adult as a bedroom on a full time basis. It has not been used by Mr and Mrs X as a bedroom but rather as an office. It is an office.
So, a combination of room size and room use, though no reference to the basis on which 63.3 sq feet was taken as ‘too small for an adult’. (I am told, though haven’t checked, that this is smaller than the minimum bedroom size specified in the Welsh Government’s new build Development Quality Requirements (DQR)).
This left the other two bedrooms.
Article 1, Protocol 1, European Convention of Human Rights provides a right not be deprived of possessions, and Housing Benefit is a possession for these purposes. Article 14 ECHR provides a right not be discriminated against in the application of Maximum Rent Social Sector (MRSS). MRSS fails to treat some Housing Benefit Claimants who for various reasons need an additional bedroom on account of various disabilities differently from those who do not need an additional bedroom. This cannot be justified and is a breach of Article14 ECHR.
Furthermore, by reason of Mr X severe disabilities he and his wife cannot share a bedroom. Not to read Section 3( 1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 and Regulation B13(5)(a) as such would be incompatible with Mr X rights under Article 14, read with Article 1 of the First Protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights.
So an Article 14 discrimination finding on the basis of Mr X’s disabilities meaning that he could not share a bedroom with Mrs X.
As this is just a decision notice, the reasons are not given any further detail. For example the nature and extent of Mr X’s disabilities are not clear, but were clearly enough for the FTT to be satisfied as to their effect. The room size and room use decision would benefit from clarification, on the basis of the room size assessment (HA 1985 overcrowding criteria? History of room use?). But this is another decision showing what are becoming quite familiar approaches from the FTT. Clearly, faced with individual circumstances, the FTTs are quite happy to interpret ‘bedroom’ and the regulations in response.