Monday, 15 April 2013

Empowering tenants to use the law to challenge bedroom tax decisions: GLC statement

Last week the Chartered Institute of Housing and the National Housing Federation reportedly ‘slated’ the idea of tenants appealing bedroom tax decisions, accusing take-up appeal campaigns of giving false hope, slowing down the process for good cases, and creating a scenario where ‘multiple appeals’ would be dismissed en masse.[1]

Govan Law Centre (GLC) believes there are good reasons for most people to challenge their local authority’s decision to impose under-occupancy deductions to their housing benefit. First, there are already 10 judicial reviews in England and Wales challenging various aspects of the bedroom tax on different legal grounds; a number of judicial reviews in Scotland are expected shortly. Furthermore, it is important to recognise that there are many separate grounds of challenge, based upon process, the facts, and the law in relation to tenants who have different facts and circumstances.

In the cases of Burnip, Trengove, Gorry v SSWP [2012] EWCA Civ 629 the Court of Appeal held that the state’s failure to provide disabled housing benefit claimants’ with sufficient resources to meet their essential housing needs constituted unlawful discrimination contrary to Article 14 ECHR. The Secretary of State for Works and Pensions recently abandoned his department’s appeal against this decision in the UK Supreme Court. Clearly, there is scope and reasonable prospects for legal challenges to bedroom tax decisions.

Under the ‘anti-test case rules’ if a claimant does not lodge a review and tribunal appeal, then they cannot obtain backdated payments in the event such decisions are subsequently judged to be unlawful by the court. We are in unchartered waters, and lodging an appeal at the very simplest level protects a tenant’s position with respect to future legal developments. It is a straightforward process of completing a piece of paper.

GLC’s free toolkit on how to challenge bedroom tax decisions makes it clear legal arguments are untested, and that there is no guarantee of success. But there are a number of stateable arguments in fact and law. We do not give ‘false hope’, rather we explain the rights that all tenants have. We believe in empowering tenants and giving them the choice to pursue their rights and protect and preserve their position in law.

Our toolkit does not rely on a standardised appeal, instead we provide illustrations of the many scenarios tenants are faced with, and encourage them to adapt and tailor these to fit their own factual position. Every case will turn on its own facts and circumstances, as a matter of law and natural justice.

It regrettable that the Chartered Institute and National Housing Federation has been so pre-judgmental by wrongly suggesting appeals will be dismissed en masse, and so dismissive by suggesting the exercising of tenants’ rights will undermine unspecified good cases. Neither those who represent the Federation or the Chartered Institute risk eviction from their homes, and homelessness, through the bedroom tax. Such housing bodies should be working with campaigners to explore every possibility to mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much GLC, without your's and Joe Halewood's advice, we tenants affected by this bedroom tax would be up the creek without a paddle