A Tribunal Judge in Glasgow has set-aside an under-occupancy decision against a severely disabled woman on the grounds that it was incompatible with the appellants rights under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, read with Article 1 of the First Protocol. GLC believes this may be the first reported successful UK challenge on Human Rights grounds against the bedroom tax.
The woman, with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, was expected to share a specially adapted bedroom with her husband. The imposition of the bedroom tax had placed the couple in arrears of rent with their housing association landord. Tribunal Judge Boyd held that:
"In terms of section 3(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 regulation
B13(5)(a) of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 can and should be read as
follows: "(a) a couple (within the
meaning of Part 7 of the Act) (or one member of a couple who cannot share a
bedroom because of severe disability)."
Not to so read it would be incompatible with the appellant's rights
under Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights read with Article 1
of the First Protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights".
regulation B13(5)(a) as so read, the appellant is entitled to two
bedrooms. Accordingly there should not be an
under occupancy reduction of 14% in her housing benefit entitlement from 1
The Tribunal judge distinguished the present case from the recent unsuccessful judgment of the English High Court in MA, and supported the appellent's position that the English Court of Appeal's decision in Gorry was in point with the facts and circumstances of the appellant:
"The judgement in MA, at paragraph 88, distinguished the ten cases before
the High Court under judicial review procedure from the decision in Gorry on
the basis that Gorry related to a discrete group; families with children who
could not share a bedroom by reason of their disabilities. This approach was not applied in MA as it was
considered that there was no discrete group.
As explained above, the Tribunal considers that the appellant is a
member of a discrete group very similar to the group considered in Gorry – a
person who cannot share a bedroom by reason of her severe disabilities - and as
a result Gorry is the case most in point.
The judgement in Gorry was made by a higher Court that the judgment in
MA. It related to a statutory appeal, as
is the case here, rather than a judicial review. It is noted that there will be no appeal
against the decision in Gorry but that permission has been granted for an
appeal to be made against the decision in MA, and this appeal is being
The appellant's solicitor, GLC's Mike Dailly, said: "We are delighted for our client, and believe that this judgment is very robust as there was no dispute on the facts that the appellant was severely disabled and could not share her specially adapted bedroom with her husband. She did not have a spare or extra bedroom, she required her own bedroom to meet her needs as a severely disabled person. We think this decision - which we understand may be the first reported success in using unlawful discrimination and human rights law to challenge a bedroom tax decision in the UK - will be of great significance to other severely disabled people in similar circumstances to our client".
The judgment of Tribunal Judge LD Boyd is published here (with some personal data redacted to preserve our client's right of confidentiality).