Joe Halewood has a distinctive perspective on the Bedroom Tax case everyone has been discussing this week – the lady whose panic room is being used as an excuse to charge her the tax. He reckons it is a vanity project by Women’s Aid and the decision to go to judicial review rather than a tribunal could be disastrous for others. Here’s his argument:

A panic room is a room physically strengthened and a former bedroom which became a panic room as part of a sanctuary scheme.  Such rooms are converted at huge cost and there is no contention that such a room is necessary.  The only contention is, should the bedroom tax be levied on such a room?

There are two ways to argue that it should not have the bedroom tax imposed:

  1. A panic room is not a bedroom, or
  2. The tenant has a human right to a family which includes a right to a panic room

Challenges to the bedroom tax has also come in 2 main forms – the appeal at a tribunal at which (1) above would be the way to argue; or the judicial review route at which (2) was presumably argued in terms of discrimination.

given how all other bedroom tax JRs have been argued (and all lost) I assume the principal argument was the typical JR argument at (2) – that the policy is against the right to a family life and estimated 281 bedroom tax households with panic rooms suffer because of the crudeness of and discrimination within the policy itself.

The bedroom tax has seen JRs taken on such generic discrimination in the case of MA & Ors which lost at the High Court and lost again at the Court of Appeal with both these senior courts ruling the policy was discriminatory yet ‘justified’ by the availability of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP).

Yet the bedroom tax has seen many successful cases by comparison on room usage and purpose – or a panic room is not a bedroom, its a panic room, stupid!!  That is what it is used for, it is critically, a reasonable alternate use of a room which could be a bedroom, it has not been used as a bedroom and a number of other arguments.

A panic room is simply NOT a bedroom and that line of argument at tribunal would see the vast majority if not all tribunals come to that view… If it is then a wheel-in bathroom conversion for a wheelchair bound tenant must be a bedroom also and that is patently ridiculous and false and a legal fiction.

IF this JR, which should never have been taken in the first place, fails, then the impact on the successful bedroom tax tribunal appeal route is a seriously negative one.

There is much more to Joe’s dissection of this critical case, and you are strongly urged to visit his site and read the article.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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