29 January, 2016
This week, the Court of Appeal has held that the so called 'bedroom tax' is discriminatory and unlawful due to the impact on households with disabled children or victims of domestic violence in the combined appeal of R (Rutherford) v Secretary of State for Work And Pensions and R (A) v Secretary for Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 29.
From 1 April 2013, Housing Benefit payments to those renting in the social sector were reduced by 14% where the claimant is deemed to have one bedroom more than necessary.
In this case, the appeals were brought by the grandparents of Warren Rutherford who is a seriously disabled child and who needs overnight care in a specially adapted room and A, a single mother, living in a three-bedroom property fitted with a panic room to protect her from a violent ex-partner. In both cases, their Housing Benefit entitlement was reduced by 14% because they were deemed to be 'under-occupying' the additional rooms which were classified as spare (Housing Benefit Regulations 2006/213, regulation B13). The shortfall was covered in each case by Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs).
The Rutherfords brought a claim for judicial review and alleged that regulation B13 discriminated against disabled children by not providing an exception where a child in the household required an overnight carer. A also brought a claim for judicial review and alleged that regulation B13 was discriminatory as it tended to adversely affect women. Both appeals were dismissed by the High Court on basis that the availability of DHPs to make up the shortfall in Housing Benefit meant that there was no unlawful discrimination.
These decisions were both appealed and came before the Court of Appeal. They both argued that regulation B13 was unlawful as it does not include them within a defined class of persons whose position has to be taken into account when reducing Housing Benefit and that the provision of DHPs was not an adequate solution. The Court of Appeal upheld the appeal and ruled that, in these two cases, regulation B13 was unlawful and discriminatory and the provision of DHPs was insufficient to justify discrimination.
Whilst campaigners have welcomed the ruling and called on the government to change the rules to protect vulnerable individuals, it appears that this will not be the end of the matter as the Court of Appeal has granted the Secretary of State permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and we will provide a further update in due course.
If you are looking for any more information with regards to our services view our Housing & Regeneration section. You can also contact Bethany Paliga in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 01254 222347. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.