News article published on: 20th June 2013
The High Court has found that the government’s introduction of a reduction in benefits for disabled people with an extra room in their house does not breach Human Rights and is lawful even though the extra room is required as a result of the disability.
The new benefit rules mean that applicants face a cut in their housing benefit of up to 25% if they are deemed to be under-occupying their property. This has been referred to in the press as the “bedroom tax”.
The government says it has provided a fund for local authorities to make discretionary housing payments to those affected and will bolster this by £35 million. However, this fund is not inexhaustible, and disabled tenants who are assessed as having an extra room may now find that they face possession proceedings if the local authority finds it cannot provide them with the extra cash to make up the shortfall in their rent.
It is also notoriously difficult to challenge a refusal by a Local Authority to make a discretionary housing payment. Local Authorities have already brought claims for possession against those who have fallen into arrears because of this cut in benefits. The Court did criticise the Government for delaying a change in the law required since May 2012 to provide for disabled children following the judgment in Gorry v Wiltshire and the Secretary of State. This judgement provided that local authorities should allow an extra bedroom when calculating the appropriate rate of Housing Benefit to pay to applicants where there are children who are unable to share because of their disabilities.
The claimants intend to appeal the substantive decision in relation to the “bedroom tax”. Given the issues involved in these cases there is the potential for the case to go a lot further on appeal. However, in the meantime the issue of the “bedroom tax” and associated rent arrears will continue to be in issue for many tenants who are struggling to meet their rental liabilities.
How Osbornes Solicitors can help you
If you need to speak to an adviser in relation to possession proceedings or benefits, please call and ask to speak to a member of the Social Welfare Team. You can also fill in our online enquiry form and a team member will call you back.