Wednesday 14 January 2015

Bedroom tax the Legal challenges victims can use. Understand the law and legal position here

In a number of posts recently I have stated that the bedroom tax UT ruling will cause havoc with the new decisions due in early March for the coming financial year 2015/16.  See here and here and also note the Nearly Legal view of this here too.
With every HB decision the claimant, the tenant, has 3 types of challenge to that decision by right and these are:
  1. Request for more information (aka a full statement of reasons)
  2. Request the council reviews its decision (a reconsideration) and,
  3. A formal legal appeal to the tribunal
What the UT ruling does is say that the council must consider all relevant circumstances on a case by case or individual basis.  Paragraph 54 says this unambiguously:
“Parliament intended to allow decision makers to take account of all relevant circumstances on a case by case basis.”
The relevance of this can only be fully understood with an understanding of the first type of challenge above – asking your council for a full statement of reasons as to HOW they came to the decision to impose the bedroom tax.
The bedroom tax tenant has an absolute right to request their council gives them a FULL statement of reasons as to how they came to their decision, as long as they do this within one month of the decision.
In an early 2013 blog I suggested up to 20 questions could be asked of your council as to HOW they made your individual bedroom tax decision.  This I then condensed into a template letter with 6 or 7 of these which was widely used yet as I have noted recently councils ignored but now CANNOT ignore due directly to the UT ruling.  Your council has to conform to and demonstrate in a full statement of reasons they have considered all relevant factors.
Today I saw a rejected Freedom of Information request from Darlington Borough Council to a bedroom tax tenant who asked these same questions, or at least 16 of them, in a FOI request as they maintain he is a vexatious litigant.  The details are here from What Do They Know.
Whether the tenant is or is not a vexatious litigant is not the issue here and I make no comment as to that.
What IS the issue is that these questions largely comprise what is a full statement of reasons as to how a council makes a bedroom tax decision and all 684 others in Darlington can legitimately ask these when the new decisions land in early March 2013.  For that matter so can all 471,887 bedroom tax affected households who are affected nationally ask these same questions as it is their absolute undeniable right!
Those original questions need some tinkering with and of course the UT ruling also adds more questions as your council does have to show HOW they have considered ALL relevant circumstances on a case by case basis – and of course your council does not know your individual circumstances so just how it can say they are relevant or not is impossible!
Read the FOI request and response above and you will begin to get a flavour of why I said that councils are dreading the 2015/16 bedroom tax decisions and why the UT ruling means that all councils will incur huge costs of complying with requests for statement of reasons that reflect each tenants individual circumstances.
WHEN, those allegedly full statement of reasons do return to the tenant the tenant can they request a review of the decision and citing some or all of thee ‘relevant circumstances’ that their council did NOT take into full consideration before they made the decision to impose the bedroom tax.
More work, more resource, more cost and a huge increase in all of those for every local council who are the only decision makers in the bedroom tax.
YET I have no sympathy whatsoever for local councils as this is what they should have done in the first place and instead they – incredulously – chose not to do this and chose simply to believe the landlords word on an en masse blanket approach basis.
IF all 471,887 bedroom tax households who were shafted by their councils in this fettered en masse approach that the UT has said is not lawful as Parliament’s intention was to see all relevant circumstances considered on an individual basis, then they can hardly moan if all 471.887 shafted bedroom tax households take up their absolute right and demand an individual and full statement of reasons.
Do unto Caesar dear tenant and shaft the hell out of your council with a lawful and just response to their unlawful and unjust sham of a bedroom tax decision making process.
Anyone still believe the new bedroom tax decisions will see councils get away it this time?  No I thought 
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