Further to my last post, there have been two new developments.
Firstly, another tribunal has ruled in favour of a claimant. In this case the claimant lives in London, rents a housing association flat in Westminster, and is blind. He uses one of the 'bedrooms' to store equipment he needs in his life and work because of his blindness. He maintained that this room could not be treated as a bedroom and the judge agreed, noting in his decision notice:
"The term 'bedroom' is nowhere defined [in the relevant regulations]. I apply the ordinary English meaning. The room in question cannot be so defined."
You can read more about this case here: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/26/bedroom-tax-westminster-council-defeat
The argument used by this claimant is similar to that used in one of the Scotland case (see previous post) in which a physically disabled claimant needed a room to store his wheelchair.
In the Guardian's report it is stated that Westminster Council will not be attempting to challenge the decision but that the DWP may do so. It is not surprising to me that the council don't want to take the case further: as I said in my last post, local authorities don't want tenants to be caught by the bedroom tax any more than the tenants do. Frankly I don't see how the DWP can appeal this decision: they are not a party in the case.
Legally speaking this is all a bit unsatisfactory, as none of these new cases are - technically - legal precedent, and if none of the local authorities appeal these decisions no actual case law on the point is going to emerge. Judges will therefore be making decisions on an ad hoc basis, though undoubtedly they will take account what has happened already. Oddly, it might be really helpful if a judge refused a claimants appeal on a case like these, so that the claimant could take it to the Upper Tribunal for some authoritative comment on the matter.
Secondly, there has been some progress in a ten key test cases.
In July ten claimants took their cases to the High Court in July, arguing that the bedroom tax rules were discriminatory, but the Court ruled against them (I wrote about this in my post on 17th July).
However an appeal judge has just given them permission to take their cases further, to the Court of Appeal.
This case has been reported here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/10336077/Legal-challenge-over-benefit-reform-dubbed-bedroom-tax-by-Labour.html
The judge who granted leave to appeal, Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Aikens, in his reasons*, stated that
“[the cases] raise issues of public importance concerning the amended housing benefit scheme and the needs of disabled/ young people and so should be considered by the Court of Appeal.” He also went on to say, “Further, the points raised in the grounds of appeal and the proposed ‘skeleton’ argument have a reasonable prospect of success…”
The last point is quite encouraging, obviously.
*Source: http://www.leighday.co.uk/News/2013/September-2013/Bedroom-Tax-to-be-challenged-in-the-Court-of-Appea (yes, the last 'l' is supposed to be missing)