Bedroom tax size challenges post Hockley
Has anybody done any successful bedroom tax size challenges since Hockley decided that it is good enough that the bedroom can be used by a single child? If so, what were the circumstances?
I had one Elliot post Hockley but it failed on other grounds. I argued you couldn’t get a bed into the room through the door even though it could (just) rest on the floor if, for instance, lowered from the ceiling directly. However the SSWP found an example of a single divan that could be brought in in two halves and assembled. However Nelson and ( I think ) Stevenage both make reference to an adult bed being needed on the basis that a 16 year old child would be as long as an adult.. I suppose Hockley could be an argument for shorter bunk beds for two under 10s. However in practice it is almost impossible to find these commercially (when I looked I could only find one). The bunk bed frame structure has to be quite sturdy so most ended up being as long or longer than the standard 75 inch divan even if the mattress was slightly shorter. Have you a case coming up? I would be really interested to see how that goes. Ruth
Thanks Ruth. I am not sure that the cases ever made reference to children getting older - but the discussion at Nelson para 33 seems to have been taken in Stevenage and elsewhere as meaning that the room must be able to accommodate a “single adult bed”.
I think that where I am getting stuck is in what we mean by the bedroom being suitable for a child. It seems implicit that if we are talking about “adult” sized single beds as a minimum requirement in any event, then there isn’t much of a distinction between a room which is suitable for a B13(5)(b) “person who is not a child” and a B13(5)(e) “child”.
In SSWP v GM & Liverpool CC (HB)  UKUT 425 (AAC) at , Judge Wikeley treats the issue of whether a child could sleep in a smaller bedroom by using a bed which is smaller than an adult single bed as “parked” but in SSWP V WT & Redcar and Cleveland BC (HB)  UKUT 372 (AAC), after having first rejected the argument that the bedroom could not be used by an adult, he says “Mr Halewood really had no answer to the proposition that – putting to one side whether the room was capable of use by an adult – the room was a bedroom if it could be used as such by a child.”. There must be some qualitative difference between a bedroom which can be used by an adult and one that can be used by a child for that remark to make sense
I think that what the Court of Appeal established in Hockley that, if a room were suitable for any of the categories in B13 (5) and (6) then it is a bedroom. So the two small rooms in Hockley could have each accommodated an adult single bed, and would therefore have been suitable for 5(b), 5 (ba), 5(e) or 6(a) or 6(b).
On the question of whether a bed less than a standard adult single bed can be used, Nelson wasn’t prepared to rule but said it looked as it that is the SSWP approach. Stevenage said explicitly in pargraph 6 that it should accommodate an adult single bed.
SSWP v WT and Redcar and Cleveland was actually decided on a standard single bed (the judge felt it didn’t matter if it blocked the cupboard). The comments on Paragraph 55 “in any case if a 2’6” bed is used access to the cupboard is not seriously impeded” aren’t essential to the decision, so that extent are “obiter” and they are in direct conflict with Stevenage.
I think if there is any good that comes out of Hockley is that we are confined to the categories listed in paragrah5 and 6 and can’t start inventing other categories such as ” a baby”, ” a child under twelve” etc. This is why I think the only possible categories to look at are (d) and (e) and why I was worried about the existence of bunk beds which were less than the standard size and length. (I think there is one firm which makes such bunk beds, but they are not standard or widespread).
The definition of a child in the regulations is “under the age of 16”. Therefore I think we can say that a bedroom which isn’t able to accommodate any child in the range of 0 to 16, can’t be a bedroom. In the UK an average 16 year old boy is 68 inches and an adult man is 69 inches. So I think there is a strong argument for a standard adult bed in length. (Although Stevenage doesn’s specify why “standard adult single bed” I would expect that to be the reasoning).
So it would be hard to justify a shorter bed. I suppose the SSWP could go down the road of width and say narrower than the standard is acceptable, but there is such a wide variation in body shape for teenagers that it would be a bit bizarre
Another issue which I find irritating stems from Nelson paragraph 60 and is echoed in SSWP v WT and Redcar and Cleveland paragraph 51. This is the comment that the bedroom need not be suitable for full-time occupation ” as opposed to short-term or irregular occupation”. The definition of ” a person who requires overnight care” specifies the need for someone to stay overnight regularly. Whatever the definition of “regular” is, it can’t have the same meaning as “irregular”. Given that the person who requires overnight care also has to be in receipt of PIP/DLA such a need cannot be short term. I have had this argument come from SSWP submissions to justify camp beds, “day beds” narrower and shorter beds for overnight carers.
So, to sum up, I am hoping that Hockley is not as bad for new size appeals as it might initially seem. If you are dealing with an actual case, Elliot, please keep us posted.