Legal News | First Victory Against ‘Bedroom Tax’

A blind lawyer has become the first person to win an appeal against the imposition of the bedroom tax by his local council, arguing that his second room is not, in fact, a bedroom.

Surinder Lal, who is a housing association tenant in the borough of Westminster, argued successfully to a tribunal that a room in his flat classified as a second bedroom has never been used as such and is in fact used for storing the equipment that helps him lead a normal life.

Agreeing with Mr Lal that the word ‘bedroom’ is not defined anywhere in the relevant regulations, the judge ruled that he was applying the ordinary English meaning of the term, so the room in question is not a bedroom and therefore cannot be taxed.

Around 80,000 London households are affected by the bedroom tax, of which more than 50,000 comprise or include disabled people and Mr Lal’s victory could pave the way for thousands more benefit claimants to take their local council to court.

The lawyer said that his case should also stop local housing departments from using the term ‘bedroom’ in their tenancy agreements to cut benefits, although a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said he may have won because the room was too small to qualify as a bedroom and may appeal the decision, although Westminster Council has said it will not.

The ruling comes as the £500-a-week benefit cap comes into place, with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith saying that out-of-work households know they can no longer claim more than the average family earns.

Meanwhile, permission was granted earlier this week for lawyers representing adults and children with disabilities who are challenging the bedroom tax to take their fight to the court of appeal, after losing a high court challenge in July.

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Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London