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When is a bedroom a bedroom? Disabled man wins bedroom tax case2nd October 2013

A disabled man in central London has won a court case that questions the Government’s definition of a spare bedroom and its ability to charge its spare room subsidy or bedroom tax.

The decision is likely to be followed by further cases, with social housing tenants claiming that spare rooms have never been used as bedrooms and should therefore be exempt from the tax, warns housing law firm Winckworth Sherwood.

Nikki Lynds-Xavier, a partner and head of Winckworth Sherwood’s Housing Management team said: “This tribunal decision found that there is no statutory definition of a bedroom. The judge applied what he called the ‘ordinary English meaning’ of a bedroom and found that this room, which had never been used as a bedroom, fell outside that definition. This means that the spare room subsidy cannot be applied.”

In this case, the disabled man used the second room in his Westminster flat to store the equipment he needed to live a normal life.

Nikki said: “What makes this decision particularly interesting and potentially tricky for government is that the judge looked at how the spare room was actually used, rather than how the housing association first presented the property, which had classified the room as a second bedroom.

“It is now entirely possible to see both abled and disabled tenants bringing similar cases when they can prove that a spare bedroom has never been used as a bedroom.”

The Department for Work and Pensions has yet to decide whether it will appeal the decision.

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