Court of Appeal rules that the ‘bedroom tax’ was unlawful in two cases


The Court of Appeal has held that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions acted unlawfully in removing part of the means-tested housing benefit in respect of the appellants’ public sector housing, under the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, Regulation B13. Regulation B13, popularly known as the ‘bedroom tax’, has the effect of reducing housing benefit, where the accommodation in which a person lives has more bedrooms that is deemed necessary, as defined by a formula. Particular classes of person are permitted to have an additional bedroom. The appellants successfully argued that they ought to have been part of this defined class.

In the case of A, a female victim of violence living in housing protected under the Sanctuary Schemes, the Court accepted that those who had suffered from serious violence required the protection of the Sanctuary Schemes to mitigate the effects and continued threat of violence. It was unlawful discrimination on the grounds of gender to penalise female victims of domestic violence for having an extra bedroom. Evidence proved that an overwhelming majority of those in these schemes were women. The Secretary of State had failed to show that his reasons for discrimination in Regulation B13 could be objectively and reasonably justified.

The Court of Appeal also allowed the appeal in the case of SR, where Susan and Paul Rutherfield and their grandson argued that the failure to make provision in Regulation B13 for accommodating overnight carers of disabled children amounted to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of disability. It was the case that exceptions existed for accommodating overnight carers of disabled adults. The Court formed the view that the decision to treat children and adults differently did not address the best interests of the child as a primary consideration, and was unlawful.

In both cases, the Court of Appeal issued a declaration that the appellants had suffered discrimination contrary to ECHR, art 14.

Karon Monaghan QC appeared for A. Helen Mountfield QC and Raj Desai appeared for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, intervening.