Government guideline place blame on landlords rather than local authorities to define a bedroom.
The government have issued guidance to local authorities this week on how to classify a bedroom for the purposed of the bedroom tax, however it has been labelled as ‘bizarre’ and ‘wrong’ by experts.
The Department for Work and Pensions was forced to rush out guidance that would end the confusion of what constitutes a bedroom after numerous successful first-tier tribunal bedroom tax appeals by tenants.
In its guidance this week, the DWP have told local authorities that “the only consideration should be the composition of the household and the number of bedrooms as designated by the landlord”.
Policy and practise officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, Sam Lister, has said that the guidance had “got to be wrong”, reports Inside Housing.
“It is the local authority that is the decision maker, and not the landlord [according to established principles]. It can use the information the landlord provides, but it is not bound by it,” he said.
Issued on Monday the circular states that landlords should consider “a number of factors” including whether the room is big enough for a single bed.
It also said that rooms should be classified as bedrooms “notwithstanding that the tenant may argue that it has been habitually used for something else”.
Giles Peaker, partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors, said: ‘The circular is downright bizarre. The DWP shouldn’t determine what a bedroom is, or say that a landlord’s decision is determinative. This guidance does both.’
Mr Peaker has said that the appeal was a risk for the DWP as it could open the door for an upper tribunal to set a precedent that judges can determine what bedrooms are, and take size into consideration.
A spokesperson for the DWP has said that landlords have always designated bedroom number to charge rent, and the guidance did not change anything.