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Reclassifying Property Size - Frequently Asked Questions

Reclassifying Property Size - Frequently Asked Questions

Thumbnail Uploaded by Former Member, 27/05/13 14:08
Short (4-page) document from CIH Scotland on issues relating to potential reclassification of property size in response to the 'bedroom tax'.
Tags: under occupancy penalties
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FM
Former Member 7 Years Ago
Reclassifying properties seems like a good idea in some instances, for example, allocating 2 and 3 bedroom low demand properties. However over time this could cause problems for a landlord. Where you have families living in a property which you let as a one bedroom to a single person and the family then applies to the housing register - technically they will entitled to overcrowding points as their property is defined as a one bedroom even though they may not be overcrowded in reality.
FM
Former Member 7 Years Ago
I agree that re-classification has the potential to distort access, assessment and allocation arrangements - and not just for the specific household n your example, which has grown and changed since an allocation - but for others who are applying, having thier housing need assessed, or seeking decent 'prospects' information on availability of size, type and location of housing options to meet personal needs. I know that based on your experience, you'll be thinking this through from a CHR perpsective Alison, and I can see where you are coming from and can also hear those alarm bells. Shouldn't be too much of a problem if small scale, for example in lettings initiatives where the driver is allocation of otherwise hard to let stock - and we might now expact to see more formal lettings initiatives emerging in response... any other views out there on this?
FM
Former Member 7 Years Ago
The advice in this document is based on a misunderstanding. The argument for reclassifying rooms is not about whether people are legally overcrowded; nor is about whether landlords might have a legal obligation to disregard particular rooms, which (as it says here) they do not. It is, rather, about the reasonable use of permitted discretion. The DWP announced this at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/a4-2012.pdf : " Bedroom size. We will not be defining what we mean by a bedroom in legislation and there is no definition of a minimum bedroom size set out in regulations. It will be up to the landlord to accurately describe the property in line with the actual rent charged." (Circular A4/2012) Lord Freud elaborated in Parliament: "When it comes to designation of what exactly constitutes a property, it is up to landlords take that decision. They are unlikely to do that on a wholesale basis, but there will be individual properties where it makes sense for landlords to redesignate them as not being appropriate. " There is however a partial definition implicit in the DWP guidance. A bedroom can be occupied by one adult or two children under the age of 10. If there is a room of which that is not true - such as a box room, an alcove or a walk-in cupboard - it should not be treated as a bedroom. In the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, no room less than 50 sq ft (4.65 sq metres) is treated as a bedroom; any room between 50 and 70 sq ft is any part of a room less than 5 feet in height is disregarded; and a room of 50-70 sq feet is a half person room, suitable for occupation only by one child under the age of 10. Legislation designed for one purpose cannot automatically be extended to another, but that is not equivalent to saying that the statutory standard is wholly inapplicable. The definition of a bedroom is treated in the DWP guidance as discretionary. Wherever discretion is applicable, the usual ground for overturning is either that there has been an error of law, or that it is used in a way that no reasonable person could have done. Ultimately any dispute about a decision would have to be considered by a court, but if every landlord and local authority should use their discretion reasonably, it would be difficult to argue that a decision about reasonable occupation that has been guided by an explicit statutory definition could be considered unreasonable. It is not just rooms under 50 sq ft that might be disregarded. For the purposes of Housing Benefit, a room is a space that can be occupied by one adult or two children under the age of 10. While usable space of any kind adds rental value to a property, and it can be charged for by landlords, a room of 50-70 sq ft ought not to be counted as a bedroom in this sense.