The Queen On The Application Of Hanson (Claimant) v Middlesbrough Borough Council 2006



Mrs Hanson, who is registered blind, applied for a council tax disability reduction on the basis that her property had been specially modified to give her a second bathroom to meet her special needs. The local authority refused so she took the case to the Valuation Appeal Tribunal who upheld their decision.

The law

Regulation 3 of the Council Tax (Reductions for Disabilities) Regulations 1992) states that there are two parts to this test:

  • First, the additional bathroom must be either essential or of major importance to Mrs Hanson's well-being.
  • Secondly, if the first part is satisfied in either of those ways, there must be an appropriative causative link between the disability and the requirement of the use of the room.

This decision deals with the first part of the test (the Sandwell decision deals with the second part) in particular the requirement to consider “major importance”.

The tribunal decision

The tribunal held that to qualify for a reduction the disabled person would need to find it at least 'extremely difficult' to live in the dwelling if the room were not available. It decided that this requirement was not met.

The term 'extremely difficult' does not appear in the regulations.

They also introduced a further requirement. This was whether if the property was vacant a potential purchaser would be able to detect that the bungalow had been adapted or altered in a manner to accommodate the specific needs of a disabled person.

This requirement is also not in the regulations.

The High Court decision

It was found that the tribunal had misdirected itself in law in three ways

First, they have failed to apply a test of major importance because they equated that with a test of extreme difficulty. "Extreme" is a harder test to satisfy than "major".

Secondly, they failed to apply a test of major importance because, having found that the additional bathroom was not essential, they failed to appreciate that there is the alternative and lesser requirement of major importance.

Thirdly, they introduced a further requirement which is unwarranted, namely what a potential purchaser would be able to detect.

The appeal by Mr and Mrs Hanson was allowed and costs awarded.

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