R (Sandwell Metropolitan District Council) v Perks and the West Midlands (West) Valuation Tribunal (2003)


This was a high court case concerning the disability reduction scheme where someone claimed to have a room which was used to meet his mother's special needs.

In this case Mr Perks (the liable person) had applied for a band reduction because a downstairs living room was used as a bedroom by his disabled mother (the qualifying individual). The council refused and Mr Perks appealed to the local Valuation Tribunal. The Tribunal allowed the appeal, so the council appealed to the High Court against this decision.

The High Court decision, by Mr Justice Silber, did not rule that use of a living room as a bedroom was necessarily outside the provisions of the regulations but found that the Tribunal had failed to "consider if there has been the appropriative causative link between the disability and the requirement of the use of the room". 

In the light of this decision anyone wishing to claim a reduction for disability for a room which is used to meet someone's special needs will need to stress a "causative link"   Examples where it may be met include:

  • disabled people who are unable to use their customary bedroom because of mobility problems or other impairments
  • members of a couple who have to use separate bedrooms because of interruptions to sleep caused by their disabling conditions
  • an extra bedroom needed for a carer
  • where use of the room as a bedroom prevents or changes the use and occupation of the room by the rest of the household

On the other hand, the test may not be met, and more caution should be exercised, if:

  • the room is only one of a number equally available in the house for the use of the disabled person
  • the use is not intrinsically linked to the room but to items (such as heating or washing/bathing equipment) which could just as well be accommodated in other rooms in the house
  • the use of the room by the disabled person does not interfere with its normal use by other members of the household.

This is a shortened version of an article by Paul Moorhouse, welfare rights adviser at Bristol Welfare Rights Advice Service, reproduced in the the spring 2004 edition of our disability rights bulletin.

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