South Gloucestershire Council v Malcolm Titley and Colin John Clothier



Mr Titley, is profoundly deaf and claimed a reduction on his council tax because he used a hearing loop box in his living room. A valuation tribunal allowed his appeal and found that:

“the hearing loop and associated equipment certainly are for his well-being and the room is predominantly used for that purpose as he occupies the house. The room may be a living room, but that does not alter the fact that it is predominantly for his use. Without the adaptations in there, his quality of life could be much impaired.”

As a result of this decision Mr Titley’s other argument concerning the use of a second bedroom as a study was not considered.

Mr Clothier claimed a reduction because two of his children, Michelle (age 33) and Michael (age 20), both have Downs Syndrome and spend a great majority of time each day alone in their bedrooms.

There was no physical adaptation to the bedrooms but Mr Clothier described each room as a sanctuary. This was supported by medical evidence which upheld the view that Michelle and Michael needed “to experience a safe environment where they can respectively enter their own private world, which the respective bedrooms provide”.

The valuation tribunal allowed this appeal and found that:

“The rooms do provide space for the well-being of the individual and [this does] in the view of the tribunal form a direct causal link between the bedroom and the disability. It is a therapeutic environment for the individuals and a place to which they can return without concern.”

In each case the local authority appealed to the High Court.

The High Court Decision

Both appeals succeeded.

Mr Titley’s situation was held to be similar to that outlined in Howell-Williams v Wirral BC (1981) 79 LGR 697, CA, which concerned someone who used a living room but needed a night storage heater on account of her disability.

“Mr Titley uses the living room because it is a living room. He would do so anyway even if his hearing were unimpaired. It is the loop system, not the room in which it is placed, which is essential to his well-being by reason of the nature and extent of his disability. The room is in no sense additional. In his case, therefore, the council’s appeal is allowed, the decision of the valuation tribunal quashed, and the case remitted to the tribunal to consider Mr Titley’s alternative application based on his use of the second bedroom as a study.”

In the case of Mr Clothier the decision was considered to be more borderline.

“If they [Michelle and Michael] had no disability but were still living in the same house as Mr and Mrs Clothier, they would each have their own bedroom anyway. The difference would be that they would spend less time in it, but neither bedroom is in any sense “additional”. Accordingly in Mr Clothier’s case also the council’s appeal is allowed and the decision of the valuation tribunal quashed.”

You can download the decision from the link below.

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