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‘Bedroom tax’ unlawfully discriminates against domestic violence victims

European Court of Human Rights delivers judgment

In JD and A v The United Kingdom the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the so-called 'bedroom tax' unlawfully discriminates against vulnerable victims of domestic violence. The judgment concerns separate applications on different grounds to the Court by JD and A.

A's application to the ECtHR concerned the effect of the 'bedroom tax' policy on women living in 'Sanctuary Scheme' homes, ie properties which are specially adapted to enable women and children at serious risk of domestic violence to live safely in their own homes. A is a victim of rape, assault, harassment and stalking at the hands of an ex-partner. Her challenge was to the UK Government's reduction in housing benefit for 'under-occupation' of social housing.

In November 2016, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom decided that, while the government had a positive obligation to provide Sanctuary Scheme housing for women who need it, there had not been unlawful discrimination.

The ECtHR has found that the bedroom tax unlawfully discriminates against A and those in her position. The Court has clarified the legal test applicable to discrimination claims in social security cases. The Court found that A was particularly prejudiced by the bedroom tax because her situation was significantly different from other housing benefit recipients because of her gender. For a report by Hopkin Murray Beskine (who represented A), click here. For the judgment, click here.