Challenging the 'bedroom tax'

J.D. and A v. the United Kingdom

Legal issue

Is it discriminatory to penalise those who have one or more spare bedrooms?


A woman was at risk from her violent ex-partner, and the attic in her home had subsequently been adapted into a 'safe room' so she and her son could seek sanctuary if needed.

When new housing benefit regulations were introduced, this 'safe room' was deemed to be a spare room and she was threatened with eviction by her local authority. 

In a similar case, another claimant's daughter was severely disabled and their house was specifically designed to accommodate her needs, but when new housing benefit regulations were implemented she was found to have a spare bedroom and her housing benefit was penalised accordingly.

Why we were involved

This case comes within our core aim – upholding the system of equality and human rights protections.

What we did

We intervened using our powers under section 30 of the Equality Act 2006.

What happened

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the woman had been discriminated against by the UK state under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as she had been deprived of her right to 'peaceful enjoyment of her possessions' (Article 1 Protocol 1 of the Convention) due to her sex (as a victim of gender-based violence). 

In the second claimant's case, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that there was no violation of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 1 Protocol 1 of the Convention.

Although the European Court of Human Rights recognised the devastating and discriminatory impact this ‘bedroom tax’ has had on women, we are saddened that the court failed to find in favour of the disabled claimant which in our opinion was also unlawful discrimination

Who will benefit and how

In relation to people housed in Sanctuary Schemes, the spare bedroom tax is discriminatory.

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