RR v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2019] UKSC 52


The Supreme Court held that a local authority, court or tribunal can disregard government regulations if they are incompatible with human rights law.


In R. (on the application of Carmichael) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2016] UKSC 58, the Supreme Court had held that parts of the “bedroom tax” were unlawful – i.e. that regulations B13(5) and (6) of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 led to unjustified discrimination on the ground of disability, as they did not cater for a “a transparent medical need for an additional bedroom”. Consequently, the law was changed and the Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Size Criteria) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2017 came into force in April 2017 to reflect the Carmichael ruling, but they were not retrospective.

The RR v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2019] UKSC 52 case considered the effect of the decision in R (Carmichael) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2016] UKSC 58

The case

A tenant (RR) lived with his disabled partner in a two-bedroomed council house. He received housing benefit, but the local authority reduced the amount payable as he was deemed by the Council to be ‘under-occupying’ the property. In August 2014, RR appealed to the First-tier Tribunal, which found that his partner's disabilities meant that the couple needed two bedrooms because of her disabilities and to accommodate her medical equipment and supplies. It also found that he had been discriminated against. In August 2018, after awaiting the Carmichael decision, the Upper Tribunal allowed the Secretary of State's appeal but granted RR a ‘leapfrog certificate’, permitting him to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, in allowing the appeal, held that there was nothing unconstitutional about a public authority, court or tribunal disapplying a provision of subordinate legislation (e.g. a statutory instrument) which would otherwise result in their acting incompatibly with a right under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1988. It ordered that RR’s housing benefit should be recalculated without making the under-occupancy deduction, as the decision had breached his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

This summary is from Capsticks Solicitors December 2019 Housing Law Update

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