'Bedroom tax' challenge in court

IDSDisabled adults and families with disabled children are challenging the legality of the Government's so-called "bedroom tax", arguing that it unlawfully discriminates against them.

New housing benefit regulations have led to reductions in benefit payments to tenants in the social housing sector assessed to be under-occupying their accommodation.
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Lawyers in 10 cases at London's High Court are seeking a ruling that the regulations, introduced on April 1, ''unjustifiably discriminate against housing benefit claimants who are disabled or care for disabled family members''.

Tenants with one spare bedroom have had a payment reduction of 14% and those deemed to have two or more spare a reduction of 25%.
Lawyers for the 10 say that, unless the families move from their homes into smaller properties, they face building up rent arrears and being forced out any way.

But their disabilities mean they need to occupy either their current accommodation or housing of a similar size, and being forced to move to other accommodation will result in disadvantages they would not suffer if they were not disabled.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) rejects the "bedroom tax" tag and says the reality is that "a spare room subsidy" has been removed from social sector tenants.

A DWP spokesman said the new regulations are lawful and adequate steps have been taken to safeguard people with disabilities.

Lawyers for the 10 say that insufficient financial resources have been made available to meet their needs.

In a three-day hearing, they are asking the court to rule that the new regulations are contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects against discrimination. They also argue that Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has failed to comply with his public equality duty under the 2010 Equality Act.

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'Bedroom tax' challenge in court

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.

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