Bedroom Tax (also known as under occupancy charge or spare room subsidy) means that you will receive less in Housing Benefit or Housing Costs Element in a Universal Credit claim if you live in a Housing Association or Council property and you are deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms. You may have questions and concerns about Bedroom Tax, below are some frequently asked questions. If you have any other questions please contact us.
What is Bedroom Tax?
The “Bedroom Tax” is the name given to benefit changes introduced on 1st April 2013 for social housing tenants, which mean that the amount of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit you get might be reduced if, according to the government, you have more bedrooms than they think you need.
If you (or you and your partner) are Pension Credit age and getting Housing Benefit to help you pay your rent, then you will not be affected by the Bedroom Tax.Your Housing Benefit, or the help included in your Universal Credit to help you pay your rent, will be reduced by an amount equal to 14% of your rent if you are regarded as having one ‘extra’ bedroom; or by 25% of your rent if you have two or more ‘extra’ bedrooms.
But it doesn’t affect everybody. You won’t need to pay any more rent for having ‘too many’ bedrooms:
• If you (or you and your husband, wife or partner) are Pension Credit age or over and getting Housing Benefit.• If you live in a ‘shared ownership’ property.• If you have been placed in a certain type of ‘temporary accommodation’.• If you live in a particular type of supported housing called ‘exempt accommodation’ - ask us if you’re not sure.• If your Housing Benefit has already been reduced because of a Rent Officer referral.
How many bedrooms am I allowed?
The government has decided that:
Any single person aged 16 or over needs their own bedroom.
There are special rules where an extra bedroom may be allowed - these are:- If your local council (for Housing Benefit) or the DWP (for Universal Credit) accept that if, because of a child’s disability, there would be disruption to the sleep of another child if they shared a bedroom, then the disabled child can be allocated their own bedroom if they are getting the mid or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance.- If you or your partner are disabled, any room needed for sleeping in by a carer (who does not normally live with you) who cares for you or your partner ‘regularly’ (it’s up to the council / the DWP to decide if it is ‘regularly’) can be allocated a bedroom. Note this doesn’t apply to overnight carers for children or any other adults*. For Universal Credit the person requiring the care must be getting either Personal Independence Payment (daily living component) or the mid or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance.- If someone in the household is a foster carer – NOTE: only one extra bedroom is allowed regardless of the number of foster children; but this rule still applies during gaps between fostering (while the gap is less than a year).- If a son or daughter is in the armed forces but normally lives with you, they retain their bedroom whilst away on operations.- If a son or daughter who normally lives with you is away at college / university, they retain their bedroom whilst away from home, so long as they intend to return (and do return) within 52 weeks (Housing Benefit) or 6 months (Universal Credit).Once your local council / the DWP have worked out how many bedrooms you are deemed to need using the above rules, they will regard any bedroom you have above this as ‘extra’. This is regardless of its size*, whether you use it or not and regardless of what* or who* you use it for, and so will mean you have to pay more rent.
- A couple need a bedroom.
- A child needs a bedroom BUT.....
- A boy and a girl are expected to share a bedroom if they are both under 10.
- 2 boys or 2 girls are expected to share if they are both under 16. See below for examples.
- Foster children are not taken into account (but see under special rules below.)
- Children who stay with you part of the time aren’t taken into account*.
Examples:Mr Smith, age 45, lives alone in a 3 bedroom house with a rent of £100 a week. Because of some part-time earnings he would normally be entitled to £60 a week Housing Benefit.
However, he has two ‘extra’ bedrooms and so his Housing Benefit is reduced by a Bedroom Tax deduction of 25% of £100 – ie £25.00, and so only gets £35 a week Housing Benefit.Mr and Mrs Khan, both age 39, live with their two daughters aged 9 and 13 in a three bedroom house. Their rent is £120 a week and they would normally receive £15 per week in Housing Benefit. As their daughters are expected to share a bedroom they are regarded as having one extra bedroom. Their Housing Benefit is reduced by a Bedroom Tax reduction of 14% of £120, ie £16.80, so this takes them off Housing Benefit altogether.
Joe is disabled, gets Universal Credit, and lives on his own in a 2 bedroom flat. His sister comes to stay with him when his disability causes him problems at night- usually once or twice a week. Because he gets Disability Living Allowance (mid rate care) and his sister sleeps in the second bedroom when she visits, he fits the rules that allow his ‘extra’ bedroom so his Universal Credit entitlement will not be reduced by the Bedroom Tax.
What can I do? (I am affected by Bedroom Tax)
If your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit is being reduced by the Bedroom Tax:• First check that a Bedroom Tax deduction should apply to you (see other questions below for more information). If you don’t think it should (maybe the local council / DWP have the number of children wrong, or don’t know about your overnight carer) then contact them immediately, and let us know – we may be able to help.• If the Bedroom Tax is being applied correctly and you are getting Housing Benefit, you need to pay the difference in your rent, otherwise you could lose your home. If you are struggling to pay your rent contact us immediately.• If the Bedroom Tax is being applied correctly and the Universal Credit you get each month includes help with your rent, this will not cover all the rent that is due so contact us to find out how much you have to pay. If you are struggling to pay your rent contact us immediately.• If the Bedroom Tax is being applied correctly and the DWP pay part of your Universal Credit to us, towards your rent, this will not cover all the rent that is due so contact us to find out how much you have to pay. If you are struggling to pay your rent contact us immediately.• If you are having real difficulties paying your rent then you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment- but the council’s budget is limited so you will need to explain your particular difficulties and provide a financial statement showing that you cannot afford the rent that is due. See the section on Discretionary Housing Payments for more information.• *Even if the Bedroom Tax should apply to you according to the government’s rules, you might be able to argue successfully to an appeal tribunal that the rules are not being interpreted correctly in your case - see the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.
What do I do if I need an extra room because….
...I have a carer who stays overnight…?
Where you have a carer who has to stay overnight on a regular basis to care for you or your partner, and there is a bedroom for them to sleep in, you can be allocated an extra bedroom for them. You need to inform your local council and they may need proof of your or your partner’s Disability Living Allowance / Personal Independence Payment or a letter from your GP to show that you / your partner requires this care.
Unfortunately the Bedroom Tax rules do not cover care for anyone else, such as a child or other adult, so in these cases you should apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment. It would be worth asking the local council to allow an extra bedroom- a few people have managed to win this argument at an appeal tribunal so it’s worth a try. Contact us for advice.
…I have access to my son / daughter / grandchild and they stay with me regularly…?
Only children who are regarded as ‘normally living with you’ are allocated a bedroom in your home, even if access is split equally between parents. This means that the parent who gets the Child Benefit for that child will normally be the one who is regarded as needing a bedroom for them. However you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment if you can show that you are struggling to pay your rent. But each Local Council has to prioritise which cases they will pay for, and Discretionary Housing Payments are usually time limited to 3 or 6 months, though you can apply again at the end of the period.
.my child is at University and returns home during their holidays…?
If the local council accept that your home is your child’s ‘normal home’, and that they come home regularly (e.g. in the holidays), you should be allocated a bedroom for them. If they don’t accept that it is their normal home you will need to provide evidence such as where they are registered to vote, where they keep most of their ‘stuff’, what they do in the holidays, (e.g. do they get a holiday job at home?), where they intend to live after University, etc. If the local council still refuse to allocate them a bedroom, contact us for advice.
... my partner has a disability which means we cannot share a bedroom…?
Under the Bedroom Tax rules this is not a situation which allows an extra bedroom - couples are expected to share or pay the Bedroom Tax. It would be a very good idea to ask your local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment, as a tribunal has indicated that failure to award one in such a case could be regarded as against disability discrimination rules.
...I am disabled and the room is used to store equipment related to my disability…?
This situation is not covered in the Bedroom Tax rules but you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment. It would be worth asking the local council to allow an extra bedroom- a few people have managed to win this argument at an appeal tribunal so it’s worth a try. Contact us for advice.
... my children need to sleep separately for a reason other than disability...?
This situation is not covered in the Bedroom Tax rules but if there is a serious problem, and especially if you have the support of a professional (eg social worker) you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment.
... I am pregnant and the baby will need its own room…?
Until the baby is born you are not allocated a bedroom for him/her. As soon as the baby is born they are allocated a bedroom. You may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment from your local council for the period before the baby is born.
A member of my family has died and now there is an unused bedroom. Will I have to pay Bedroom Tax straight away?
If you are getting Housing Benefit, then for 12 months after bereavement, your Housing Benefit should be based on the rent used by the local council in your Housing Benefit assessment on the day before the person died.For example, if Mr Jones was the tenant of a 2 bedroom flat living with his son Bill, and Bill sadly died on 5th May 2015, then Mr Jones would not have his Housing Benefit reduced due to the Bedroom Tax for a year ie until 4th May 2016.
Even if the bereavement doesn’t change the number of bedrooms you are deemed to need, the protection can apply if, before the year is out, you are left with an extra bedroom (eg a son or daughter moves out).
If you are claiming help with your rent through Universal Credit, the rules are different. For 3 months, your Universal Credit “housing cost element” (ie how much can be included in your Universal Credit towards your rent) should be based on the rent used by the DWP in your Universal Credit assessment, or the rent used by the local council in your Housing Benefit assessment (if you were on Housing Benefit at the time) on the day before the person died. And the rules do not help if it was your non-dependant who died (ie anyone other than your partner or a child you get Child Benefit for).
My ‘extra’ bedroom is tiny- why should this count as a bedroom?
The Bedroom Tax rules don’t give a minimum size for a bedroom, so your local council/ the DWP will count it as a bedroom. However a Tribunal Judge has said that, although the size of the room on its own doesn’t determine whether or not the room can be called a “bedroom”, the size and layout are a factor in considering whether the room can really function as a bedroom.The Judge said that the factors that have to be taken to take into account when considering whether a room is a bedroom include: size, height, storage space/access to storage, privacy, natural light ie a window, ventilation, heating. Another Judge has ruled that a bedroom should be capable of accommodating a single adult bed, a bedside table and somewhere to store clothes, as well as providing space for dressing and undressing.
So if your tiny “spare bedroom” does not meet these standards you might want to try asking your local council / the DWP not to count it as a bedroom, and appealing if they say no. Contact us for advice.
I have lived in this home for years and I don’t want to move but I’m struggling to pay the rent.
Sadly unless one of the exclusions apply (as described in the main section) then you will have to pay all the rent that is due, to remain in the property. You could try applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment – these can be paid whether you get Housing Benefit or Universal Credit - but unless there are special circumstances the council would generally not award a Discretionary Housing Payment unless you were looking to downsize to a smaller property. Also remember these payments are time limited and the local council has to decide who to prioritise. Have you considered taking a lodger? There are pros and cons to this, and you need permission, so speak to us about this option before going ahead.
I want to let out my ‘extra’ bedroom to a lodger. How do I do this?
If you let out a room to a lodger this means under Housing Benefit rules (see below if you get Universal Credit) the room won’t count as an ‘extra’ bedroom for Bedroom Tax purposes but there are a number of things to consider:
- You need to ask us for permission before you take in a lodger.
- If the lodger is a close relative* for whom you do not receive Child Benefit, then the local council will class them as a non-dependant even if you regard them as a lodger (see the section on non-dependants for more information on how this would affect your benefit). *Close relative means parent, parent-in-law, son, son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, step-parent, step-son, step-daughter, brother, sister or the spouse or partner of any of these people.
- If the lodger was previously your non-dependant the local council are unlikely to consider them to be a lodger.
- To be classed as a lodger they must be paying you for accommodation and/or meals (‘board’) on a commercial basis. The local council will want to see some proof of the commercial basis of the arrangement to be convinced they are a lodger- such as a rent book and/or tenancy agreement.
- Money over £20 a week which the lodger pays you for their accommodation can affect your benefit entitlements (see below for rules under Universal Credit).
- Make sure you, your family, and your property are going to be safe. Do you know the lodger? If not, find out as much as you can, and get character references from at least two people you trust to tell you the truth.
- If the lodger causes any damage to the property or anti-social behaviour, this will be your responsibility as our tenant and could affect your rights to remain in the property.
- Have you considered whether you are happy to have someone living with you? Make sure you lay ground rules about cleanliness, meals, noise, where they can and can’t go in your home, etc.
- Have you considered what you will do if they don’t pay you? Or if you want them to leave?
- If you currently receive a 25% discount on your council tax bill because you are classed as living alone you may lose this discount.
NOTE: If you are getting Universal Credit to help with your rent rather than Housing Benefit, the rules are different:
a. A lodger is NOT entitled to a bedroom under Universal Credit Bedroom tax rules.
b. Money you receive from the lodger does NOT count as income in calculating how much Universal Credit you can get.
I want to move to a smaller property: what can I do?
You can register on homeswapper.co.uk which is a national mutual exchange website. This will show you who in the area you wish to live would be interested in your current home. You would contact any interested people yourself and view each other’s homes. You can exchange with any social housing tenant (council or housing association). Once you have agreed you would like to swap you need to request permission from all the Landlords involved. Contact us for more information.
What happens if I get into arrears?
The rent we charge is vital to running the services we provide for residents, repairing and refurbishing your home, and providing new homes. Therefore we take rent arrears very seriously.
If you are having problems paying your rent then we can offer you assistance with budgeting and will check that you are claiming all the financial help you are entitled to. We can also refer you to other agencies for help with debt and budgeting advice. However, if your rent is not paid we will take steps to recover the payments. This could include legal action and your home could be at risk of possession.
If you are experiencing difficulties, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss how we can help you.