Welfare Reform - Under Occupancy (Bedroom Tax)

From April 2013, The Welfare Reform Act reduced the amount of Housing Benefit that people living in the social rented sector could get when deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms.

This is commonly referred to as the "bedroom tax", under-occupation penalty or social size criteria. It is referred to as the size criteria in this article.

  • Size criteria in the social rented sector applies only to tenants of working age.
  • Working age means from age 16 up to the minimum qualifying age for Pension Credit.
  • It applies to people living in council, housing association and housing co-operative homes.
  • A similar scheme already applies to people living in private sector tenancies who are claiming Local Housing Allowance (Housing Benefit for private tenants) and are deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms.

What do the changes mean?

You will be allowed one bedroom for each of the following:

  • every adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • every other adult (aged 16 or over)
  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • any two children aged under 10
  • any other child (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • a child who is severely disabled and unable to share
  • a carer, who does not live with you, but provides you or your partner with regular overnight care. 

Adult children who are in the Armed Forces but who continue to live with parents, are treated as continuing to live at home even when deployed on operations.  This means that the size criteria rules will not be applied to the room normally occupied by the member of the Armed Forces if they intend to return home. 

People requiring an overnight carer

You may have already received a letter from the Housing Benefit section to see if you, or your partner, can be allowed an extra bedroom for an overnight carer. Complete the application to apply.

Who is affected?

All Housing Benefit claimants who are deemed to have at least one spare bedroom will be affected including:

  • separated parents who share the care of their children even if they have specifically been allocated an extra bedroom for this
  • couples who use their spare bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation
  • parents whose children visit and stay overnight but are not part of the household
  • disabled people including people living in adapted or specially designed properties.

Bereaved Families

Where under-occupancy arises due to a death,  the size criteria reduction will not apply for a year in order to give bereaved families time to come to terms with their loss and to make the right decisions about their finances and size of accommodation. 

What will the reduction to Housing Benefit be?

The reduction will be a fixed percentage of the Housing Benefit eligible rent figure of:

    14% for one extra bedroom                           25% for two or more extra bedrooms.

If you are affected by the size criteria in the social rented sector, what can you do to minimise the impact?

People affected have a number of options, however not all these options may be suitable for or available to you. You may wish to consider:

  • Moving to a smaller property - however due to the lack of available smaller properties in the social rented sector, options to move are very limited and moving to the private sector may not be suitable depending on your circumstances.
  • Renting out your spare room  - this may be an option to some people however it must be noted that although lodgers will count as occupying a room under the size criteria rules, any income from a lodger above £20.00 per week will be taken into account and deducted from means tested benefits. There may also be some risks involved. 
  • Finding work/increasing hours at work - moving into work or increasing working hours can increase your income and help cover any reduction in Housing Benefit.  
  • Having family members contribute more- if there are non-dependants living in your house, the excess rent may be covered through new or increased contributions made by them.
  • Applying for Discretionary Housing Payments this can sometimes be paid to help you meet the shortfall between your Housing Benefit and your rent payments, or if you have expenses connected with moving to more suitable accommodation. There is no guarantee that you will receive a DHP because funding is limited and applications have to be prioritised. 


Discretionary Housing Payment Scheme

If your Housing Benefit award does not cover the full cost of your rent and you are experiencing financial hardship, you may be due extra help for a limited time under the Discretionary Housing Payment Scheme.  

You will need to provide a list of the things you have to pay for each week and receipts for your gas and/or electricity, any loan repayments, and other bills.  The Discretionary Housing Payment Scheme cannot help with Water and Waste charges or the repayment of overpaid benefit. Complete the application form or call us on 01786 233210 for help in applying. 

The award of a Discretionary Housing Payment award is dependent in part on your financial situation.  If proof of your expenditure is not sent with your application this will delay the assessment.  A letter from your Doctor must support any additional expenditure due to medical reasons. 

If you require an extra bedroom because you have overnight access visits from your children, please provide a letter from your ex-partner detailing the arrangements.