The ‘Bedroom Tax’ – Frequently Asked Questions

Since April 2013 new rules have applied to most working age people claiming Housing Benefit for a home rented from a registered social landlord.

This page answers some of the questions that our customers might have about the change.

You may have heard of ‘The Bedroom Tax’. If you are assessed as having more bedrooms in your home than is necessary, according to the new rules you will be considered to be under occupying. So if you have more bedrooms than the government thinks you need, your Housing Benefit will be reduced because of the extra bedroom(s). To check whether you are classed as under occupying see ‘How many bedrooms am I allowed?’ below.

These rules apply to anyone who is

  • of working age, and
  • receiving Housing Benefit or who has made a claim for Housing Benefit and
  • rents their home from a registered social landlord

Yes, we will consider your household composition and let you know if you are under occupying.

No, your housing benefit already takes account of your household composition.

No, these rules only apply to people who are of working age.

For Housing Benefit purposes, working age is when a person has not yet reached pension credit age. You can check if you have reached pension credit age by visiting the government’s calculate your state pension page.

No, it only applies if both members of a couple are of working age.

There are certain circumstances where the size limit rules will not be applied. These are listed below:

  • Shared ownership – this is where you own part of your home under a shared ownership lease with a registered social landlord.
  • Non-Mainstream accommodation – These are mooring charges for house boats and site charges for caravans and mobile homes as well as various “excluded tenancies” within schedule 2 to the Housing Benefit Regulations, such as regulated tenancies.
  • Temporary accommodation – Any claimant who is placed in temporary accommodation by the council because they are homeless or to prevent homelessness.
  • Exempt accommodation – The size limit rules will not be applied to those in supported ‘exempt’ accommodation.

The rules restrict the size of accommodation you can receive Housing Benefit for, based on the make-up of your household. The rules allow one bedroom for:

  • Every adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • Any 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 a child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • A carer (or team of carers) who do not live with you but provide you or your partner with overnight care

For example:

  • A couple with one child would have two bedrooms allowed
  • Single parent with a girl aged 8 and a boy aged 6 – two bedrooms allowed
  • Couple with a girl aged 6 and a boy aged 12 – three bedrooms allowed
  • Single parent with a boy aged 17 and a boy aged 12 – three bedrooms allowed
  • Couple with girls aged 17 and 14 and boy aged 9 – four bedrooms allowed

If you are assessed as under-occupying then a percentage reduction will be made to your eligible rent and any eligible service charges. This percentage will depend on how many rooms you are under occupied by. The percentages are shown below:

  • 14 per cent cut in Housing Benefit if you under-occupy by one bedroom
  • 25 per cent cut in Housing Benefit if you under-occupy by two or more bedrooms

Some examples are given in the table:

Number of bedrooms in the property and equivalent percentage reduction in eligible rent
Household composition 1 bedroom 2 bedrooms 3 bedrooms 4 bedrooms
Single None 14% 25% 25%
Couple None 14% 25% 25%
Couple/lone parent with 1 child None None 14% 25%
Couple/lone parent with 2 children both aged under 10 years None None 14% 25%
Couple/lone parent with two boys both aged 16 years None None 14% 25%
Couple/lone parent with a boy aged 12 years and girl aged 10 years None None None 14%
Couple/lone parent with 2 boys aged 17 years and 12 years None None None 14%

If you are under occupying by one room, your Housing Benefit will be worked out on the maximum eligible rent (this is the rent you are charged less any ineligible service charges) less 14 per cent.

For example, if your rent is £70 per week and you do not have any ineligible service charges, your Housing Benefit will be worked out based on a figure of £60.20. If you had previously been receiving full Housing Benefit, you would have to pay £9.80 per week from 1 April 2013.

If you are under occupying by two or more rooms, your Housing Benefit will be worked out on the maximum eligible rent (this is the rent you are charged less any ineligible service charges) less 25 per cent.

For example, if your rent is £80 per week and you do not have any ineligible service charges, your Housing Benefit will be worked out based on a figure of £60. If you had previously been receiving full Housing Benefit, you would have to pay £20 per week from 1 April 2013.

There is no shared accommodation rate in the social rented sector. A person living on their own will require one bedroom, whether the property is self-contained or not, regardless of their age.

Under occupancy for joint tenants is worked out in exactly the same way as for any other tenancy. All occupants will be taken into account and the appropriate number of bedrooms will be applied. If under occupancy is established, the standard reduction (14 per cent or 25 per cent) will be applied to the whole of the eligible rent, which will then be apportioned between the joint tenants. It is important that joint tenants inform the local authority of any change in their own household and in their joint tenant’s household, since these may affect their Housing Benefit.

Where you are joint tenants, one working age and one pension credit age, any reduction in rent due to under-occupancy will only be applied to the working age claimant. Any reduction is applied to the full eligible rent and then the remainder should be apportioned appropriately.

An extra bedroom will be allowed to

  • Approved foster carers who have a child or children placed with them.
  • Approved foster carers who are between placements but only for a period of up to 52 consecutive weeks from the date of the last placement.
  • Newly approved foster carers but only for a period of up to 52 consecutive weeks from the date they are approved
  • The foster carer must show they have an extra bedroom in their home which is in addition to those normally occupied by their family.

If you are a joint tenant with someone else the size limit rules will take into account everyone living in the property. If it is decided that you are under occupying, the percentage reduction will be taken off the whole eligible rent and any eligible service charges. Your Housing Benefit will then be based on the proportion of this reduced amount that you are liable to pay. For example, if you are a joint tenant with one other person then you will pay 50 per cent of the eligible rent that is left after the size criteria reduction has been applied.

If you just rent a bedroom in a shared house, you will not be classed as under occupying, even if all the other bedrooms are unoccupied.

Where parents who don’t live together have shared care of their children, the children will be treated as living with the parent who is treated as responsible for them and provides their main home. For someone to be treated as responsible for a child or young person, the child or young person must normally be living with them. If a child or young person spends equal amounts of time in different households, or there is a question as to whom they normally live with, they will be treated as living with the person who is receiving Child Benefit for them. The parent who is not considered to provide their main home will not be entitled to receive Housing Benefit for an extra room for their child/children. If they wish to remain in their current accommodation they will need to make up the shortfall in rent themselves.

Other than the cases stated above there will be no exceptions to the application of the size limit rules. If there is a reason that an extra room is necessary your local authority may be able to help you with the extra rent through the Discretionary Housing Payment fund.

The legislation now allows for an extra bedroom for a severely disabled child eligible for the middle or highest rates of disability Living Allowance (DLA) care who would normally be expected to share a room under the size criteria rules but who is not reasonably able to do so due to severe disability. Since every case is unique, please contact the Benefits section to discuss your child’s individual circumstances.

You can keep their room if the absence is temporary (less than 52 weeks for students) and the young person concerned intends to return home. This means that if your child returns home regularly throughout the year, you can keep their room.

An extra bedroom will be allowed for armed forces personnel if

  • They are adult children who are in the armed forces but continue to live with parents. They will be treated as continuing to live at home when deployed on operations. No non-dependant deduction will be made while they are on operations.
  • The adult son or daughter must have been a non-dependant before deployment on operations and there must be an intention to return to live with their parents.
  • A reduction for under-occupation will not be made in respect of the bedroom of the relevant non-dependants but may apply if you have other spare bedrooms.

The size limit rules do not allow for this, unless the absence is temporary (less than 13 weeks) and the person intends to return home.

This is accommodation provided by the Home Options team of North East Lincolnshire Council to individuals who are homeless, or under threat of homelessness.

If you wish to move to smaller accommodation it is advisable to talk to your landlord. They should be able to advise you if moving to smaller accommodation is possible and what steps you need to take.

If you are currently not receiving Housing Benefit but make a claim following the death of your partner, you will be protected from the size limit rules for up to 12 months.

There may be circumstances where someone in receipt of Housing Benefit would be considered to be under-occupying because of a death in their household. In these circumstances they would be protected and the size limit rules would not be applied until after 12 months, or they moved home, or there was another change of circumstances (whichever came first).

If you could previously afford to pay your rent and find yourself in a situation where you now cannot, for example because of a loss of job, provided you have not claimed Housing Benefit in the last 52 weeks, the size limit rules will not be applied for the first 13 weeks. They will be applied earlier than 13 weeks if you move home or have another change of circumstances.

If you are assessed as under-occupying, your reduced Housing Benefit will be paid as it has been previously and the remainder of the rent will need to be paid by you to the landlord. It will be a decision for you and your landlord how this is done.

If you are assessed as under-occupying your accommodation and have a reduction in your Housing Benefit, there are a number of courses of action open to you. You may wish to find more appropriately sized accommodation or stay where you are and make up the shortfall in rent yourself.

  • Ask non-dependants to contribute – If you decide to stay in your current accommodation and make up the shortfall yourself you may wish to ask other non dependants living with you to contribute to the rent.
  • Take in a lodger – You may wish to take in a lodger to fill the extra room you have. You should check your landlord allows this. If you do take in a lodger the lodger would be assessed as part of the household meaning you would not necessarily be considered to be under-occupying and you may have more income from their rent. If you are getting a benefit you will have to advise the Department of Works and Pensions that you have taken in a lodger, as it could affect the amount of money you receive.
  • Increase hours of work – If you are in employment you may consider increasing your working hours to make up the shortfall in rent.
  • Take a job – If you are not currently in employment, finding a job could help you pay the additional rent.
  • You may consider moving – You may decide that it would be best to move to appropriately sized accommodation in the social rented sector. Your landlord will be able to talk this through with you and advise you as to whether this in a viable option.
  • Moving to a privately rented home – You may decide that moving to the private rented sector would be appropriate for you. Again your landlord or local authority will be able to advise you about this.

In certain circumstances you may be entitled to a payment from the Discretionary Housing Payment Fund. This is a fund administered by the council for those they consider in real need of additional help with their housing costs.

We have been working with your landlord to identify those tenants who will be affected and we will be writing to each household affected shortly.

The decision is made by the Housing Benefit team, based on the information provided by the landlord. Any issues regarding the number of bedrooms in your property should be resolved with your landlord before contacting the Benefits Section.

Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm

Email: benefits@northlincs.gov.uk

Tel: 0300 3030164 

Or write to:

Benefits
Hewson House
Station Road
Brigg
DN20 8XB