What is Bedroom Tax?
Bedroom Tax is a cut in the Housing Benefit paid for people who live in social housing and who have a spare bedroom. Since April 2013 Housing Benefit has been restricted to paying for the number of bedrooms it is considered that the family living in the house will need. People getting Universal Credit have the restrictions applied to them through Universal Credit although there are some slight differences in the way this will operate. More information about this is given below
You will be told by the Council or the DWP if you are affected by the bedroom tax.
The Bedroom Tax is also known as the under-occupancy charge.
Who is affected by the Bedroom Tax?
You may get less Housing Benefit if you meet all of these conditions:
- You have one or more spare bedrooms
- You live in a council or housing association property
- You are of working age. As soon as you or your partner reach Pension Credit age you are no longer affected and your full rent will then be paid.
Bedroom tax does not apply if you live in:
- Private housing (there are different rules which apply if you live in privately rented accommodation)
- Temporary or supported accommodation
How much rent will you have to pay?
The amount of Housing Benefit you get will be cut by:
- 14% if you have one spare bedroom
- 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms
If your Housing Benefit is cut you will still be expected to pay the full rent to your landlord and you will get into rent arrears if you do not pay the shortfall.
How many bedrooms can you get Housing Benefit for?
You can claim for one bedroom for each of the following people:
- Adult or couple
- A member of a couple who cannot share a bedroom due to a disability (April 2017 change see below)
- Any other adult over 16 (this includes lodgers)
- A disabled child who can’t share a bedroom because of their disability
- Any two children of the same sex who are under 16
- Any 2 children under 10 regardless of sex
- Any other child aged under 16
- A non-resident overnight carer (of yourself or your partner)
- Foster parents are allowed an extra room if they have had a child placed with them in the last 52 weeks
- Students away from home at university as long as they intend to come back and it is still their usual home
- Child or stepchild in the armed forces who is planning to return home
The rule allowing members of couples who cannot sleep together due to a medical condition applies where the disabled person is getting middle or higher rate Disability Living Allowance care component, Attendance Allowance or any rate of Personal Independence Payment daily living component and where the disability is the reason the person cannot share a room.
Any other bedrooms then count as spare bedrooms.
You can’t get a bedroom allowed for the following:
- Children who live with you part-time who you don’t claim Child Benefit for
- Children who’ve left home and don’t plan to return
It is important that you tell the council if your circumstances change as this may mean that they accept you now need another room and so will remove the bedroom tax. If you do not tell them of a change meaning you need less rooms you could be overpaid.
The sorts of changes you need to tell them about include:
- A child leaves home
- A child has a 10th birthday
- A child has a 16th birthday
- Someone in the household dies
- You have a baby or adopt a child
- Someone else moves in like a relative, friend or lodger
- You or your partner reach Pension Credit age
Delay before bedroom tax is applied?
There is a delay before the bedroom tax is applied if:
- A member of the family who previously lived in the property has died and you continue to live there. In this situation the bedroom tax does not apply until 12 months after the death
- You could previously afford to pay the rent and were not eligible to claim Housing Benefit. In this situation there will be a delay of 13 weeks before the bedroom tax is applied provided you have not claimed Housing Benefit in the last 52 weeks. The 13 weeks applies from the start of the Housing Benefit claim.
Please note these rules are far more restrictive under Universal Credit see below.
What can you do if you are affected by the Bedroom Tax?
The first thing to do is to check the decision carefully as mistakes do happen. If you find a mistake contact the council and ask them to reconsider their decision. If you have problems with this or if you are not sure if you may have an argument against the bedroom tax you should consider asking an advice agency.
You may be able to argue against the bedroom tax on the basis that one of the rooms you have is not a bedroom eg if it is used for storing disability equipment, if it is too small to be a bedroom or does not have adequate heating, lighting or ventilation or if it acts as a corridor to another room. In order for a room to be considered a bedroom it should be large enough to take a single adult sized bed, a bedside table, somewhere to store clothes and provide space to dress and undress. If you are considering arguing that a room is not a bedroom you should seek assistance with this. These decisions can be appealed and you can get assistance to do this.
You may want to consider whether you could provide a home for another person as a way of avoiding the bedroom tax. If you take in a lodger you will need to declare this as it will affect your benefits. If you take in someone who is not paying to stay there, depending on your or their circumstances, they may be expected to pay a contribution towards the rent. However it will generally still be beneficial to do this.
Your other options are:
- Moving to a smaller property. You will need to ensure you have no rent arrears as most housing associations will not agree to you moving if you have rent arrears although you might be able to get Discretionary Housing Payment to clear any rent arrears to enable you to move. You should contact your landlord to talk to them about getting a move
- Increasing your income perhaps by taking on some paid work
- Asking for a Discretionary Housing Payment
- You may be able to meet the rent shortfall from savings or reducing your spending on other items
Bedroom Tax and Universal Credit
If you are in receipt of Universal Credit you will not get Housing Benefit but will instead get help with housing costs included in the Universal Credit and this sum will normally be paid to you rather than to your landlord.
The rules that are applied are the same as described for Housing Benefit with the following exceptions:
- there is no room allowed for a lodger although the income you receive from the lodger is also not taken into account in calculating your Universal Credit. This should mean it is still worthwhile taking in a lodger as long as the sum you charge will be enough to cover the bedroom tax as well as any other expenses you have.
- the delay which applies after a death before bedroom tax is applied are more limited. The rules state that the amount of Universal Credit paid after a member of the family dies continues to be paid at the same rate for the remainder of the month in which the person dies and the following 2 months. This rule applies to the full rate of Universal Credit including housing costs.
- there is no delay in applying bedroom tak if you coudl previously affor dot pay th efull housing costs yourself