If you're a council or housing association tenant of working age with a spare room, find out how much your housing benefit can be cut by.
What is the bedroom tax?
The bedroom tax is a cut in your housing benefit if you live in a council or housing association property and have what is classified as a 'spare' bedroom.
You can only claim for a certain number of bedrooms, depending on how many people live in your home.
Your council will let you know if you're affected. The bedroom tax is also known as the under-occupancy charge.
Who the bedroom tax applies to
You may get less housing benefit if all the following apply:
- you have a spare bedroom
- you live in a council or housing association property
- you're of working age (when you or your partner reach state pension age you're no longer affected)
Bedroom tax doesn't apply to you if you live in:
- private housing (housing benefit is worked out using different rules)
- temporary or supported accommodation (it does apply to some council facilities)
Use Shelter's bedroom tax checker to see if you're affected by the bedroom tax.
How much housing benefit you lose
Bedroom tax is applied to your 'net rent' (the rent when things like water charges are removed, as these aren't covered by housing benefit). The housing benefit office call this your 'eligible rent'.
The amount of net rent covered by housing benefit is cut by:
- 14% if you have one spare bedroom
- 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms
For example, if your net rent is £120 a week you need to pay the following extra rent yourself:
- £16.80 more if you have one spare room
- £30 more if you have two spare rooms
Bedrooms you can get housing benefit for
You can get housing benefit for 1 bedroom for each:
- adult couple
- other adult over 16 (this includes lodgers, although rent from lodgers affects how much housing benefit you get)
- disabled child under 16 who can't share a bedroom because of their disability
- 2 children of the same sex under 16
- 2 children under 10 (including children of the opposite sex)
- foster child (only 1 bedroom is allowed regardless of the number or sex of the children)
- child away at university who plans to return home (second or third year students living in privately rented accommodation may not count)
- child in the Armed Forces who plans to return home
Any other bedrooms in your home are counted as spare.
Bedrooms you can't get housing benefit for
You can't get housing benefit for bedrooms counted as spare, including rooms you use for:
- children who've left home and don't plan to return
- children who live with you part-time and you don't claim child benefit for them
- sleeping apart from your partner because of a medical condition
- a 'sanctuary room', where your home was adapted to make it secure for you after you experienced domestic violence
When an extra bedroom is allowed: special cases
You can get housing benefit for a bedroom if:
- you're disabled and have an overnight carer (only 1 spare bedroom is allowed)
- you're a foster carer who's been approved by social services and is between placements or newly approved (only 1 spare bedroom is allowed for up to 52 weeks)
- you have a child away in the armed or reserve forces (if they plan to return to live with you)
- someone who normally lives with you is away for up to a year if they intend to return and are away for particular reasons (for example, they're in hospital)
If your circumstances change
If your circumstances change you must tell the council as you could get more or less housing benefit.
This could be if:
- your child leaves home and you have a spare room
- your child is too old to continue sharing a bedroom with a child of the opposite sex (as soon as they're 10 years old)
- someone in your household dies (housing benefit won't be reduced for a year after the death)
- you have a baby or adopt a child and need to use your spare room
- a relative or lodger moves in with you
- you or your partner reach state pension age (use the Gov.uk state pension calculator to check if this applies to you)
- you claimed housing benefit for the first time in the last 52 weeks (bedroom tax doesn't apply for 13 weeks)
What you can do if your housing benefit is cut
If your housing benefit is cut you must pay the rest of your rent yourself. If you can't do this, you could end up losing your home.
To afford the extra rent you could:
- try to increase your income
- ask your landlord if you can rent out a room (income from lodgers may affect your benefits)
- move to a smaller home by applying to transfer your tenancy or exchange your tenancy
You could also apply to the council for a discretionary housing payment.
Find out more from Money Saving Expert about ways to boost your income.
Appeal against the council's decision
If you think your housing benefit shouldn't have been cut, you can ask the council to look at their decision again.
You may win your appeal if the council used the wrong information when working out if you have a spare room.
Get more help
If you need more help with the bedroom tax call Shelter's free advice helpline on 0808 800 4444.