What is the bedroom tax?

The bedroom tax restricts the amount of housing benefit that council and housing association tenants can claim.

How the bedroom tax works

If you are a working-age council or housing association tenant, the council limits your housing benefit claim if it decides you have 'spare' bedrooms. 'Spare' bedrooms means bedrooms that are not occupied. This housing benefit reduction is called the bedroom tax. It is also sometimes referred to as the under-occupancy charge.

The number of bedrooms you can claim for is based on the number of people living in your home. You are expected to pay any outstanding rent yourself.

Use Shelter's bedroom tax checker to see if you are affected by the bedroom tax.

How much housing benefit will you lose?

The amount of rent you can claim housing benefit for is reduced by:

  • 14% if you have one 'spare' bedroom
  • 25% if you have two or more 'spare' bedrooms

For example, if you have one 'spare' bedroom and your rent is £100 per week, only £86 counts when your housing benefit is assessed. You have to pay at least £14 yourself.

If you have two or more 'spare' bedrooms and your rent is £100 per week, only £75 counts when your housing benefit is assessed. You have to pay at least £25 yourself.

Are you exempt?

The bedroom tax won't affect you if you and your partner have reached state pension credit age. Use Gov.uk's state pension age calculator to check if you are of pension credit age.

Exemptions also apply to people living in:

  • shared ownership properties
  • caravans, mobile homes and houseboats
  • some types of supported accommodation

Homeless people in temporary accommodation provided by the council are also exempt, unless the accommodation is owned by the council.

Ask your council or housing association if you are not sure about exemptions.

How many bedrooms can you claim housing benefit for?

You can only claim housing benefit for:

  • one bedroom for a couple
  • one bedroom for a person aged 16 or over
  • one bedroom for two children aged under 16 of the same sex
  • one bedroom for two children aged under 10 (boys and girls are expected to share a room)
  • one bedroom for any other child
  • one extra bedroom if you or your partner needs an overnight carer to stay

Young people and students

A child is usually counted as living in the home of the person who receives their child benefit.

One extra room is allowed for approved foster carers who foster a child or children. You can keep the room allowance for an empty room set aside for a foster child if you became an approved foster carer or have fostered a child in the last 12 months.

An adopted child or children is counted for the room allowance once an adoption order is made. If children are placed with you before adoption, you are allowed one room only for them.

For students away from home, a room is counted providing they are away for less than 52 weeks and intend to return home.

Children with disabilities

A severely disabled child who needs their own room isn't required to share.

Tell your council if this applies to your family.

The council should take into account the severity of a child's disability (including medical evidence and whether the child receives disability living allowance) and how regularly another child's sleep would be disturbed if they shared a room.

Armed forces

You don't have to pay bedroom tax for a room usually occupied by a member of the armed forces who is serving away, providing they intend to return to your home.

When bedroom tax exemptions don't apply

You will usually have to pay bedroom tax on bedrooms used by:

  • children visiting a divorced or separated parent
  • couples who use separate bedrooms because of illness or disability
  • disabled adults to store medical equipment

Worried about paying bedroom tax?

See our page on what you can do if the bedroom tax affects you.

Get advice from a welfare benefits adviser if you don't agree with the number of rooms the council says you need. Use Shelter's directory to find a local face-to-face advice service.

Bedroom tax loophole

If you've lived in the same home and have claimed housing benefit continuously from before 1 January 1996, you may be entitled to a bedroom tax refund.

Last updated: