How to deal with the bedroom tax

Find out what to do if your housing benefit or universal credit is reduced because your'e a council or housing association tenant with a spare bedroom.

What is the bedroom tax?

The bedroom tax is a cut in housing benefit or the universal credit housing element if you're:

  • working age
  • classed as having a spare bedroom
  • a council or housing association tenant

It's sometimes called the under-occupancy charge, the social rented sector size criteria or removal of the spare room subsidy.

You won't be affected if you or your partner are pension age:

Use the GOV.UK calculator to check when you reach pension age

How much benefit you lose

The bedroom tax affects how much of your rent can be covered by housing benefit or the universal credit housing element.

The maximum rent that can be covered is reduced by:

  • 14% for 1 spare bedroom
  • 25% for 2 or more spare bedrooms

Example: If your rent is £100 a week, the maximum benefit you get to help with rent is:

  • £86 if you have 1 spare room
  • £75 if you have 2 spare rooms

You must pay the shortfall if the benefit you get is less than your rent.

Discretionary housing payments (DHPs)

A DHP is an extra payment that could help if you're struggling to pay rent.

It's paid by the council and you can apply if you already get:

  • housing benefit
  • universal credit housing element

Check your benefit entitlement

Make sure that you and any household members claim everything you're entitled to:

Use the entitledto benefits calculator

Ask a friend or family member to move in

You won't be affected by the bedroom tax if a friend or family member moves into your spare room and they don't pay rent. 

In most cases, a deduction is still made from your benefit because they're expected to contribute to your rent while they live with you.

This is called a:

Check the deduction is less than the cut in benefit under the bedroom tax or you could be worse off. 

Take in a lodger

You have a right to take in a lodger if you have a:

If you have a different type of tenancy you may need your landlord's permission to rent out the spare room.

Find out more from Citizens Advice about things to consider before taking in a lodger.

If you get housing benefit

You won't be affected by the bedroom tax if you rent out the spare room to a lodger. Some of the rent they pay you counts as income and some is ignored.

If you provide a meal such as breakfast, the following rental income from a lodger is ignored:

  • £20 a week
  • 50% of any rental income above £20 a week

Your housing benefit is reduced by 65p for every £1 of extra income you get from a lodger above these amounts.

If you get universal credit

You'll still be affected by the bedroom tax if you rent the spare room to a lodger.

However, all rental income from your lodger is ignored so this can offset what you lose under the bedroom tax.

Consider downsizing

You could try to move to a smaller council or housing association home through a tenancy transfer or mutual exchange.

It's rarely a good idea to give up a council or housing association home to move into a private tenancy even if you find one at a cheaper rent. 

This is because private rents can increase quickly, and you have little protection from eviction if the landlord decides they want the property back. 

Challenge a bedroom tax decision

Ask for a review of the decision if you think your benefit has been calculated wrongly.

First, you should check how many bedrooms you can claim for under the rules.

Find out how to challenge a:

Still need help?

If you have rent arrears:

Contact a Shelter adviser online, by phone or in person


Last updated 11 Dec 2018 | © Shelter

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