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Size-related criteria

This content applies to England

The calculation of the housing costs element under universal credit for claimants who are renting.

Basic calculation: social rented sector

The following calculation is used to calculate the housing costs element for tenants of local authorities and housing associations:[1]

  • the monthly contractual rent plus any eligible service charges (for more information see Payment condition)
  • less any under-occupation deduction (for working-age claimants only, see 'Under occupancy in the social rented sector' below)
  • less any housing cost contributions, ie non-dependant deductions.

Basic calculation: private rented sector

This covers claimants in:

  • private rented accommodation, and
  • temporary accommodation, where the local authority is the landlord, and it is provided in discharge of a duty under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996.

The housing costs element is worked out based on the lower of:[2]

  • the 'core rent', ie the monthly contractual rent plus any eligible service charges (for more information see Payment condition), or
  • the 'cap rent', ie the maximum rent allowed for under the local housing allowance, depending on the tenant's bedroom entitlement or whether they receive the shared accommodation rate, and the broad rental market area (see below) in which the claimant lives[3]
  • less any deductions for housing cost contributions, ie non-dependant deductions.

Broad rental market area

Every property will fall within a distinct broad rental market area (BRMA). A BRMA consists of an area of residential accommodation, within which a person could reasonably be expected to live, containing accommodation of different types and tenancies. The Rent Officer is required to define each BRMA. Once defined, the BRMA will apply to the different sizes of properties, according to bedroom size, falling within that area.[4]

Joint tenants

Where the claimant is a joint tenant, and the joint tenants are not a couple, the contractual, core or cap rent (plus any eligible service charges), as appropriate, is apportioned between the tenants if the local housing allowance (LHA) rules do not apply.[5]

Where the LHA rules apply, the eligible rent is the lower of the claimant's actual share of the monthly rent, or the LHA figure which applies to the claimant. See How is LHA calculated? for details.

Bedroom entitlement

A claimant is only entitled to the housing costs element for the number of bedrooms they are entitled to under the regulations for their 'extended benefit unit'. This applies to claimants in the private rented sector and to claimants of working age in the social rented sector. The housing costs element of a claimant over working age in the social rented sector is not restricted by reference to a bedroom entitlement. For single claimants aged under 35 in the private rented sector see 'Shared accommodation rate: private rented' sector below.

The extended benefit unit is:[6]

  • the claimant
  • the claimant's partner
  • any child or young person for whom they receive child benefit, and
  • any non-dependant (this can include a resident carer).

General rule

The claimant is entitled to one bedroom for each of the following:[7]

  • an adult couple
  • a single person aged 16 or over (not lodgers - see below)
  • any two children of the same sex under the age of 16
  • any two children regardless of sex under the age of 10
  • any other child under the age of 16.

Additional bedroom rule

An additional bedroom is allowed if:[8]

  • the claimant (or her/his partner) is disabled and requires a non-resident carer to provide overnight care
  • (from 1 April 2017) a disabled child or other member of the extended benefit unit requires a non-resident carer to provide overnight care
  • a child who cannot share a bedroom because of a disability (the entitlement is to as many bedrooms as necessary so that each disabled child has its own room)
  • (from 1 April 2017) a couple is unable to share a bedroom because of a disability
  • the claimant (or his/her partner, if they claim universal credit as a couple) is a foster carer.

A room used for the storage of medical/special equipment is not to be counted as an additional bedroom under the regulations.[9]

An additional bedroom will also be allowed where a member of the claimant's benefit unit is temporarily absent from home in certain circumstances, for example, if that person is on service in the Armed Forces and intends to return to the claimant's home (see below), or if the person is in prison and is not expected to remain in custody for longer than six months.[10]

Additional bedrooms for claimants in the private-rented sector are subject to the four-bedroom maximum cap.

See Restrictions on eligible rents for social rented sector tenants for more information about the definition of a bedroom, and about any connection that is needed between a bedroom and the class of person actually expected to occupy it (see the paragraph 'the connection issue')..

Disabled persons

In order to qualify for an additional bedroom for a non-resident carer or because s/he cannot share a bedroom, the disabled person must be in receipt of one or more of:[11]

  • care component of DLA at the higher or middle rate
  • attendance allowance (non-resident carer condition)/attendance allowance at the higher rate (can't share a bedroom condition)
  • daily living component of personal independence payment (PIP)
  • armed forces independence payment.

Carers

A bedroom for a resident overnight carer living in the claimant’s home should be allowed under the general rules set out above.

An additional bedroom for a non-resident overnight carer should be allowed when it is 'reasonably required' by a:[12]

  • disabled claimant or her/his disabled cohabiting partner (any rate of attendance allowance qualifies)
  • (from 1 April 2017) disabled child
  • (from 1 April 2017) disabled non-dependant adult.

A bedroom will be 'reasonably required' if the non-resident carer 'regularly' stays overnight (this might be when care is provided by a team of carers). Whether a bedroom is 'regularly' used needs to be assessed over a long period, and it is not necessary that a carer stays overnight on the majority of nights.[13]

Foster care

An additional bedroom will be allowed if the claimant (or his/her partner, if they claim universal credit as a couple):[14]

  • has a foster child living with her/him, or
  • is between placements and has fostered a child in the last 12 months, or
  • became an approved foster carer in the last 12 months.

There must be a 'spare bedroom' in the home in order for an additional bedroom to be allowed. Only one extra bedroom is permitted regardless of the number (or sex) of foster children in the claimant's household.

Adult placement schemes

The Upper Tribunal has ruled that it is discriminatory not to allow a room for an adult needing care under an adult placement scheme (as respite care or under a longer term arrangement), where a room is allowed for a foster child.[15] However, if the Secretary of State applies to appeal against this decision, a room will not be granted unless the appeal fails.[16]

Children in the Armed Forces

An additional bedroom is allowed if the claimant, or her/his partner, has a child or stepchild who is in the Armed Forces and:[17]

  • is away 'on operations'. This does not necessarily mean on duty outside the UK, it also covers pre-deployment training and post-operation leave (ie 'normalisation')
  • was living at the claimant's home immediately before leaving to go on operations
  • intends to return to the claimant's home.

Separated parents

If parents are separated and they share the care of a child, the child will only be taken into account when calculating the bedroom entitlement of the main carer.[18]

Lodgers

A lodger is not part of a claimant's 'extended benefit unit', and is not included when calculating the bedroom entitlement. However, the rental income from a lodger is fully disregarded when assessing the claimant's income.[19]

Joint tenants

Where joint tenants are not part of an extended benefit unit each joint tenant will be allowed:

  • a bedroom[20]
  • an additional bedroom where the rules outlined above apply. For example, if the joint tenants each have a disabled child who is in need of a non-resident overnight carer[21].

Larger properties: private rented sector

The housing costs element for claimants in private sector accommodation with five or more bedrooms is limited to the four bedroom rate.[22]

Under-occupancy: social rented sector

If a claimant is under-occupying her/his home (ie the number of bedrooms is more than allowed for, see 'Bedroom entitlement' above ), her/his monthly contractual rent (plus any eligible service charges) will be reduced, for the purposes of calculating the housing costs that will be covered under universal credit, by:[23]

  • 14% for under-occupancy by one bedroom,
  • 25% for under-occupancy by two or more bedrooms.

This reduction is commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'. See Restrictions on eligible rents for social rented sector tenants for more information.

No deduction is to be made in respect of under-occupied shared ownership properties.

Claimants of pension age

If a claimant has reached the age to qualify for pension credit, s/he will be exempt from the bedroom tax. If the claimant is part of a couple, both must have reached the age to qualify for pension credit to be exempt from the bedroom tax.[24] The state pension calculator on Gov.uk can be used to calculate the age a claimant will qualify for pension credit.

Excessive rents: social rented sector

If the amount being paid for accommodation in the social rented sector is considered to be unreasonably high, an application can be made to a rent officer to make a rent determination. Where the amount determined by the rent officer is lower than that being charged by the social landlord, this lower amount will be used for the purposes of calculating the housing costs element.[25]

Shared accommodation rate: private rented sector

The shared accommodation rate, in respect of the housing costs elements, is applied to single claimants, with no dependants who are aged under 35, subject to the exceptions set out below.

A single claimant with no dependants who is aged 35 or over will be subject to the one-bedroom rate regardless of the accommodation s/he lives in – even if it is shared accommodation.

Claimants who receive the shared accommodation rate are referred to as 'specified renters'.[26] This rate is equivalent to the broad rental market area rate for a room in shared house in the area where they are living.[27]

Exceptions

The following claimants aged under 35 will not have the shared accommodation rate applied to them:[28]

  • aged 18 or over and under 22 who had been provided with accommodation under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, and who was an eligible or relevant child under the Children Act 1989 before turning 18 - see Leaving care provisions for definitions of eligible and relevant children. (The requirement for a care leaver to be in care on their 16th birthday was removed with effect from 26 May 2016)
  • aged 25 or over and under 35 who have lived in homeless hostels for at least three months, and accepted help to be rehabilitated or resettled into the community. The three month period does not have to be continuous, or in a single hostel, or immediately before the claim for universal credit is made.
  • in receipt of the care component of disability living allowance (middle or highest rate), attendance allowance or the daily living component of personal independence payment.
  • ex-offenders who pose a risk of serious harm to the public and are subject to Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).

Wales

The information on this page reflects the law as applicable in England. Go to Shelter Cymru to check for variations applicable in Wales.

[1] sch.4 Part 5 para 34 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[2] sch.4 Part 4 para 22 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[3] Rent Officers (Universal Credit Functions) Order 2013; sch.4 Part 4 para. 25 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[4] reg 3 Rent Officers (Universal Credit Functions) Order 2013 SI 2013/382.

[5] sch.4 Parts 4 and 5 paras 24 and 35 Universal Credit Regulations 2013; HB Circular A12/2013.

[6] sch.4 Part 3 para 9 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[7] sch.4 Part 3 para 10(1) Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[8] sch.4 Part 3 para 12 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376 as amended by reg 6 Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Size Criteria) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2017 SI 2017/213.

[9] see R (on the application of MA & others) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2016] UKSC 58.

[10] sch.4 Part 3 para 11 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[11] sch. 4 Part 3 para 12 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376 as amended by Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Size Criteria) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/2828 and Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Size Criteria) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2017 SI 2017/213.

[12] sch. 4 Part 3 para 12 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376 as amended by reg 6 Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Size Criteria) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2017 SI 2017/213.

[13] SD v Eastleigh Borough Council (HB) [2014] UKUT 325 (AAC).

[14] sch. 4 Part 3 para 12 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 as amended with effect from 4 December 2013 by Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Size Criteria) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/2828.

[15] Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v PE and Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council (HB) [2017] UKUT 393 (AAC).

[16] s.25, Social Security Act 1998.

[17] sch. 4 Part 3 para 11 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 as amended by reg 2(3)(d) Universal Credit (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/803.

[18] reg 4(4)-(5) Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[19] sch.4 Part 3 para 9 Universal Credit Regulations 2013; para 7.18 Explanatory memorandum to Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[20] sch.4 Part 3 para 10(1) Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376 .

[21] sch.4 Part 3 para 12 Universal Credit Regulations 2013  SI 2013/376  as amended by reg 6 Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Size Criteria) (Miscellaneous Amendments SI 2017/213.

[22] sch.4 Part 4 para 26 Universal Credit Regulations 2013; para 10 HB/CTB Circular A6/2012.

[23] sch.4 Part 5 para 36 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[24] reg 3(2) Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[25] sch.4 Part 5 para 32 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[26] sch.4 Part 4 para 28 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[27] art.3 Rent Officers (Universal Credit Functions) Order 2013.

[28] sch.4 Part 4 para 29 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 as amended by Universal Credit (Care Leavers and Looked After Children) Amendment Regulations 2016 SI 2016/543

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