How many bedrooms you can claim benefits for

Housing benefit and the universal credit housing element are based on the number of bedrooms you can claim for. Check your bedroom entitlement.

How bedrooms affect your benefit

The number of bedrooms in your home affects the calculation of:

  • housing benefit
  • universal credit housing element

The number, age and sex of the people in your household affects the number of bedrooms you can claim for.

Council and housing association tenants

Your benefit is reduced if you have more bedrooms than the rules allow. This is known as the bedroom tax. You must cover any shortfall in rent from other income or benefits.

Private renters

The maximum amount you can get is the local housing allowance (LHA) rate that applies to your household. This is often less than your actual rent and you must cover any shortfall.

Check how many people you can claim for

If you claim housing benefit, count everyone who lives in your home including:

  • you - and a partner if you have one
  • dependent children
  • other adults who don't pay rent
  • lodgers and other joint tenants

If you claim universal credit, only include you, your partner, dependent children and any adults who live with you but don't pay rent. Don't include lodgers or joint tenants except for your partner.

Work out your bedroom entitlement

You can generally claim for 1 bedroom for each of the following: 

  • you - and a partner if claiming as a couple
  • each other couple (only if you claim HB) 
  • each other person aged 16 or over (even if part of a couple if you claim UC) 
  • 2 children under 16 of the same sex
  • 2 children under 10 of any sex
  • any other child under 16

You can only claim for a maximum of 4 bedrooms (including any extra bedrooms) if you're a private renter who gets local housing allowance.

Foster child

You qualify for 1 extra bedroom if you have a foster child placed with you, or for up to 12 months between placements.

Overnight carer

You qualify for an extra bedroom if anyone in your household receives overnight care on a regular basis from a non-resident carer and gets any of the following benefits: 

  • PIP - daily living component
  • DLA - middle or high care component
  • attendance allowance - higher rate if you get HB; any rate if you get UC

Disabled person who can't share a bedroom

You qualify for an extra bedroom if due to disability:

  • an adult can't share with their partner
  • a child can't share with another child

The disabled person must get one of the following benefits:

  • PIP - daily living component
  • DLA - middle or high care component
  • attendance allowance - higher rate

Report any changes in your household

Your bedroom entitlement could increase if:

  • a friend or family member moves in
  • you have a baby, adopt a child or become a foster carer
  • your child reaches an age where they're no longer expected to share
  • a disabled household member can't share or needs an overnight carer

Your bedroom entitlement could go down if a household member moves out or is away for longer than the rules allow.

Find out how to report changes if you get:

If a household member is away

You can include a household member in your claim if they're only away temporarily. 

How long you can include them for depends on:

  • where they go
  • why they're away
  • how they're related to you
  • whether you claim housing benefit or universal credit

You can't usually continue to claim for a household member who you don't expect to return within the time limits.

Partners and dependent children

Include them in your claim if they're away in England, Scotland or Wales and expected to return and occupy their room within:  

  • 12 months if you get housing benefit
  • 6 months if you get universal credit

They can usually be away for any reason. For example, working or in hospital.

Children in local authority care

If you get universal credit, a child who is taken into care continues to count as part of your household for 6 months if they were included in your claim immediately before this.

Your housing element may go down after 6 months unless your child returns home.

Adult children in the armed forces

If your child or step-child is away on operations, you can include them indefinitely if they:

  • lived with you before they went away
  • intend to return home when not on operations  

Household members in prison

If you get housing benefit, you can include a household member in prison for up to:

  • 13 weeks if they've been sentenced
  • 52 weeks if they're on remand

You must expect them to return home within this time. They won't count if they decide not to return or end up spending longer in prison. 

If you get universal credit, you can include a household member for their first 6 months in prison even if you don't expect them to return. Your bedroom entitlement could go down after this unless they've returned to the family home.

Absences abroad

You can't usually include a household member who leaves England, Scotland or Wales unless you expect them to return within:

  • 4 weeks if you get housing benefit
  • 1 month if you get universal credit  

This doesn't apply to adult children in the armed forces who are away on operations.

If your benefit is wrongly calculated

You can ask for a review of a:

Get help with a review

An adviser may be able to check your entitlement and help you challenge a decision:

Search for a local Shelter service

Search for your local Citizens Advice


Last updated 04 Dec 2018 | © Shelter

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help

Get help

Was this advice helpful?

Email a link to this article

Thank you - your message has been sent.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.

Was this advice helpful?

Thank you - your feedback has been submitted to the team.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.