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How many bedrooms you can claim benefits for

The number of bedrooms you can get benefits for depends on the age, sex and number of people in your household.

Private renters

The most you can get towards your rent is your local housing allowance (LHA) rate.

Local housing allowance is often less than your rent. You have to pay anything that is not covered from other income or benefits.

Most single private renters under 35 can only get the shared accommodation rate. But there are exceptions and you might get a higher LHA rate.

Council and housing association tenants

Your benefit is reduced if you have spare bedrooms. This is known as the bedroom tax. You must pay the rent shortfall yourself.

1. Check how many people you can claim for

The rules are different for universal credit and housing benefit.

If you get universal credit housing element

Only include:

  • you and any dependent children

  • your partner if you live with them

  • any other adults who live with you but do not pay rent

Do not include lodgers or other joint tenants, except for your partner.

If you get housing benefit

Count everyone who lives in your home including lodgers and other joint tenants.

If your children have 2 homes

Your children can only be included in the benefit claim and bedroom entitlement of 1 person.

With UC, you can jointly agree which one of you is the main carer.

If you cannot agree, the DWP decides based on the actual arrangements. For example, where the children spend the most time.

With housing benefit, the main carer is the person who gets child benefit for the children.

You can apply for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) if your children need a bedroom but are not included in your UC or housing benefit claim.

2. Work out your bedroom entitlement

You can usually claim for 1 bedroom for: 

  • 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

Foster children

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

Overnight carers

You get payment 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 get payment for an extra bedroom if due to disability:

  • an adult cannot share with their partner

  • a child cannot 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

You can only claim for a maximum of 4 bedrooms if you rent privately.

3. 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 cannot 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.

If you get housing benefit, it could mean you have to move to universal credit.

Find out more about:

Household members who are 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 are away

  • how they are related to you

  • which benefit you claim

You cannot usually continue to claim for a household member who you do not expect to return within the temporary absence 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:  

  • 6 months if you get universal credit

  • 12 months if you get housing benefit

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 stepchild 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 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 return to the family home.

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

  • 13 weeks - if sentenced

  • 52 weeks - if on remand

You must expect them to return home within this time. You cannot include them if they decide not to return or end up spending longer in prison. 

Absences abroad

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

  • 1 month if you get universal credit  

  • 4 weeks if you get housing benefit

This does not apply to adult children in the armed forces who are away on operations.

4. If your benefit is wrongly calculated

You can ask for a review of a:

Find out more about challenging a benefits decision from Citizens Advice.

Last updated: 9 March 2023

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