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How to deal with the bedroom tax

The bedroom tax means you get less benefits to help with rent if you are:

  • working age

  • classed as having a spare bedroom

  • a council or housing association tenant

The bedroom tax means you get less universal credit or housing benefit. You have to pay more of your rent from other income.

The DWP call it an 'under occupancy charge' or 'removal of the spare room subsidy'.

Most pension age people are not affected by the bedroom tax. But your universal credit could go down if your partner is below pension age and you claim as a couple.

You can check the date you will reach pension age on GOV.UK

How many bedrooms can you get benefits for?

This depends on:

  • how many people live in your home

  • their age and sex

If you have more bedroom than the rules allow, it counts as a spare bedroom even if you use it or someone sleeps in it.

How much benefit do you lose?

The bedroom tax reduces the amount of your rent that can be paid by benefits.

The rent that can be covered goes down by:

  • 14% for 1 spare bedroom

  • 25% for 2 or more spare bedrooms

Example of the bedroom tax

Your rent is £450 a month.

You get universal credit (UC). This has a housing element to help with rent.

The most you can get as your UC housing element is:

  • £387 if you have 1 spare room

  • £337.50 if you have 2 spare rooms

You still have to pay your full rent.

If someone you live with has died

Universal credit does not usually go down straight away if someone you live with dies.

For up to 3 months your benefit is worked out as if they had not died. This is sometimes called 'bereavement run on'.

You should not be affected by the bedroom tax during this time.

Marie Curie charity has a guide to benefits when someone dies.

Ask for a discretionary housing payment top up

A discretionary housing payment (DHP) is an extra payment from your council if you are struggling to pay rent because of things like the bedroom tax.

Contact your council's discretionary housing payments team

What is your location?

Easy read advice

Find easy read advice about discretionary housing payments (DHPs) on the Mencap website.

Think about downsizing

Your council or housing association might encourage you to move to a smaller home. They should not pressure you to do this.

Find out about being asked to downsize after a tenant has died.

Some councils and housing associations give you:

You could also look for a mutual exchange with another tenant.

It is not usually a good idea to give up your social tenancy to rent privately. 

This is because:

  • private rents are high

  • local housing allowance may not cover your rent

  • you can be evicted more easily in a private tenancy

  • it could be very hard to get another council or housing association home

Let someone move in to your spare room

A family member or a friend could move into your spare room.

If they do not pay you rent they count as a 'non dependant'. This means an adult who lives with you on an informal basis.

Your benefit will not be affected by the bedroom tax anymore. But might get less benefit if your relative or friend is expected to pay something towards your rent.

Find out more about 'non dependant deductions' if you get:

Rent out your spare room

You can rent the room to a lodger if you have a secure tenancy.

With other tenancy types you need your landlord's permission.

You should not sublet without permission because it breaks your tenancy agreement and you could be evicted.

Example: how lodgers affect universal credit

Renata lives alone in a 2 bedroom housing association flat. The rent is £450 a month.

Renata's UC housing element is reduced by £63 a month because of the bedroom tax.

She gets permission to rent out her spare room. She charges a lodger £160 a month.

Renata's housing element is still reduced by £63 a month because of the bedroom tax.

But the money Renata gets from her lodger means she can pay the rent shortfall and keep the extra money.

Renata's UC will not go down because rent from lodgers does not count as income.

The rules are different if you get housing benefit. If you get a lodger, the council will not make a bedroom tax deduction any more.

You can charge a lodger up to £20 a week. This will not affect your housing benefit or other benefits. If you charge more than this it counts as income and your benefits can go down.

You have responsibilities if someone moves in and pays you rent.

Read about things to think about before getting a lodger on Citizens Advice.

Get benefits advice

Try and speak to a benefits adviser before doing anything that could affect your benefits. An adviser could help with a 'better off' calculation to work out what is best for you.

You can check your benefits with the entitledto benefits calculator.

Find out where to get benefits advice.

Challenge a bedroom tax decision

You can ask for a review of a benefits decision if you think it's wrong.

Find out more from Citizens Advice about challenging a:

Last updated: 13 March 2024

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