Find out if you are affected by cuts to your housing benefit if you're a council or housing association tenant with a spare bedroom.
What is the bedroom tax?
The bedroom tax is a cut in housing benefit if you live in a council or housing association home and are classed as having a spare bedroom.
You claim housing benefit from the council. You can only claim for a certain number of bedrooms, depending on who lives in your home.
Who the bedroom tax applies to
You may get less housing benefit if you're a council or housing association tenant and:
- you have more bedrooms than the rules allow
- you're of working age
The bedroom tax will not apply for the first 13 weeks of your housing benefit claim if you haven't claimed within the last 52 weeks.
When the bedroom tax doesn't apply
If you or your partner are of pension credit age and claiming housing benefit you won't be affected by the bedroom tax.
The bedroom tax doesn't apply to you if you live in:
- private rented housing (local housing allowance is worked out using different rules)
- certain types of temporary or supported accommodation
How much housing benefit you lose
Bedroom tax is applied to your 'net rent' (the rent when things like water charges are removed, as these aren't covered by housing benefit). The housing benefit office calls this your 'eligible rent'.
The amount of net rent is cut by:
- 14% if you have one spare bedroom
- 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms
For example, if your net rent is £100 a week, you need to pay the following extra rent yourself:
- £14 more if you have one spare room
- £25 more if you have two spare rooms
Bedrooms allowed for household members
You can get housing benefit for 1 bedroom for each:
- adult couple
- member of a couple who can't share a bedroom because of a disability
- single person over 16 (including lodgers and friends or relatives who live with you)
- disabled child under 16 who can't share a bedroom because of their disability
- 2 children of the same sex under 16
- 2 children of either sex under 10
Your housing benefit might still be reduced if a lodger pays you rent or you live with adult friends or relatives who are expected to contribute to your rent.
Extra bedroom for an overnight carer
You can get housing benefit for a spare bedroom if a non-resident carer (or team of carers) regularly stays overnight to provide care to you or another household member.
The person who needs care must provide evidence of overnight care needs or get one of the following disability benefits:
- disability living allowance (DLA) - middle or high care component
- personal independence payment (PIP) - daily living component
- attendance allowance
You can only get housing benefit for one extra bedroom under this rule.
Extra bedroom if you're a foster carer
You can get housing benefit for an extra bedroom if you're a foster carer and you have:
- a foster child placed with you
- fostered or been approved within the last 12 months and are waiting for a placement
You can only get housing benefit for one extra bedroom under this rule, regardless of the number of foster children living with you.
If household members are away
Your housing benefit will not be affected if your child is in the armed forces and away on operations if they:
- lived with you before they went away
- intend to return home when not on operations
They can be away indefinitely as long as they intend to return.
The following household members can also count as occupying their bedroom if they are only away temporarily:
- students who are returning regularly, for example during holidays
- people in hospital who intend to return within 52 weeks
- prisoners who are sentenced to 6 months or less
Bedrooms you can't get housing benefit for
You can't get housing benefit for bedrooms you use for:
- children who've left home and don't plan to return
- visiting children who live elsewhere and who you don't claim child benefit for
- a 'sanctuary room', where your home was adapted to make it secure for you after you experienced domestic violence
- storage of medical or specialist equipment
If your circumstances change
You must tell the council if your circumstances change so that your housing benefit can be recalculated.
This could be if:
- your child leaves home
- your child is too old to continue sharing a bedroom with a child of the opposite sex (as soon as they're 10 years old)
- you have a baby or adopt or foster a child
- a relative or lodger moves in with you
- you or your partner reach pension credit age
If someone in your household dies you must report this to the council. Your housing benefit won't be reduced for 12 months after the death.
What to do if your housing benefit is cut
If housing benefit doesn't cover your full rent, you must pay the shortfall yourself or you risk losing your home.
- try to increase your income. Find out more from Money Saving Expert
- ask your landlord if you can rent out a room (income from lodgers may affect your benefits)
- move to a smaller home via a tenancy transfer or mutual exchange
You could also apply to the council for a discretionary housing payment.
Appeal against the council's decision
You can ask the council to look at their decision again if you think your housing benefit shouldn't have been cut.
Find out how to find a benefits adviser with the Money Advice Service.
Last updated 18 Apr 2017 | © Shelter
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