Bedroom Tax from 2013

What is 'bedroom tax'?

Since 1 April 2013, new housing benefit rules mean you won't be able to get housing benefit to pay for all of your rent if your home has 'spare bedrooms'. This is being called the 'bedroom tax', but letters from the council may call it 'size limit rules', 'under-occupancy' or 'under-occupancy rules'.

If you’re a council or housing association tenant of working age receiving housing benefit and renting a home that has more bedrooms than you need, it’s likely that your housing benefit will be reduced. Pensioners claiming housing benefit won't be affected.

The new limit on the number of rooms you can claim for is based on the number of people living in your home. If you have more bedrooms than the new rules say you need, you will be treated as ‘under-occupying’ your home. You’ll get less of your rent paid for by housing benefit.

If housing benefit no longer covers the full cost of your rent, you will have to pay the rest of the rent yourself. This must be paid directly to your landlord.

Who is affected by 'bedroom tax' from April 2013?

'Bedroom tax' will affect council and housing association tenants of working age (below state pension age) who claim housing benefit to pay some or all of their rent.

You will only be affected if you are assessed as having 'spare' rooms. There will be a limit on the number of rooms that housing benefit will pay for. Any rooms you have above the limit will be treated as spare rooms. You will be expected to pay the rent for these extra rooms yourself.

The 'bedroom tax' will affect housing benefit claims for both new and existing claims from April 2013. However, if you have not claimed housing benefit in the 52 weeks before a making a new claim, the 'bedroom tax' reduction won't apply for the first 13 weeks of your claim.

Who won't be affected by bedroom tax?

The 'bedroom tax' won't affect you if you (or your partner) have reached state pension credit age. On 1 April 2013, when the bedroom tax starts, you will have reached state pension credit age if you are a man or woman aged 61 years and 5 months.

You can check if you are of pension credit age by using the state pension age calculator.

The reduction to housing benefit for households with extra bedrooms also won't apply to:

  • people living in shared ownership properties
  • people living in caravans, mobile homes and houseboats
  • people living in some types of supported accommodation
  • homeless people housed in temporary accommodation provided by the council (unless it is owned by the council).

How much will be housing benefit be reduced by?

Before the 'bedroom tax' changes, housing benefit calculations counted 100% of your 'eligible rent' as a starting point for assessing how much housing benefit you would be paid. 'Eligible rent' covers rent charges but not other charges such as heating that you may also pay to your council or housing association landlord.

From 1 April 2013, if you have more bedrooms than the new 'bedroom tax' rules say you need, your 'eligible rent' will be reduced:

  • 14% will be taken off if you have one extra bedroom.
  • 25% will be taken off if you have two (or more) extra bedrooms.

So, if you have one 'spare bedroom' and your rent is £100 per week, only £86 will count when your housing benefit is assessed. You will have to pay at least £14 to your landlord yourself.

Similarly, if you have two or more 'spare bedrooms', and your rent is £100 per week, only £75 will count when your housing benefit is assessed. You will have to pay at least £25 to your landlord yourself.

You may have to pay more - this will depend on your circumstances, income, savings and contributions from adults who live with you.

How many bedrooms can you claim housing benefit for?

From April 2013, new rules on 'under occupancy' mean that you can only claim housing benefit for:

  • one bedroom for a couple
  • one bedroom for a person aged 16 or over
  • one bedroom for two children aged under 16 of the same sex
  • one bedroom for two children aged under 10 (boys and girls are expected to share a room)
  • one bedroom for any other child
  • one extra bedroom if you or your partner needs an overnight carer to stay.

Children who don’t normally live with you are not included in the calculation of the number of bedrooms. If you share the care of a child, the child is counted as living in the home of the person who gets child benefit for them.

A severely disabled child who needs a room of their own won't be required to share a room. The council will make a decision on if an extra room is needed. The council should take into account the severity of a child's disability (including medical evidence and if an award of disability living allowance has been made) and how regularly another child's sleep would be disturbed if they shared a room.

One extra room is allowed for approved foster carers who are fostering a child or children. You can keep the room allowance for an empty room set aside for a foster child if you became an approved foster carer or have fostered a child in the last 12 months.

If you are adopting a child or children, they are counted for the room allowance once an adoption order is made. If children are placed with you before adoption, you are allowed one room only for them.

A room is counted for a member of the armed forces who is serving away, providing they intend to return to your home. 

For students away from home, a room will be counted providing they are only away temporarily (less than 52 weeks) and intend to return home. 

You should get advice from a welfare benefits adviser if you don't agree with the number of rooms the council says you need. Use our directory to find a local advice service.

How you could be affected by bedroom tax

You won't be allowed to claim housing benefit for 'extra' rooms that are used for:

  • children visiting a divorced or separated parent
  • couples who use separate bedrooms because of illness or disability
  • rooms used by disabled adults to store medical equipment.

Some disabled adults living in adapted or specially designed properties will face cuts to their housing benefit, but it will not be practical or affordable for them to move. You may be able to claim a discretionary housing payment if you are affected. Limited extra funds have been set aside for people in this situation.

How you will pay rent under the new rules

If the housing benefit you receive at the moment doesn’t cover all your rent and other charges, you may already be paying your landlord the difference between the housing benefit and the rent. If you are affected by the new 'bedroom tax' rules, the amount you pay may go up, but you will pay your landlord in the same way

Until now, housing benefit may have covered the full cost of your rent. But from April 2013, being classed as ‘under-occupying your home’ will mean that you will receive a reduced amount of housing benefit. You will have to start paying some of your rent yourself.

Ask your council or housing association about ways to pay this. Use the search to find your council.