From April 2013, if you are of working age and rent your home from a housing association, your Housing Benefit will be reduced if you have more bedrooms than the rules say your household needs. You may have heard this referred to as the 'Bedroom Tax'.
The new rules allow one bedroom for:
- every adult couple (married or unmarried)
- any other adult aged 16 or over
- any two children of the same sex aged under 16
- any two children aged under 10
- any other child, (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)
- a carer who does not normally live with you but provide you or your partner with overnight care.
How many rooms am I entitled to?
To work out how many bedrooms you are entitled please visit the bedroom calculator.
When bedroom tax doesn't apply: special cases
You can claim housing benefit for a spare bedroom if:
- you're disabled and have an overnight carer who normally lives elsewhere (only 1 spare bedroom is allowed)
- you have a disabled child under 16 who can't share a room - there are qualifying conditions in that you must receive middle or high rate of Disability Living Allowance or equivalent Personal Independence Payment and the child reasonably requires their own bedroom.
- you're a foster carer who's been approved by social services and is between placements or newly approved (for up to 52 weeks)
- you have a child away in the armed or reserve forces (if they plan to return to live with you)
In each of the above scenarios, we can grant an extra bedroom which may make a difference to the calculation of your Housing Benefit. Where circumstances are not met you may alternatively request a Discretionary Housing Payment (see below for details) to limit any hardship felt.
How could I be affected?
You may already have received a letter from the District Council or your landlord telling you about a 14% or 25% reduction in the benefit that you are likely to receive.
The amount allowed for rent and any service charges will be reduced by:
- 14% for under-occupancy by 1 bedroom
- 25% for under-occupancy by 2 bedrooms or more
If you are thinking of moving you need to consider these changes before renewing or making a new tenancy agreement. We would encourage you to talk to your landlord or to the Benefits Sections as soon as possible to ensure that you can help get access to any help that is available to you. Many households (with the assistance of their landlord) have successfully requested additional help to mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax reduction. This is referred to as a Discretionary Housing Payment or DHP. Please see below for further advice in this respect.
What can I do now?
If you are worried about paying your rent following a bedroom tax reduction in your benefit you should seek advice now. If you don't pay your rent you could lose your home.
- Pay the shortfall - You may feel you can afford to pay the shortfall in your Housing Benefit award out of the other income you receive.
- Talk to your landlord about moving to a smaller home. Housing Association tenants will need to call your landlord.
- Consider taking in a lodger. Call the Benefits Section to see how taking a lodger in may affect your benefits. You will need to talk to your landlord if you are thinking about this.
- Go to Exchange Locata where you can register your details and search for properties that are more suitable for your needs so you can swap properties with someone else. Our Home Options Team that could assist you in locating a smaller property, Call them on 01629 761 117.
- You can get in touch with your local Citizens Advice Bureau or other local advice agencies.
- Apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment - If you receive Housing Benefit and still find it difficult to pay the remaining rent due you could apply for Discretionary Housing Payment. This should only be seen as a temporary solution to help you cover a short period until your circumstances change.
A Discretionary Housing Payment (or DHP) may be payable to you to top up your Housing Benefit to make up all or some of the reduction. This is if you do not have enough income to pay your rent and have a compelling case for remaining in your current home.
We also need to hear from you if you are a foster carer, your home has had disabled adaptations or you have a disabled child who requires their own bedroom.
A DHP award is payable for the rent year in which it is requested, so at the start of a new rent year every April you are expected to make a repeat claim for the award to continue on. An award is made for a set period and often for a set amount (both based on your individual circumstances) which may not cover all of the rent shortfall. An award may also be cancelled off where a landlord reports that you are not regularly paying the rent set by agreement with that landlord.
Normally a written request will be necessary giving full information about your circumstances and why you think you are eligible to the additional support. It is important that you contact our Benefits Section if you want further advice about how to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment.
There is a limited amount of money for Discretionary Housing Payments and we will not be able to assist everyone. For the majority of claims, the purpose of the Discretionary Housing Payment is to help you to maintain your current tenancy for a short time while you look for accommodation that is a more suitable size for your household.