welfare reform – bedroom tax and under-occupancy
How many bedrooms do you have?
The rules for under-occupation will be different under Universal Credit. See Universal Credit for more information.
From April 2013, if you live in a council or housing association home and you have one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms your housing benefit may be reduced.
This could affect you if:
- you are 16 to 61 years old
- you only receive a small amount of housing benefit – for example, if you are working
- you are sick or disabled
You won’t be affected if:
- you live in a one bedroom flat or bedsit, or if
- you or your partner are old enough to receive pension credits. In April 2013 the pension credit age will be around 61 years and 6 months
Under the new rules if you have more bedrooms than the Government says you need, you will lose part of your housing benefit.
The new rules mean you will be allocated one bedroom for:
- each adult couple
- any other person aged 16 or over
- two children of the same sex under the age of 16
- two children under the age of 10 regardless of their sex
- any other child
- a carer (who does not normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care
It does not matter how the ‘spare’ bedroom is used, the new rules will apply even if:
- you and your partner need to sleep apart because of a medical condition
- your children mainly live somewhere else, but you have a spare room for when they stay with you
If you have one spare bedroom your housing benefit will be cut by 14% of full the rent and service charge on your property. If you have two or more spare bedrooms, you will lose 25%. If your benefit is cut you will have to pay your landlord the difference between your housing benefit and your rent.
Do you have a disability and need overnight care?
If you are of working age, have a disability and need a ‘spare’ bedroom so that a carer can stay overnight you should contact your local council now so that staff canhelp you keep more of your housing benefit.
What should you do if you are under-occupying?
If you are worried about being able to afford to pay your rent from April 2013 you should ask for advice now. If you don’t pay your rent you could lose your home, so talk to Charter about different ways to pay.
You can also:
- Talk to Charter about transferring to a smaller home or taking in a lodger. You can find more information on this here.
- Contact your council to ask about extra financial help. Councils have a limited amount of money available to make discretionary payments towards housing costs. Your council may prioritise your claim if you have a disability and your house has been adapted.
- Get in touch with your local citizens advice bureau (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) or other local advice agencies.
- Make sure you are claiming all the benefits you can, for example, money to help with the costs of a disability.
- Try to find some paid work to increase your income.
The rules for under-occupancy under Universal Credit will be slightly different. Under this new benefit, the rules for having a spare bedroom will apply unless both members of a couple are over pension age. Under the existing Housing
Benefit system, only one member of a couple needs to be over pension age for under-occupation not to apply.
Under-occupying your home under Universal Credit
The rules for under-occupancy under Universal Credit will be slightly different. Under this new benefit, the rules for having a spare bedroom will apply unless both members of a couple are over pension age. Under the existing Housing Benefit system, only one member of a couple needs to be over pension age for under-occupation not to apply.
Case Study:’The Bedroom Tax’
Mr & Mrs Bell
Mr and Mrs Bell live with their two teenage boys, aged 13 and 15, in a three bedroom house. Their rent is £100 per week and they receive £10 per week in housing benefit. Under the new rules their children will be expected to share a bedroom and so they will be treated as having one spare bedroom. Their housing benefit will be reduced by 14% of £100 (£14), and so they will lose all their housing benefit.
Mr & Mrs Smith
Mr and Mrs Smith live in a two-bedroom flat costing £70 per week in rent. At the moment housing benefit covers the full cost of their rent. Under the new rules they will have one spare bedroom. Their housing benefit will be reduced by 14% of their rent (14% of £70 = £9.80) Their housing benefit will be reduced by £9.80 to £60.20 per week. They will have to pay £9.80 per week towards their rent.