Under-occupation ('The Bedroom Tax')
What is 'under-occupation'?
Under new rules being introduced by the government, local authorities will be awarding Housing Benefit based on the number of bedrooms in your home and the number of people in your household.
If your home has more rooms than the government says you need, you will be classed as ‘under-occupying’ the property and your Housing Benefit will be reduced.
You may also hear the new under-occupation rules being referred to as 'Size Criteria' or the 'Bedroom Tax'.
When will it be introduced?
Under-occupation rules came in on 1 April 2013
Who will the under-occupation rules affect?
The new rules will affect you if you:
- receive Housing Benefit
- rent your home from a social housing provider like Paradigm
- are of working age and
- have one or more spare room.
‘Working age’ currently means anyone aged 16 to 61 years and six months.
Who won’t be affected?
Under-occupation rules will not affect you if you:
- do not receive Housing Benefit
- are old enough to receive Pension Credits
- do not have a spare bedroom
- are renting from a private landlord, even if that tenancy is arranged through a social housing provider like Paradigm
The government has also announced that foster carers and some parents of those serving in the armed forces away on active duty will also be exempt from the new rules.
What is a ‘spare room’?
The government’s new rules mean you will be allowed one bedroom for:
- each adult couple
- any other person aged 16 or over
- two children of the same sex under 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
- a foster child (as long as the period without a child does not exceed 52 weeks)
- a child with a disability who cannot share a bedroom - see guidance
- an adult child in the armed forces who lives with their parents but is deployed on operations
- an adult child who is temporarily (less than 13 weeks or 52 weeks for students) and intends to return home
Based on those rules, if you have one or more spare rooms, your Housing Benefit will be reduced.
How much could be deducted from my Housing Benefit?
- If you have one spare room your Housing Benefit will be reduced by 14% of your rent.
- If you have two or more spare rooms your Housing Benefit will be reduced by 25% of your rent.
Please note that if your Housing Benefit is reduced, you are responsible for paying any shortfall in your rent to Paradigm. If you get into arrears, you could risk losing your home.
I have a spare room, what can I do?
1. You could move to a smaller property.
One way to do this is by a mutual exchange where you swap homes with another social tenant – visit www.homeswapper.co.uk for more information.
You could also move to a smaller property by transferring home through your local choice-based lettings scheme. Contact your local council's housing team for more information.
2. You can also try to increase your income by:
- getting a job
- increasing your hours of work
- asking family members to contribute more
- renting out a room to a lodger
Where can I find more information?
- You should contact your local council if you have any questions around under-occupation or your Housing Benefit. Find your local council.
- You can use this bedroom tax calculator from Citizens Advice
- You can check what benefits you are entitled to through this online benefits adviser.
- For support and guidance around budgeting contact or visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau -
- To try to exchange your home, visit www.homeswapper.co.uk
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