What is 'under-occupation'?

Local councils now award Housing Benefit based on the number of bedrooms in your home and the number of people in your household.

If your home has more bedrooms 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 was it introduced?

Under-occupation rules came in on 1 April 2013

Who will the "under-occupation" rules affect?

 You will be affected if you:

  1. receive Housing Benefit
  2. rent your home from a social housing provider like Paradigm
  3. are of working age (16-64)
  4. have one or more spare room.

Who won't be affected by the rules?

"Under-occupation" 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
  • an adult child in the armed forces who lives with their parents but is deployed on operations
  • an adult child who is temporarily away (less than 13 weeks or 52 weeks for students) and intends to return home

Based on these 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 bedroom your Housing Benefit will be reduced by 14% of your rent.
  • If you have two or more spare bedrooms 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 for more information.

You could also move to a smaller property by registering with your council's local choice-based lettings schem and bidding on properties. Contact your local council's housing team for more information.

2. You can also try to increase your income by:

  • moving into employment
  • increasing your hours of work
  • asking household members to contribute more
  • renting out a room to a lodger

Where can I find more information?