Help and advice about the 'Bedroom Tax'

Bedroom Tax

In April 2013 Central Government have restricted the number of bedrooms that can be paid under Housing Benefit rules. 


Even if you are using all your rooms you may still have a deduction.




Am I affected by the Bedroom Tax?


From April 1 2013, families of working age who underoccupy their home will have their housing benefit cut if they have one or more spare bedroom.


This is offically known as the removal of the 'Spare Room Subsidy', but is also commonly referred to as an 'Underoccupation Charge' or ‘The Bedroom Tax’.  Please read this factsheet for further information.


If you have a disabled child, a member of your family serves in the armed forces or are a foster carer you may be able to apply for an extra room. These factsheets will give you more details.



What does this mean for me?


If you are curently a social housing tenant, then you will already have had a reduction in your Housing Benefit which is equal to 14% of your total weekly rent if you have one spare bedroom, or 25% if you have two or more 'spare rooms'. 


Remember: The amount of your reduction is based on your total rent payable and not the amount of benefit you receive.


You must make up the difference yourself or you may lose your home.



What if I'm using all the rooms? Do I still have to pay?


Even if every room if used, you may still have a property classed as having extra rooms.  This may be because you have children in their own rooms who could be sharing or you they come to stay with you for overnight access. 


Under the underoccupation guidelines, you can only get full benefit if the rooms are 'fully occupied'.  This might be because the children live with you and they cannot share due to their age, gender or disabilities.  You may also receive full benefit if your spare room is used by an overnight carer who does not normally live with you, you have a child who is serving in the armed forces and will live with you when they return, or you are a foster carer (you can only have a maximum of one spare bedroom for fostering, regardless of how many children you foster). 


Normally children of different genders would be expected to share up to the age of 10.  Children of the same gender would normally be expected to share up to the age of 16. (Even if they currently have their own rooms you may still be 'underoccupied'). 



What does this mean for me?


If you are applying for housing and need an extra bedroom to have children to stay then depending on the landlord you may be registered for housing with additional bedrooms, however you may also need to demonstrate that you can afford to make up any shortfall that may be applied.


If you are already a social housing tenant who has experienced a reduction in your benefit you should have been contacted by your landlord to discuss your plans on how you will pay your rent in the long term. If you haven't been contacted by them, you should call them without delay to let them know about your intentions.


If you intend to stay long term, you will have to pay the difference yourself. If you want to move to a smaller property you should speak to your housing officer as soon as possible as there may some time before something suitable becomes available.



Why can't the council or housing association just move me straight away to a smaller home?


If you have decided you want to move to a smaller home, you are probably not the only one who wants to do this. 


There are many other households in the same situation as you,  and there are far more households who need to downsize than there are empty properties available.


The sooner you ask to move, the earlier you are likely to be offered something.



I want to move to a smaller property but there is nothing currently available.


There are a number of options available to you in the short (or even the long term if you wish) to make up the difference. 


Mutual exchanges through Homeswapper and House Swap Wales may be the fastest route into an appropriately sized property. 


You could also look at the private rented sector for possible properties.  We currently advertise available private properties here.


You could take in a lodger.  This doesn't have to be a stranger, you could rent a room to a friend or family member.  However you may have a 'Non Dependent Charge' on your benefit claim if they are not dependent on you.  You may need to get them to contribute towards the rent themselves if this happens. 


Under current rules your lodger will not be able to claim Housing Benefit for renting one of your rooms if you are a close family relation and live at the same property. You may also need permission from your landlord to sublet a room in your home.  However if they are working then you can ask them for a contribution for keep to make up any shortfall in your income.


You could apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to make the up shortfall.  However this will normally only help you in the short term whilst you look for somewhere affordable to live. 


If you are currently working, you could see if it is possible to work extra hours with your current or another employer. 



Who can I talk to about my situation?


If you are struggling to make up the difference in your rent you should speak to your landlord immediately.


They are more than likely able to put you in touch with someone who can guide you through the current options within their own organsiation. 


The Local Council also have advice staff ready to help and advise about how to increase your household income and look for somewhere else to live. Click here to contact a welfare reform officer if you are struggling with your rent as a result of the bedroom tax.