Under Occupancy (bedroom tax) Charges

What is changing?

If you have one ‘spare’ bedroom, the amount of housing benefit you are allowed will be reduced by 14% of the rent and any eligible service charges. If you have two or more spare bedrooms, you will lose 25%. Rules around spare bedrooms are strict and these changes only apply to working age people (16 years to pension credit age) claiming housing benefit. You can work out whether you may be affected by this change using the Entitled to Bedroom Calculator.

When do the new rules apply?

The under occupancy rules come into effect from 1 April 2013 for all new and existing tenants.

How many bedrooms am I allowed?

The rules allow one bedroom for each of the following people:

  • 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 (or team of carers) who do not live with you but provide you or your partner with overnight care

To work out how many bedrooms you are entitled please visit the GOV.UK bedroom calculator

How much is the reduction?

The table below shows the weekly reduction we would take from your Housing Benefit, depending on your rent and the number of bedrooms which you under occupy. 

Under occupancy charges
Eligible Rent* Reduction from your weekly housing benefit if you under occupy by one bedroom (14%)Reduction from your weekly housing benefit if you under occupy by two bedrooms or more (25%) 

£12

£16.80

 £30

£10

£14.00

 £25

£8

£11.20

 £20

£6

£8.40

 £15

*The eligible rent is the maximum amount of Housing Benefit we can award based on your rent and eligible service charges. The reduction is worked out using this figure and then taken off your weekly amount of Housing Benefit.

Who will be affected by this change?

The change will affect all working age Housing Benefit claimants, living in Social Housing, who are deemed to have at least one spare bedroom. This includes:

  • Separated parents who share childcare arrangements. The parent receiving child benefit will generally be allowed an extra bedroom, but the other parent may be deemed to be under occupying.
  • Couples who use their ‘spare’ bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation.
  • Foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes.
  • Parents whose children visit but are not part of the household.
  • Families with disabled children.
  • Disabled people including people living in adapted or specially designed properties.

What is the definition of working age?

Working age is defined as being under state pension credit age, which is currently 62 years old for both men and women. However, this age is rising in line with changes to the state pension age.

Mixed couples, where one person is above pension age and their partner is below pension age will be treated as a pension age couple, so will not be affected by these changes. However, this is likely to change under Universal Credit, which is set to replace Housing Benefit from October 2013 to 2017.  

Who is not affected?

People over pension age are not affected by this change. There are also certain circumstances where the size limit rules will not be applied. These are:

  • Shared ownership accommodation. For example where the landlord and tenant own percentage shares in the property.
  • Non-mainstream accommodation – these are mooring charges for house boats and site charges for caravans and mobile homes etc.
  • Temporary accommodation – any claimant who is placed in temporary accommodation by the local authority because they are homeless or to prevent homelessness.
  • Exempt accommodation – the size limit rules will not be applied to those in supported ‘exempt’ accommodation. This is defined as accommodation provided by a housing association, a registered charity or voluntary association where that body, or a person acting on its behalf, also provides the claimant with care, support or supervision.

An extra room is allowed where a tenant needs an overnight carer and the current 13 week and 52 week protections (available under local housing allowance) will also apply. The 13 week protection is available to people claiming benefit for the first time (i.e. not claimed within the last 52 weeks) who could previously afford their rent, prior to application. The 52 week protection is available where a family member (who is part of the household) has died.

Households where there is a room kept for a student studying away from home will not be deemed to be under-occupying if the student is away for less than 52 weeks (under housing benefit) or 6 months (under Universal Credit).

What happens if I am under occupying my property?

If you live in a Housing Association property and claim Housing Benefit (HB), we will write to you in November to tell you whether you are likely to be classed as under occupying your property. If you get one of these letters, it is important that you get advice quickly. The first step will be to make sure that the information we are using is correct and contact your landlord or one of the organisations listed below about your options.

We will write out again to all affected tenants in March 2013, with further details. 

How many people are affected by this change?

Nationally this change will affect an estimated 660,000 working-age social tenants. This is approx.31% of existing working-age housing benefit claimants in the social sector. The majority of these people have one extra bedroom.

Locally this change will affect an estimated 2400 working age tenants within Trafford. The average loss in benefit will be approximately £14, per week.

What is eligible rent?

The reduction in Housing Benefit will be worked out on the ‘eligible rent’ (the amount of rent that a person can claim Housing Benefit against). For someone on full Housing Benefit this would be their full rent plus eligible service charges (some service charges can’t be claimed against). Some people receive partial HB, depending on their income and circumstances.

What about foster carers?

When calculating how many bedrooms a family unit requires, a room for a foster child will not be taken into account. Therefore, a household that has an extra room for a current or potential foster child will be treated as under-occupying. If assessed as under-occupying, foster carers should apply for a discretionary housing payment.

Are disabled tenants exempt?

Other than the cases stated above (for example, if you need an overnight carer) there will be no exceptions to how the size limit rules are applied. However, we may be able to help you with the extra rent through the Discretionary Housing Payment fund, particularly if you have had extensive adaptations to cater for your disability.

What is the definition of a bedroom?

We have written to all registered landlords who have supplied details of the property size data for their housing stock within Trafford. This should match what is on any tenancy agreement and reflect the level of rent charged. The under occupancy rules will not take account of whether a room is a single or a double bedroom. A room either is a bedroom or is not a bedroom

What options are available to affected tenants?

The following options are available:

  • Covering the shortfall from other personal income
  • Finding work or increasing part time hours
  • Taking in a lodger or another family member

This depends on your circumstances, but most of the additional resource the council will receive for 2013/14 is intended for those residents affected by this measure who are unlikely to be able to meet the shortfall and for whom moving to a smaller property may be inappropriate.

It is aimed specifically at two groups: disabled people living in significantly adapted accommodation – including any adaptations made for disabled children; and foster carers, whose housing benefit is reduced because of a bedroom being used by, or kept free for, foster children.

Moving into smaller accommodation;

Many Housing Associations offer mutual exchange schemes whereby a tenant of a social landlord can mutually exchange properties with another tenant of a social landlord. They do not have to have the same landlord or live in the same area, but they must both be social tenants and have permission from their landlord.

Residents can register and search for Housing Association properties online at: www.traffordhomesearch.co.uk.