If you rent from your local council or a housing association, your support might be reduced if you have more bedrooms than the rules state you need. This charge is often referred to as the ‘bedroom tax’
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Families living in council homes could be hit with a charge if members of their household move out – and in most cases it will come in the form of a reduction in benefits.
That’s under the “bedroom tax”, a levy introduced in April 2013 under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, replacing what the Government called the spare room subsidy.
Under the policy, tenants in social housing could have their benefits reduced by 14% if they have a spare bedroom or 25% if they have two or more.
Have you been affected by the bedroom tax? Get in touch: [email protected]
Under the terms, two children under 16 of the same gender are expected to share one bedroom, as are two children under 10, regardless of gender.
When the policy was phased in nine years ago, the Government said the move was intended to cut the housing benefit bill and free up housing to help 300,000 people living in overcrowded accommodation.
However Labour dubbed it the bedroom tax and said it would hit some of the most vulnerable people in society hardest.
Who pays it?
The bedroom tax applies if you have more bedrooms than is considered necessary for your household.
The limit for your property depends on a range of factors such as your age, gender, number of dependents and whether you (or other residents) have any disabilities.
On average, one bedroom applies for every couple, person over the age of 16, two children under 16 – of the same gender – and two children under 10 of any gender.
You can also claim a room for any carers or foster children.
The benefit cut applies to those living in council accommodation, including properties rented by housing associations to council tenants.
How much benefit you lose
The bedroom tax affects how much of your rent can be covered by housing benefit or the universal credit housing element. For every spare room you have, you get less housing benefit.
You then have to pay the shortfall if the benefit you get is less than your rent.
The guidelines for this are below, but bear in mind the council might take off more or less money if you get other benefits or if someone you live with could help pay the rent.
The amount of rent that can be covered is reduced by:
- 14% for one spare bedroom
- 25% for two or more spare bedrooms
That means if your rent is £100 a week, the maximum benefit you get to help with rent is £86 if you have one spare room or £75 if you have two spare rooms.
How to avoid it
The cut applies if you have a spare room, so you can avoid the penalty by keeping your spare rooms occupied.
You have a right to take in a lodger if you have a secure council tenancy or a secure housing association tenancy.
You won’t be affected by the bedroom tax if a friend or family member moves into your spare room and they don’t pay rent.
However, in most cases, a deduction will still made from your benefit because they’re expected to contribute to your rent while they live with you.
This is called a:
- Non-dependent deduction if you get housing benefit
- Housing costs contribution if you get universal credit
Who is exempt from bedroom tax?
Bedroom tax will not affect you if you receive a state pension or rent a shared ownership property.
You may not be affected if you have a severely disabled child who requires their own room.
You may also be exempt if you are a foster carer, as long as you have fostered a child or have become an approved foster carer in the last 12 months. The same applies if you have a spare room for the use of an overnight carer.
Parents may not be affected if they have an adult child who is serving in the armed forces and away on duty. They will be deemed as still living at home and therefore allocated a bedroom whilst away on operations.
Challenge a bedroom tax decision
First, you should check how many bedrooms you can claim for under the rules.
You have the right o ask the Department for Work and Pensions for a review of the decision if you think your benefit has been calculated wrongly.