Until recently, if you rented from a social sector landlord, the eligible rent was normally the actual rent. Unfortunately all that has changed with the introduction of the ‘Bedroom Tax’
The official name of this change isn’t actually the Bedroom Tax: legally, it is called the…
‘Housing benefit size criteria restrictions for working age claimants in the social rented sector from April 2013’
Not quite as memorable, I think we can agree.
However, the official name does tell us some important things about the Bedroom Tax:
- It only applies if your renting your home in the social rented sector: that’s to say, if your landlord is a housing association, your local council, or someone like that. Tenants of Private Landlords already have their rent restricted in a similar way.
- It only applies to working age claimants, so if you’re old enough to get Pension Credit you don’t have to worry about it.
- It restricts your Housing Benefit depending on the size of home that the government thinks you need.
How does it restrict your Housing Benefit?
Basically, the following people or groups of people are entitled to a bedroom:
- A couple
- Anyone who is 16 or older
- Two children of the same sex (and under 16)
- Two children under 10 years old
- Any other children
- A carer whose normal home is some where else but stays overnight to provide care to someone who is disabled.
You then tot up the total number of rooms this gives you and compare it with the actual number of bedrooms in your home.
- If you have the same number of bedrooms (or less) everything is fine
- If you have one too many bedrooms the rent used for the Housing Benefit calculation (your ‘eligible rent’) isn’t your actual rent, but your actual rent reduced by 14%
- If you have two or more too many bedrooms the rent used for the Housing Benefit calculation (your ‘eligible rent’) isn’t your actual rent, but your actual rent reduced by 25%
and Patsy Jones have five children: three Girls (Sarah (6), Ruth
(13), and Sally (15)), and two boys (Simon (8), and Mark (11)).
The Housing Association charges them £100 rent per week for their
house, which has five bedrooms. They used to get all their rent
paid by Housing Benefit (Patsy gets income based Employment and
Some Important Details…
- It’s down to the landlord to decide what counts as a bedroom. Not you, but also, importantly, not the Housing Benefit people. At least one landlord has reclassified all its two bedroom properties as one bedroom properties to help its tenants (I suppose the other bedroom is now called a cupboard or something…): lucky you if you rent from them.
- If you have a son or daughter who normally lives with you but is in the armed forces, you are entitled for a bedroom for them while they are on active operations, however long they are away, provided that they intend to come back to your home at some point in the future
- If someone who was living in the house dies, and this reduces the number of bedrooms you are entitled to, the reduction in your Housing Benefit doesn’t take effect until a year after they died.
- If you haven’t needed to claim Housing Benefit for at least 52 weeks until now, you get 13 weeks before your rent is reduced.
- If you need extra bedrooms because of a disability - for example, you are a couple and have to live in separate rooms because one of you is disabled, or one of your children is disabled and needs their own room because of this - you should argue for this and seek specialist advice if you are refused. This because of an important Court of Appeal decision about this, which looked at the situation from the point of view of disability discrimination: if you want to know more search on the web for ‘Burnip, Trengrove, and Gorry’.
What can you do if you are affected by this?
I don’t like these new rules. Many people (maybe you) will be faced with a
choice of major upheaval or a reduction in income. They might have lived
in a place for years, have worked hard to make the place nice, and be part
of a community of neighbours: there may not be a smaller property
available for them anyway. But they’re here and we need to get used to
Here are some things to think about:
- Check to see if any of the exceptions I have mentioned apply to you.
- If you do need extra bedrooms because of disability issues, argue for this, and challenge them if they don’t get the result you need seek further advice.
- You can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment from your local authority (council). This is a top-up of your Housing Benefit you can sometimes get if they agree that your situation is unusual and difficult. The problem is the word ‘discretionary’: it means you have no right to this help, and if, as is likely, lots of new people will be asking for this help, they might turn out to be hard to get.