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‘Tell me about the Bedroom Tax’

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:

How does it restrict your Housing Benefit?

Basically, the following people or groups of people are entitled to a bedroom:

You then tot up the total number of rooms this gives you and compare it with the actual number of bedrooms in your home.

icon-example1.jpgJohn 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 Support Allowance).
  • John and Patsy get one room
  • Simon and Sarah are both under 10, so get one room
  • Ruth and Sally are the same sex, so they get one room
  • That leaves Mark, who gets one room.
  • So their Housing Benefit will be based on them needing a four bedroom property. Because their house actually has five bedrooms, their eligible rent is their actual rent reduced by 14%, so they now only get £86 per week Housing Benefit, and have to make up the difference (£14) themselves.
(It doesn’t matter who actually lives in each room. So looking at our example, I imagine that in reality Mark and Simon might end up sharing. That doesn’t affect the way the calculation works.)

The rules do give some help in some special situations:

But apart from these, there isn't any help in the rules for people in difficult situations. As well as this, the rules are not written particularly well. For example, the Bedroom Tax rules don't actually say what is and is not a bedroom.

Since the rules came in, there have been a lot of court cases about them. Some of these cases have helped claimants, and some have not. And the matter is still not settled, so things may get better, or worse. 

So if your benefit is reduced by the Bedroom Tax, here's some things you need to consider...


  • If you have a severely disabled child, that child should be allowed a room to themselves. This because of an important Court of Appeal decision about this, which looked at the situation from the point of view of disability discrimination. It is for the Housing Benefit decision maker to decide if the child is 'disabled enough': if you disagree with them about this, you should appeal.
  • If any of your rooms is smaller than 70 square feet, and they say it is a bedroom, you should appeal, saying that it is too small to count as a bedroom (this is because a tribunal judge noticed that under overcrowding rules an adult needs a bedroom that is at least 70 square feet). The DWP does not accept this argument, but that's just their opinion. A tribunal may disagree with them.
  • If you use any of your rooms for special reasons, for example storing equipment related to your disability, you should say it doesn't count as a bedroom, and appeal if refused. This is because a tribunal judge in Scotland decided that if a room was being 'reasonably used' for something else, it should not count as a bedroom. Winning a case like this will depend on whether the judge thinks your use is reasonable.
  • 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, you should argue for this and appeal if you are refused. However you will probably need specialist help with this, because this is still being argued about in the courts.


If you have been issued with a decision more than a month ago, you should still appeal, and say that you want your appeal to be considered even though it's late. There is a final time limit of 13 months.

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 them.

Here are some things to think about: