What Is The Bedroom Tax?

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The bedroom tax is money taken off the housing benefit that is paid to households who officially have more bedrooms than they need. The bedroom tax only affects people who get housing benefit and live in social housing – council housing or housing association housing. It does not affect those renting privately. It will not affect pensioners this April, however it will affect pensioners who’s partner is below pension age when Universal Credit starts in October. The bedroom tax does affect people who work but still receive housing benefit.

The following explanation is taken from the DWP website.

The Welfare Reform Act introduces new rules for the size of accommodation that Housing Benefit, and then Universal Credit, will cover for working age tenants renting in the social sector. This will bring them in line with the private rented sector.

From April 2013 all current and future working age tenants renting from a local authority, housing association or other registered social landlord will receive housing support based on the need of their household.

The size criteria allows one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household with the following exceptions:

  • children under 16 of the same gender are expected to share
  • children under 10 are expected to share regardless of gender
  • a disabled tenant or partner who needs a non-resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra room.

This means those tenants whose accommodation is larger than they need may lose part of their Housing Benefit:

  • those with one spare bedroom will lose 14 per cent of their Housing Benefit
  • those with two or more spare bedrooms will lose 25 per cent.

Note that the DWP’s statement here is wrong; the deduction is not 14% or 25% of housing benefit, but 14% or 25% of your rent.

Who should get an exception but won’t?

  • Couples who cannot share a room because of disability. (Or, indeed, many other reasons.)
  • Disabled people who keep bulky equipment in a spare room.
  • People who have had their house modified at great cost to cope with their disability.
  • Parents who have separated and keep a spare room for visits by their children.
  • Foster parents.
  • Many more.

What can you do about it?

Not much. The government expect you to either move to a house with fewer bedrooms, take in a lodger to rent your spare room, or pay the shortfall out of your other income or benefits. You may have a loophole if your spare bedroom is too small to legally be counted as a bedroom, however I expect that you will have a difficult fight to have this accepted.

What about private rentals?

Those renting privately will not be affected by the Bedroom Tax, but only, and this is important, because private rents are already subject to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) which sets the maximum housing benefit that will be paid as a percentage of the average rents in the area. Tenants in private housing will already only receive housing benefit up to the LHA for the number of rooms that they are judged to need using exactly the same criteria as for those in social housing. If they can find a home with more rooms for less rent than the LHA then they are free to do so, however this is rare and unlikely. In practice private tenants with spare rooms will probably receive less housing benefit than their rent. They won’t be specifically subject to the under occupancy penalty like those in social housing, but they will probably not have enough money to cover the rent either.

Further reading

An explanation of the Bedroom Tax by Hilary Burkitt – Twitlonger

The ‘bedroom tax’ undermines disabled people’s human rights – We Are Spartacus

Housing benefit changes from 2013 – Shelter

Anti Bedroom Tax – Facebook Support Group

Bedroom-tax will hammer single/grand/foster parents, carers forces, bereaved – skwalker1964

  • http://twitter.com/Spoonydoc Spoonydoc

    Social tenants also have the option of turning to the private market, renting and claiming LHA. However they will still be subject to exactly the same rules governing the number of rooms required, and the amount of LHA they can claim will be capped based on this.

    This might be an option if no social housing can be found but private rentals with the “correct” number of rooms are available within the LHA cap. This way the full rent will be covered by LHA and no “bedroom tax” will need to be found from benefits.

    It does not change the fact however that the family/person will be living in a home with one less bedroom. This could still be an issue, in particular for the situations mentioned in the blog post. (disability issues, bulky medical equipment, loss of disabled modifications, foster parents, separated couples who have regular visiting children, etc…)

    • suemccafferty

      Rents are higher in the private rented sector, even under LHA. The government’s own impact assessment acknowledges that the saving will not be achieved if people move. They want, and expect, people to stay put. There’s a lot more to this than first meets the eye. There are no smaller properties in the north and scotland.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1550289437 Phillip Baldwin

    Sorry to have to say it does affect PRIVATE TENANTS, I have been paying it for nearly two years now – £60.00 a month out of my DLA because I have 2 bedrooms, the smaller of which is used to store my disability equipment which is regularly used – a bath lift, wheelchair, mobility scooter, zimmer frames etc. The council say the reason for me having to pay £60.00 a month is because I have more rooms than I need, even though if I had a one bedroomed flat it would be dangerous as I can barely walk and would have to climb over disability equipment., I am very unsteady on my feet. I live with my wife who also has disabilities. We have a good landlord and the rent is fair for this area, the rent has not gone up in the 12 years we have lived here despite a new bathroom,new double glazing, redecoration,and new central heating.We are settled here and it would be too stressful to move. What I find amazing is there is a studio flat just down the road and the council would pay full rent, rent that is exactly the same as my 2 bedroomed flat that is suitable for my needs – doesn’t make sense does it.

    • http://www.latentexistence.me.uk/ Latentexistence

      Philip, that is not the bedroom tax that is in the news now and you will see in my last paragraph that I explain about the Local Housing Allowance which already affects private tenants. We are talking specifically about the 14% or 25% penalty which will be applied as a result of the welfare reform act.

  • Just Me

    So if those affected are being told an option would be to take in a lodger, does that means that their tenancy agreement will be broken, in which case it’s just another sneaky way to catch people out, or that revised ones will be issued. Because in the almost 10 years I’ve rented, both privately and through social housing, I’ve yet to see an agreement that allows subletting, in fact they usually specifically says it’s not allowed.

    Also, private renting would not be an option in all parts of the country – around here the cheapest private rent is generally 20% higher than the LHA for that size of property, sometimes as much as 35% for those who need larger-dimensioned properties/better access because of disability – take agents fees, deposits, etc into account, and there would be very few who could afford the move.

  • suemccafferty

    Apart from the main issues with the bedroom tax, which are receiving welcome attention at last, it’s also another example of the Coalition’s very dishonest attempts to manipulate the public through false notions of ‘fairness’. We’ve seen this with the whole strivers nonsense and the slippery argument about medical assessment because of course it’s ‘unfair’ to abandon someone to a life an benefits.Families currently under-occupying, whilst receiving a lot of public sympathy, are nevertheless being made to feel in some quarters as though they are ‘unfairly’ hogging a scarce resource. Steve Webb claims to be speaking up for those whose voices aren’t heard; those in overcrowded accommodation; the ‘new’ victims as of last week as the government start to clutch at straws.The failure of successive governments to build more social housing is side-stepped and the neo-liberal project of devolving blame consolidates tenant’s guilt about their ‘privilege’. And yet,paradoxically, the success of the policy depends on people ignoring the government and staying put; otherwise there’ll be no benefit saving. In many ways it could cost more if people move to the private sector. One example of unfairness (overcrowding) doesn’t justify imposing unfairness in another; you don’t help abandoned animals by kicking your neighbour’s dog. A further semantic muddle comes from the idea of ‘choice'; the bedroom tax, as well as being fair, will supposedly encourage more ‘choice’ into tenant’s lives. Except it won’t where there are no properties. But most glaringly vicious is the lie that by imposing a policy upon people who have not asked for it, who have not changed their own circumstances, who have no money to fund the financial consequences, and who are now living in abject terror, is not presenting them with more ‘choice’ , it is removing choice and control from people’s lives and making them so desperate that their only, all-consuming, concern will now be how to keep the roof over their head. It’s good the media have picked this issue up, finally. But this is not a ‘housing’ issue, not really. That’s just part of the elaborate, labyrinthine, mess which has even lead to some mothers thinking that their children will now have to actually share a room, or that their housing association are behind the policy in some way. Now the media is awash with people desperately justifying the room they take up. Deserving versus undeserving. As long as people are sidetracked into justifying their need for the space they’ll forget that, if they had the money to pay the rent, they could live in splendid isolation in a three, four, five bedroom house and nobody would say they were under-occupying. There is no under-occupation policy. Just a making poor people poorer policy.

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