What Is The Bedroom Tax?

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