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What is the bedroom tax?

If you have a spare bedroom and you’re renting a council or housing association property, your Housing Benefit, or housing costs element of Universal Credit, might be reduced. This is often referred to as the ‘Bedroom Tax’ – or the ‘under-occupation penalty’ or ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’.

Who is affected by the 'bedroom tax'?

The penalty will affect you if:

  • you’re classed as having a spare bedroom
  • you’re aged between 16 and minimum State Pension Credit age
  • you get Housing Benefit (or the housing element of Universal Credit)
  • you rent your property from a local authority, housing association or registered social landlord.

The following rules are used when working out whether you have a spare room:

  • two children under 16 of the same gender are expected to share
  • two children under 10 are expected to share, regardless of their gender
  • you’re allowed one bedroom for each person over 16 or couple in a household.
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If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland

In Scotland, anyone affected by the bedroom tax should apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment. This is because the Scottish government will guarantee payments to make sure you’re not worse off.

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The Northern Ireland government provides funding to help people who are affected by the bedroom tax, to make sure they’re not worse off.

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Who is exempt from the 'bedroom tax'?

There are a number of exemptions:

  • If you – or your partner – are over the qualifying age for State Pension Credit, you won’t be affected. However, under Universal Credit, you’ll both need to be over State Pension Credit age to be exempt.
  • If you’re an approved foster carer, you’re allowed an extra bedroom. This applies even if you’re between placements. This is provided you’ve fostered a child, or you’ve become an approved foster carer in the past 12 months.
  • If you have an adult child living at home who’s in the Armed Forces, they’ll be treated as continuing to live at home, even when they’re deployed on operations. During this time, the non-dependant deduction is also removed for the adult child.
  • If you have an adult child who is a student and their main residence is your home, their bedroom is not considered to be ‘spare’. This is providing they don’t go more than 52 weeks without returning home. However, under Universal Credit this will be for six months. Also, full-time students won’t be exempt from the ‘Housing Cost Contribution’, under Universal Credit. This is £75.53 a month (2021-22) for each non-dependant adult over 21.
  • If you receive care, support or supervision from your landlord in supported exempt accommodation, the under-occupancy penalty doesn’t apply.
  • If your council has put you in certain types of temporary accommodation because you were homeless, your Housing Benefit might not be affected.
  • If you have a spare bedroom as a result of a death in your household, the reduction for that bedroom won’t apply for 52 weeks. However, under Universal Credit this will be for three months.

Exemptions for disabled people

  • If you or your partner receive regular overnight care from a carer, or team of carers, you’re allowed an additional bedroom.
  • An extra bedroom is allowed for a severely disabled child who is getting either the middle or higher rate of either component of Disability Living Allowance, and is unable to share a room because of their disability.

How will the 'bedroom tax' affect you

If you’re affected, your eligible Housing Benefit – or the housing element of Universal Credit – is cut by:

  • 14% for one extra bedroom
  • 25% for two or more extra bedrooms.

So, for example, if your rent is currently £380 a month, your benefit is cut by:

  • £53.20 a month for one extra bedroom
  • £95 a month for two extra bedrooms.

Contact your landlord

If you’re worried about finding the money to pay your rent, the first thing you should do is to talk to your housing association or council. Find out from when whether there are any options available to you.

They might talk to you about transferring to a smaller home, if any are available. They can also tell you whether any extra financial help might be available to you.

Claim a Discretionary Housing Payment from your council

Every year your council is given a pot of money to help people who need extra help with housing costs.

You might be able to apply for this top-up payment if you’re getting the housing costs element of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit.

The council decides who should be given what they call a Discretionary Housing Payment.

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Draw up a budget

If you don’t already have a household budget (a list of all your income and outgoings) then now’s the time to draw one up

And if you do have a budget, you’ll need to see whether you can still make ends meet after your Housing Benefit is reduced.

Find out more in our guide How to budget for a monthly benefit payment

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See if you can increase your income

It’s always worth seeing if there is any way to boost your income, even if it’s just a case of checking you’re getting all the help you’re entitled to.

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Consider getting a lodger

Renting out your spare bedroom is a possibility

If you do decide to go down this route, there are a few things you need to know:

  • Having a lodger would mean you’re no longer considered as having a spare bedroom when your Housing Benefit is assessed.
  • However, apart from the first £20 a week, the extra cash you get in rent is likely to be treated as income so your benefits could be reduced.
  • Under Universal Credit, the way lodgers are assessed is different. You’ll be considered as having a spare bedroom – so the housing element of your Universal Credit will be reduced. But the rent you receive will be fully disregarded.
  • Your contents insurance might not be valid if you take in a lodger. Make sure you check with your insurer you’re still covered.
  • Download a factsheet about renting out a room in your home from the GOV.UK website
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Challenging a ‘bedroom tax’ decision

You’re allowed to appeal against a bedroom tax decision. The most common reason for appealing is when you need the extra bedroom because you, your partner, your child or non-dependant adult needs to use it overnight.

If you’re getting Housing Benefit, you’ll need to write to your local council within one month of the date of the decision.

Find out more about appealing against a bedroom tax decision on the Carer’s UK website

If you’re on Universal Credit, you’ll first have to ask for a mandatory reconsideration of the decision before you can make an appeal within one month of the date of the decision.

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Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
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Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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