The Bedroom Tax – changes to the way housing benefit will be paid
The Under-Occupancy Penalty or ‘Bedroom Tax’ was introduced in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and will affect anyone who claims Housing Benefit and whose home is deemed bigger than their needs require. In such cases the penalty is reflected in a reduction to your Housing Benefit. If you are not claiming Housing Benefit you will not be affected by the Under Occupancy Penalty.
Your Housing Benefit could be cut at any time if you move to a bigger property or if there is a change in the number of people living in your household that means your home is considered too big for you.
You will not be affected if:
- You live in a one bedroom property or a bedsit
- You or your partner are eligible for pension credits. In April 2017 the pension credit age is 65 for men and 63 and 9 months for women.
- You live in exempt supported accommodation – this is usually housing with care. If in doubt, please check with Watford Borough council.
When is a home deemed ‘too large’?
A home will be considered too large when it is deemed to be made up of more bedrooms than your needs demand. In such cases your Housing Benefit may be reduced or removed entirely.
The number of rooms your house is deemed to possess is outlined in your tenancy agreement.
Your house is considered ‘under-occupied’ if you have more than one room for each of the following:
- each adult couple
- each other person over 16
- a disabled child who cannot share a bedroom with another child because of their disability
- two children of the same sex under 16
- two children under 10, regardless of their sex
- any other child.
Under special circumstances individuals not listed above may be entitled to a room of their own e.g. for a disabled child who can’t share with other children. An extensive list of exemptions is listed here. Outside of the individuals listed above and those exempt the under occupancy rules will apply to all.
If someone normally lives with you but is away from home for up to 4 weeks for any reason, they can still count as living with you, but only if:
- they intend to return to live with you, and
- their room is not sublet, and
- they are not likely to be away for more than 13 weeks.
In some circumstances, a person who normally lives with you can still count as living with you for up to a year, but only if they intend to return home and they are away from home for a reason recognised by the rules, for example, they are in hospital or away studying or training.
Use the Citizens Advice Room Calculator to work out if your property is under occupied.
Consequences of being ‘under-occupied’
If your home is considered to be too big for you, the Housing Benefit (including any eligible service charges) you receive will be reduced by:
- 14% of the eligible rent if you have one spare bedroom
- 25% of the eligible rent if you have two or more spare bedrooms.
For example, if your eligible rent is £100 per week and you receive £50 in Housing Benefit with 1 spare room, then your Housing Benefit would be reduced by £14 as this is equivalent to 14% of the eligible rent.
In cases where your existing Housing Benefit is low, the above changes may mean you receive no further Housing Benefit.
What can you do if you are affected?
Don’t ignore it! If you are worried about being able to afford to pay your rent you should ask for advice now. If you don’t pay your rent you could lose your home, so speak to us about different options and how you can help yourself by calling 0800 2182247 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For advice on transferring to a smaller, more affordable home, please use the links below:
- Herts Choice Homes www.hertschoicehomes.org.uk/choice/Home - from 16th July 2018 this will become Home Connections. Register now at - watford.homeconnections.org.uk
- Homeswapper www.homeswapper.co.uk
What if I have rent arrears, can I still transfer?
Each case will be considered individually. To get in touch with us about this, please contact 0800 2182247 or email email@example.com.
You can also use these contact details to ask:
- If you're receiving all the benefits you're entitled to.
- About paying the shortfall between the housing benefit and the rent.
- About any other financial concerns.
You may be eligible for more financial assistance if you have a disability and your home has been adapted. This type of financial assistance is known as a Discretionary Housing Payment and will come from Watford Borough Council - please get in touch with them for more information. Their website is here: http://www.watford.gov.uk
Other information on welfare reform:
- The Bedroom Tax – changes to the way housing benefit will be paid
- Benefit Cap – there will be a limit on how much you can receive each week
- Universal Credit – which is replacing some existing benefits
- Direct Payments
- Changes to Council Tax Benefits