The Bedroom Tax

This briefing is an overview on the Bedroom Tax and how it may affect people with learning disabilities and their families

What is it?

New Housing Benefit rules came into force in April 2013. These affect people renting from social landlords (local authorities, registered housing associations and other registered housing providers).

The new rules mean that tenants of working age who are 'under-occupying' property, i.e. living in something that the government has decided is too large for their needs, will have their Housing Benefit reduced.

How is 'under-occupation' defined?

The rules say how many bedrooms your household requires. You are allowed one bedroom each for:

  • Yourself (or a couple if you live with someone)
  • A person who is not a child (age 16 and over)
  • Two children of the same sex (below the age of 16)
  • Two children (of either sex) under the age of 10
  • Any other child – but not a foster child nor a child whose main home is elsewhere
  • A carer, or group of carers, providing overnight care.

How much is Housing Benefit reduced?

If you are under-occupying your accommodation your Housing Benefit will be reduced by:

  • 14% of the total eligible rent for under-occupying by 1 bedroom
  • 25% of the total eligible rent for under-occupying by 2 bedrooms or more

Example 1

Frank is 49, has a learning disability and has always lived with his mum in a 2 bedroom council flat. His mum died in November 2012 and he succeeded to the tenancy. He now lives alone and doesn’t want to move. He gets his full rent of £100 pw paid by HB because he’s on income-based Employment & Support Allowance. He is “under-occupying” because he only needs one bedroom. So his eligible rent will be reduced by 14%. This means that from April 2013 he will get £86 pw, not the full £100 that he’s been getting until now.

Example 2

Nigel & Maureen rent a 4 bed housing association house and have been there for 10 years. Nigel’s 12 year old daughter from his previous marriage stays most weekends and has her own room. Maureen works as a foster carer and has a 15 year old foster daughter living with them in the third bedroom.Their rent, £120 pw, is paid in full by HB because Nigel is disabled and unable to work.

They are under-occupying and have 2 extra bedrooms more than these size criteria allow them. This is because Nigel’s daughter is not included in their household as her main home is with his ex-wife. Foster children are taken into account, after a last-minute change to the regulations.

From April 2013, their eligible rent will be reduced by 25% and their HB will reduce to £90 pw.

Are there any exceptions to this rule?

Yes, you are not affected by this bedroom tax if any of the following apply;
  • You (or your partner) are of State Pension Credit age
  • You need an extra bedroom to accommodate a carer or a group of carers who stay overnight to look after you
  • You have a shared ownership property
  • You are in temporary accommodation organised by the council because you have been homeless
  • You are in “exempt” supported accommodation
  • You are in “Non-mainstream” accommodation, eg in a houseboat, mobile home, or in an old Rent Act regulated tenancy
  • A child who would be otherwise expected to share needs their own room because of the severity of their disability. Local authorities have to make individual decisions in these circumstances.

    My accommodation is specially adapted to enable me to live independently. Can I be affected by this reduction?

    Yes, you can. There is no exception for adapted properties or even for new build property that has been purpose built for you.

    I will get less Housing Benefit and won’t be able to afford my rent. What can I do?

    You can apply to your council for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).  Councils have extra money this year to help people who need top-ups on their HB.

    However, the only two groups whom the government has told councils they specifically want to use this money towards are;
      • Disabled people living in property adapted for their needs, and
      • War veterans and war widows

      Otherwise councils have a wide discretion on how to use this money. DHP is not new but has been increased to compensate for some of the losses people will experience. However, many councils in the past have only given out a proportion of the DHP they have had from the government. 

      Other suggestions the government has given through the Department of Work and Pensions website on how to make up any shortfalls on your rent are:

      • Transfer to smaller accommodation with the help of your landlord
      • Move out of the social sector and rent privately
      • Take in a lodger
      • Make other members of the household contribute more
      • Go to work
      • If already in work, work harder.

      Although we try to ensure that statements as to the law and other facts are accurate this report gives general guidance and does not aim to cater for individual cases. The Housing and Support Alliance and its sponsors cannot accept responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of relying on such statements, specific advice should always be obtained on individual cases. 

      Housing and Support Alliance
      Registered Charity Number 1092587 
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      Learning Disability England
      Birmingham Research Park
      97 Vincent Drive
      Birmingham, B15 2SQ, England
      Tel. 0300 2010455
      Learning Disability England
      Registered company: 4233275
      Registered Charity No. 1092587