Housing Benefit Changes

Housing Benefit Changes – ‘Bedroom Tax’

From April 2013 the Government plans to makes changes to the amount of Housing Benefit paid to many of our tenants.

Who will be affected?

From April 2013 every working age tenant will have their Housing Benefit award reviewed to assess whether they are living in a property the Government thinks is larger than they need. This change will not affect people who will be 61 ½ years of age or over in April 2013. It will not affect sharing owners or many people living in ‘supported housing’

You will be ‘allowed’ one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of your household. And where you have children, two children under 10 will be expected to share a bedroom, and two children under 16 of the same sex will be expected to share.

 So this proposal will affect working age Housing Benefit claimants, who, amongst others are:

  • Single and living alone in two (or more) bedroomed properties (even where a second bedroom is needed due to access to children / medical equipment);
  • Couples living alone in two (or more) bedroomed properties (even where the second bedroom is needed due to disability where there is no outside care, or for when grandchildren etc stay);
  • Families in three (or more) bedroomed accommodation where children could be deemed to share a bedroom, ie two same sex children under 16, or two aged under 10 regardless of sex; and
  • Families with foster children will also be affected as foster children are not considered to be part of the claimant’s ‘household’ when working out what size property is needed.

Will I be allowed an extra room due to my disabilities?

Generally the answer to this question will be no. For example if you and your partner sleep in separate bedrooms or you use a spare bedroom for medical equipment, or you have a disabled child who has their own bedroom where they have a brother or sister they could share with, then no extra bedroom will be allowed regardless of how genuine the need for it.

The only time you will be allowed an extra bedroom due to disability is where you have a non-household carer where: you or your partner receive the mid or high rate CARE component of Disability Living Allowance AND need overnight care AND a non-household member uses a bedroom to stay overnight to provide care to you or your partner.

How much will the reduction be?

The plan is to reduce someone’s Housing Benefit by 14% of their rent if they have one ‘extra’ bedroom, or by 25% of their rent if they have two or more ‘extra’ bedrooms.

This reduction will be applied to your weekly Housing Benefit award, and may mean that you come off Housing Benefit altogether. It will be up to YOU to pay this to your landlord to make up the reduction in your Housing Benefit, even if you have always had full Housing Benefit before.

For example, if someone is deemed to be underoccupying their property and their rent is £80 a week, their Housing Benefit will be reduced by £11.20 a week if they have one ‘extra’ bedroom; or by £20 a week if they have two or more ‘extra’ bedrooms. They will then have to pay this amount out of their other income to their landlord. 

Examples

Matt is single, aged 35 and lives in a two bedroomed flat where the rent is £75 a week. He lost his job recently and gets £75 a week Housing Benefit to cover his rent. He has access to his daughter at weekends.

Matt will, from April 2013, be deemed to be living in a property larger than he needs – he will only be deemed to need one bedroom as his daughter does not live with him full time. So his Housing Benefit award will be reduced by £10.50 a week and he will have to pay this to his landlord out of his Jobseekers Allowance.

Gail is a single parent with two teenage boys age 13 and 15. She works part time and gets a small amount of Housing Benefit to help her pay her rent of £90 a week. She lives in a three bedroomed house.

Gail will, from April 2013, be deemed to be living in a property larger than she needs – she will only be deemed to need two bedrooms as her two sons can share a bedroom. Her Housing Benefit award will be reduced by £12.60 a week and she will have to pay this extra rent to her landlord.

Tahir and Raheema, both aged 55, live in a three bedroomed house. Their children have all grown up and left the family home. Their rent is £110 a week. Tahir has worked all his life but recently due to ill health had to give up work and now claims disability benefits.

Tahir and Raheema will, from April 2013, be deemed to be living in a property larger than they need. Their Housing Benefit award will be reduced by £27.50 a week and they will have to pay this to their landlord in addition to the rent already due.

Brenda is 66 years old and lives in a two bedroomed flat. As Brenda is not of ‘working age’ she will not be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ and will continue to receive her Housing Benefit entitlement without facing a reduction.

What can I do?

Check first if you are likely to be affected - ask us.

If you find out that you may be, check to see if you will be able to pay the total rent that may become due. It is also worth checking that you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to and looking at ways to reduce your outgoings, for example by swapping energy supplier.

If you are definitely going to be affected and you do not think you can afford the rent that will be due, you may want to look into whether you can ‘downsize’ to a smaller home: again ask us.. If this is impossible and if you need an extra room because of illness or disability, or if you foster children but are between placements, or have any other special needs, then from April 2013 you might be able to get a ‘Discretionary Housing Payment’ from the Local Authority to cover the shortfall. But each case will be considered individually and any such award is likely to be time limited.