Size Restrictions for Social Sector Rents (sometimes referred to as the Bedroom Tax)

Changes to Housing Benefit for working age tenants of Housing Association and other Registered Social Landlords come into effect from 1st April 2013.

What are the changes?

From 1 April 2013

The Government is introducing size limit rules into Housing Benefit for working age people renting from a registered housing association or other registered social landlord.

The new rules will restrict the size of accommodation you can receive Housing Benefit for based on the number of people in your household.

 The new rules allow one bedroom for:

- every adult couple (married or unmarried)

- any other adult aged 16 or over

- any two children of the same sex aged under 16

- any two children aged under 10

- any other child, (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)

- a carer (or team of carers) who do not live with you but provide you or your partner with   overnight care

 

EXAMPLE:Stuart and Isabel have three children, Jenny who is 12, Max who is 9 and Alice who is 6.

Under the size criteria rules Stuart and Isabel would be entitled to Housing Benefit for three bedroom accommodation.

One bedroom for themselves, one for Jenny and Alice and one for Max.

EXAMPLE:Sonia is a single parent with two children, Rachel who is 11 and Peter who is 9. They live in a three bedroom flat.

Under the size criteria rules Sonia would be entitled to Housing Benefit for three bedroom accommodation.

One bedroom for herself. Rachel is over 10 so she and Peter would not be expected to share a room.

Sonia would therefore not see any reduction in her Housing Benefit.

How could you be affected?

It is possible that the amount of Housing Benefit you get to pay your rent and any service charges could go down.

If you are assessed under these rules as having more bedrooms than are necessary for your household you will be considered to be under-occupying that property.

If you are under-occupying there will be a reduction in your Housing Benefit. The amount allowed for rent and any service charges will be reduced by:

- 14% for under-occupancy by 1 bedroom

- 25% for under-occupancy by 2 bedrooms or more

If you are thinking of moving you need to consider these changes before renewing or making a new tenancy agreement.

Examples;

Average rents charged by social landlords in this area:

No. of bedrooms

52 week rent

48 week rent (taking account of payment free weeks)

Rent used in HB calculation if 1 extra bedroom (14%)

Rent used in HB calculation if 2 extra bedrooms (25%)

2

83.07

90.00

77.40

----

3

90.65

98.21

84.46

73.66

4

100.00

108.33

93.16

81.25

 

Example: Gill and Mark, a couple whose children have grown up and left home still live in their family 3 bedroom property. Gill works part time and Mark is in receipt of Incapacity Benefit. They are charged £98.21 per week rent over 48 weeks and receive housing benefit of £35.66 per week towards this.

Under the new size criteria rules Gill and Mark would be under-occupying by 2 bedrooms. Their housing benefit would be calculated using a rent figure reduced by 25%. Based on the reduced rent figure of £73.66 they would be entitled to housing benefit of £11.11 per week. This is a housing benefit reduction of £24.55 per week.

WHAT OPTIONS DO PEOPLE HAVE?

If someone is assessed as under-occupying their accommodation and experience a reduction in Housing Benefit, there are a number of courses of action open to them. They may wish to find more appropriately sized accommodation or stay where they are and make up the shortfall in rent themselves.

Move- Someone may decide that it would be sensible to move to appropriately sized accommodation in the social rented sector. Their landlord will be able to talk this through with them and advise them as to whether this is a viable option.

They may decide that moving to the private rented sector would be appropriate. Again their landlord or the Council will be able to advise them about this.

Ask non dependants to contribute- If someone decides to stay in their current accommodation and make up the shortfall in rent themselves they may wish to ask other non dependants living with them to contribute to the additional rent.

Take in a lodger - Taking in a lodger to fill an extra bedroom may be a good option for some claimants. The lodger would be assessed as part of the household, meaning they would not necessarily be considered to be under-occupying and may have more income due to the extra rent. The first £20 of weekly income from a lodger is ignored and won't affect your benefits. If you receive more than £20 a week in rent, the extra cash is likely to affect your benefits.   General guide to letting a room available at: Direct Gov website

Increase hours of work- If a claimant is in employment they may consider increasing their working hours if possible to make up the shortfall in rent. Contact the Benefits Team or use the benefits calculator to check the effect  this may have on your housing benefit entitlement.

Move into work- If a claimant is not currently in employment, finding a job could help them pay the additional rent. Contact the Benefits Team or use the benefits calculator. to check the effect  this may have on your housing benefit entitlement.

Reduce your outgoings- The Citizens advice service and Shelter may be able to help you find ways to reduce your expenses, please use the contact details below.

Apply for a DHP - In certain circumstances a claimant may be entitled to a payment from the Discretionary Housing Payment Fund. This is a fund administered by the Council for those they consider in real need of additional help with their housing costs.

Where to go for more information

You can get more information at the Direct Gov website this provides information on public service in one place including up to date information on the Housing Benefit changes.

The Citizens Advice Service provides a wide range of advice. To find your local Citizens Advice Bureau, look in the phone book or Yellow Pages, or visit their website at:  www.citizensadvice.org.uk  You can contact the local advice line on 01935 421167

Shelter offers confidential housing, welfare benefits and debt advice through a network of advice services; freephone Housing Advice Helpline on 0808 800 4444 8am-8pm Monday-Friday and 8am-5pm Saturday-Sunday and online at: england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice

For general enquiries you can contact the Somerset Team on 0800 169 0317. They also hold drop in sessions in the Taunton Office for Housing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9.30am to 1pm and for Benefits on Wednesdays and Fridays 9.30am to 1pm.  They also offer a debt advice service by appointment.

 

 

 Frequently Asked questions (FAQ'S)