Rent Restricted for a spare bedroom? - Frequently Asked Questions
Who is affected
From 1 April 2013 Housing Benefit for working age Council and Housing Association Tenants have been restricted if their home is deemed to be larger than they need. People often refer to this as the "Bedroom Tax"
There are certain people who are not affected:
- Pensioners. People who have reached pension credit age or whose partner has reached pension credit age will not be affected by the change.
- People who have lived at the same address since at least 1 January 1996 with no more than a 4 week break in their Housing Benefit since that date. Please note, the Government plan to remove this rule from 1 April 2014.
There are also a number of social sector tenancies/licences that are not affected;
Households with the following tenancy types will not be affected:
- Shared ownership properties. This is where the tenant part owns the property under a shared ownership lease.
- Supported ‘Exempt’ accommodation. This is a particular type of supported accommodation where care, support or supervision is provided through the landlord and the landlord is a housing association, a registered charity, a voluntary organisation or a non-metropolitan County Council (such as Bucks County Council but not Milton Keynes Council).
- Mooring charges and mobile home or caravan site rents.
- Temporary accommodation, such as bed and breakfast or short term leased accommodation used by the Council to prevent homelessness.
Temporarily not affected In the following situations people will not be affected by the rent restriction rules straight away.
- Could previously afford the rent. If the tenant could afford to pay their rent when they moved in and now finds themselves in a situation where they now cannot, for example because of a loss of job, provided they have not claimed Housing Benefit in the last 52 weeks, the size limit rules will not be applied for the first 13 weeks. They will be applied earlier than 13 weeks if the tenant moves home or has another change of circumstances.
- Death of a household member. There may be circumstances where someone in receipt of Housing Benefit would be considered to be under-occupying because of a death in their household. In these circumstances they would be protected and the size limit rules would not be applied until after 12 months or they moved home or there was another change of circumstances (whichever came first).
Yes. People who are working and on a low income will have their Housing Benefit calculated in the same way as unemployed people. Any deduction will be calculated as a percentage of Housing Benefit eligible rent, not the actual amount of Housing Benefit received. This means, for example, that a worker who may be receiving £14 per week in Housing Benefit would no longer receive Housing Benefit.
When working out how many bedrooms a person or family needs, everyone living in the property is taken into account. This includes joint tenants and any lodger living in the property with the person claiming Housing Benefit.
The size criteria in the social rented sector will restrict housing benefit to allow for one bedroom for each of the following:
- a couple
- a partner who cannot share a bedroom because of a disability
- a person who is not a child (aged 16 and over)
- A disabled child who cannot share a bedroom*
- one or more foster children**
- two children of the same sex aged under 16
- two children who are under 10 regardless of their sex
- any other child
- a carer (or group of carers) providing overnight care
* Disabled children
To qualify for the extra bedroom for a disabled child, the child must be;
- entitled to the care component of disability living allowance at the highest or middle rate; and
- because of their disability, it would not be reasonable for them to share a bedroom.
When deciding whether it is reasonable to expect the child to share a room we will need to know the nature and frequency of care required during the night, and the extent and regularity of the disturbance to the sleep of the child who would normally be required to share the bedroom. Medical evidence will be required.
A foster child includes:
- a child placed with the claimant or his partner by a local authority under section 23(2)(a) of the Children Act 1989 or by a voluntary organisation under section 59(1)(a) of that Act.
- placed, with the claimant or his partner prior to adoption; or
- placed for adoption with the claimant or his partner in accordance with the Adoption and Children Act 2002
An extra room can be allowed where someone living in your household needs overnight care and that care is provided by one or more people who normally live somewhere else (known as a non-resident carer).
Housing Benefit for the extra room can only be awarded if evidence is provided that the non-resident carer is:
- Actually engaged in providing overnight care
- Regularly staying overnight in your home for that purpose; and
- Provided with the use of a bedroom in your home that is not used by the people who normally live there.
The Overnight Carer Form (PDF, 368KB) will help you with providing the required evidence
Please note, the rules changed on the 1 April 2017. Until then, an extra bedroom was only allowed if the carer was looking after the claimant or their partner. Now an extra bedroom can be awarded if an extra bedroom is needed for a disabled child or non-dependants who need an overnight carer.
If your benefit is reduced because the carer looks after a child or another adult who lives with you, please get in touch with our Housing Benefits Service and ask us to look at your case again.
Where parents are separated and share the care of a child, a bedroom will only be allowed in the home that is considered to be the child’s main home. Where both parents have the children for an equal number of days each week, their main home will be with the parent who receives child benefit for them.
Couples who cannot share a room
From 1 April 2017 the rules changed, so now if a couple cannot reasonably be expected to share a bedroom because of the nature of a disability of one or both members of the couple, an extra bedroom is allowed.
If you were refused and extra bedroom in the past and your benefit is reduced, please get in touch with our Housing Benefits Service at the Council and ask for us to look at your case again.
Child is away at university
The new size limit rules do not allow you to keep a room for a person who is away at university unless the absence is temporary (less than 52 weeks for students) and the young person concerned intends to return home.
Temporary absences from the property
If your son or daughter is a member of the armed forces but is away on operations a room will be allowed for them as long as they normally live with you.
If people are absent from the property for other reasons the length of time they can intend to be absent and still count as living in the household is usually up to 13 weeks. There are some exceptions where an absence of up to 52 weeks can be allowed, such as a stay in hospital.
Any household that has more bedrooms than they require, as defined by the criteria, will lose a proportion of their Housing Benefit.
One spare bedroom will mean a 14% reduction in the rent allowed when calculating Housing Benefit. In Milton Keynes, on average this is estimated to be about £12 per week
Two or more spare bedrooms will mean a 25% reduction in the rent allowed when calculating Housing Benefit. In Milton Keynes, on average this is estimated to be about £22 per week.
The deduction will apply to the total eligible rent including any eligible service charges.
A couple living in a three bedroom property with two children aged one and three:
The Rent is £60 weekly plus service charges of £20. A total of £80.00 weekly
£5 of the service charge is for a service that Housing Benefit cannot pay for.
The total rent to be considered is therefore £75.
The rules say that the children can share a bedroom so the family only requires two bedrooms. Because they have one spare bedroom the reduction is 14% of the rent of £75 i.e. £10.50 weekly.
Housing Benefit will therefore be calculated on a rent of £64.50 (£75.00 - £10.50). This will be the maximum Housing Benefit that can be paid to the family.
In cases of joint tenants the eligible rent is apportioned appropriately between the tenants after the percentage reduction has been applied.
For example three individuals jointly responsible for rent live in a four bedroom property.
Total rent is £100 weekly.
The household has 1 spare bedroom so a 14% under occupancy reduction is made to the rent of £100, ie £14 weekly to reduce the rent eligible for Housing Benefit to £86. This amount is then apportioned to each tenant, in this case by dividing by 3.
Housing Benefit for each tenant will therefore be calculated on a rent of £28.67. This will be the maximum Housing Benefit that can be paid to each tenant.
Apportionment will apply even if the case is made that the under occupation is applicable to one of the other tenants.
For example a four bedroom house is occupied by a single person and a lone parent and her daughter. The lone parent is the claimant and has an agreed responsibility for half the rent and 2 of the bedrooms. Although she does not have more rooms than she needs the occupation of the whole property will be looked at not just the occupation of the benefit claimant.
Total rent = £100.
The household has 1 spare bedroom so a 14% under occupancy reduction is made to the rent of £100, ie £14 weekly to reduce the rent eligible for Housing Benefit to £86. This reduced rent is then apportioned as per the agreement between the tenants, in this case by dividing by 2.
Housing Benefit for the lone parent tenant will therefore be calculated on a rent of £43.00. This will be the maximum Housing Benefit that can be paid to her.
Anyone who thinks they may be affected should always talk to their landlord first. Some options that a tenant may wish to consider are as follows:
Tenants should consider moving to accommodation with fewer bedrooms. The first step should be to contact their landlord to ask about moving somewhere smaller. The landlord may be able to give advice on changing accommodation and if a move is not currently possible discuss how the tenant will pay the additional rent.
- Ask for adult members of the household to contribute more.
If there are adult family members, such as grown up sons and daughters, or friends living in the accommodation a claimant may be able to cover the reduction in benefit by asking them to contribute more financially.
- Rent out a room
A tenant may be able to take in a boarder or lodger to fill any additional bedrooms.
A claimant may find they are better off due to the additional income from the boarder. Current benefit regulations allow claimants to keep, as a minimum, the first £20 of any weekly income from renting out a room. If a claimant receives more than £20 a week in rent, the extra money is likely to affect their benefits, although overall they should still be better off
A commercial lodger or boarder would be entitled to claim Housing Benefit in their own right to help them pay their rent if they are on a low income.
In some cases the agreement of the landlord will be required. If unsure a tenant must always check. As a general rule a secure tenant may take in a lodger without the landlord’s permission.
While there is no statutory provision about whether an assured tenant can take a lodger, common law allows a tenant to do so unless the tenancy agreement prohibits it or states that the landlord’s permission must be obtained.
- Move in to work / increase hours.
For some people, taking up employment or increasing their hours may be a sensible option. This would mean that they can make up some or all of the shortfall between their rent and Housing Benefit as a result of the changes.
If you have a job in mind or would like to work out how you might make yourself better off in work we would encourage you to use the Benefits adviser calculator.
Additional DHP funding
You may be able to get extra help if you think you may have difficulty managing financially particularly if you are either:
- Foster Carers
When calculating how many bedrooms a family require, a room for a foster child or children will be taken into account.
- Adapted Accommodation
If you live in accommodation that has been significantly adapted for you or someone in your household due to a disability, you may be entitled to a DHP to make up any shortfall in your rent from having a reduction for your spare room.
When deciding if a DHP can be paid we will also look at your income and outgoings to see if you can meet any of the shortfall from your current income.
Help with the cost of moving
If your move is essential, for example because you are affected by the new rules and are moving to a smaller home a Discretionary Housing Payment may be able to help with:
A foster carer, or living in a household with a disabled person and your accommodation has been significantly adapted to meet the needs of the disabled person
More information on DHPs
If you need more information or wish to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP), you should contact the Housing Benefit Service’s DHP Team
Other lump sum costs associated with a housing need such as removal costs.
More information is also available on the Councils website.
Help and advice
- Job clubs
Milton Keynes Council and Milton Keynes College are working together with Job Centre Plus and a range of voluntary and community organisations to provide locally based job clubs to help young people and adults back into work.
The job clubs are based in community centres, libraries and Parish offices in the heart of priority estates so that as many people as possible can get help. Also, you can get free, independent advice about rent difficulties from several organisations.
Last Updated: 1 May 2020