From April 2013, if you live in a council or housing association home and you have one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms, your housing benefit may be reduced.
This could affect you:
- if you are 16 to 62 years old
- even if you only get a small amount of housing benefit
- if you are working or unemployed
- even if you are sick or disabled
You won’t be affected if:
- you live in a one bedroom flat or bedsit, or if
- you or your partner are old enough to receive pension credits.
What is a ‘spare’ bedroom?
If you have more bedrooms than you need for benefits purposes, you will lose part of your housing benefit.
The following are expected to share:
- an adult couple
- 2 children under 16 of the same sex
- 2 children under 10 (regardless of sex)
The following can have their own bedroom:
- a single adult (16 or over)
- a child that would normally share but shared bedrooms are already taken, eg you’ve 3 children and 2 already share
- children who can’t share because of a disability or medical condition
- a non-resident overnight carer for you or your partner (but only if they must stay overnight)
One spare bedroom is allowed for:
- an approved foster carer who is between placements but only for up to 52 weeks from the end of the last placement
- a newly approved foster carer for up to 52 weeks from the date of approval if no child is placed with them during that time
Rooms used by students and members of the armed or reserve forces will not be counted as ‘spare’ if they’re away and intend to return home.
It does not matter how the ‘spare’ bedroom is used; the new rules will apply even if:
- you and your partner need to sleep apart because of a medical condition
- the main residence of your children is another address, but you have a spare room for when they stay with you
What happens if you have a ‘spare’ bedroom?
If you have one ‘spare’ bedroom your housing benefit will be reduced by 14% of the rent you are charged every week, excluding any water and sewerage charges. If you have two or more spare bedrooms, you will lose 25%. If your benefit is reduced you will have to pay your landlord the difference between your housing benefit and your rent.
What should I do?
If you are worried about being able to afford to pay your rent from April 2013 you should ask for advice now. If you don’t pay your rent
you could lose your home, so talk to your housing association about different ways to pay.
You can also:
- Talk to your housing association about transferring to a smaller home or taking in a lodger. You may be entitled to be prioritised for moving to a smaller property. For B3Living tenants, visit www.b3living.org.uk for information about exchanging. For other housing associations, please visit their website or call them for further information.
- Contact the benefits section to ask about extra financial help. Councils have a limited amount of money available to make discretionary payments towards housing costs.
- Budgeting advice – contact the money advice unit on www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk or telephone 0300 500 5000
- Find out about Credit Unions by contacting Hertsavers Credit Union Ltd on 01707 269239 or 07545 484 268.
- Get in touch with your local Citizens' Advice Bureau (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) or call 08444 111 444 for independent financial advice.
- Make sure you are claiming all the benefits you can. For example, you may be able to claim money to help with the costs of living with a disability, by claiming disability allowance.
- For help with job seeking, contact your local Jobcentre Plus office or visit www.gov.uk/jobsearch.
- Try to find some paid work to increase your income.