The Bedroom Tax
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Disability Rights UK Factsheet F57
The bedroom size limit rule, or ‘bedroom tax’ as it is more commonly known, restricts the size of accommodation that housing benefit or universal credit can cover the rental costs for, based on the number of people in your household.
The bedroom tax applies if you are of working age and renting from a local authority, a registered housing association or other registered social landlord.
Working age means anyone under the qualifying age for pension credit (this is being raised from 60 to 66 between April 2010 and October 2020). You are not affected by the bedroom tax if you or your partner are claiming housing benefit and have reached pension credit qualifying age. However, you may be affected if you are a member of a couple claiming universal credit and just one of has reached pension credit qualifying age
The bedroom tax applies in Scotland, but the Scottish government has allowed for an extension of discretionary housing payments (DHPs) to cover tenants who would otherwise lose out. You need to apply for a DHP to receive this support. Similar measures are likely to be in place in Northern Ireland until at least 2020.
How many bedrooms are you allowed?
One bedroom is allowed for:
- every adult couple (including civil partners);
- any other adult aged 16 or over – including any son, daughter, stepson or stepdaughter serving away on operations as a member of the armed forces, who intends to move back in with you when they return;
- two children under 10 (unless it is inappropriate for them to share a room because of disability – see below);
- two children under 16 of the same sex (unless it is inappropriate for them to share a room because of disability – see below);
- any child where it is considered unreasonable for them to share a room because of their disability (they must be getting the care component of disability living allowance at the highest or middle rate);
- any other child (where for example there are three children under 10); or
- a non-resident carer who regularly provides overnight care for a disabled claimant or their partner.
A further bedroom is allowed if you:
- have any child or ‘qualifying young person’ (ie a young person under the age of 20 for whom child benefit is payable) placed with you for adoption;
- are a foster parent; or
- (for a period of up to 52 weeks only) have been approved as a foster parent but do not currently have a child/qualifying young person placed with you.
Two Supreme court cases won by Mr and Mrs Rutherford and Mrs Carmichael held that there was a ‘transparent medical need’ for both to have an ‘extra bedroom’. For more details see http://tinyurl.com/o7m8p5w
How the bedroom tax might affect you
If, under these rules, it is decided that you have one or more spare bedrooms, your total ‘eligible rent’ for housing benefit purposes (ie the maximum amount that could be covered by housing benefit) will be reduced by:
- 14% if you have one spare bedroom; and
- 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms.
For example, if your rent is £100 per week, your eligible rent would be reduced by £14 per week to £86 if you have one spare bedroom, and by £25 per week to £75 if you have two or more spare bedrooms. Your housing benefit entitlement will then be calculated using this reduced amount.
Similar reductions are applied to the housing costs element of universal credit.
Discretionary housing payments
If your housing benefit has been restricted in spite of the need of a disabled adult in your household to have a separate bedroom, then you should make an application for a ‘discretionary housing payment’ (DHP).
Most local authorities have a form on which to request DHPs. If your local authority does not, write a letter instead. The authority may ask for detailed information about your circumstances and those of your household. Explain these fully, including any disability needs that anyone has.
The government has issued guidance to councils emphasising that DHPs are available for priority groups, including people whose homes have had significant disability adaptations and those adults with long-term medical conditions or disabilities that create difficulties in sharing a bedroom.
The housing benefit appeals system does not apply to DHPs, but you have the right to ask the local authority to look again at its decision if you are dissatisfied.
Where can I get more help or information?
This factsheet is a basic overview of the bedroom tax. You can find out more detailed information in our Disability Rights Handbook. This and all our other publications are available from our shop at https://crm.disabilityrightsuk.org/ You can also place orders by contacting Disability Rights UK.
You can get help and information at your local advice centre, such as Citizens Advice. You can get more information about where to get personal advice from our factsheet F15 - find out where to get advice. All our factsheets are free to download on our website at disabilityrightsuk.org.
Tom Royston of Garden Court North Chambers has produced a useful briefing on bedroom tax case law (up to 28 February 2014) available at www.gcnchambers.co.uk/news/bedroom_tax_update_winning_bedroom_tax_cases
Nearly Legal has a regularly updated page of bedroom tax appeal decisions at http://nearlylegal.co.uk/blog/bedroom-tax-ftt-decisions/
The websites www.homeswapper.co.uk and www.houseexchange.org.uk have been set up to help tenants who are looking to swap their home, for example if you wish to swap your tenancy to one for a property with fewer bedrooms.
You can view the Discretionary Housing Payments Guidance Manual at www.gov.uk/government/publications/discretionary-housing-payments-guidance-manual. The DWP also has a selection of factsheets on the bedroom tax, which are aimed at local authorities and advisers. You can get these at www.gov.uk/government/collections/local-authorities-removal-of-the-spare-room-subsidy.
Martin Inch and Ian Greaves
9 November 2016