The bedroom ‘size criteria’ 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 pension age (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.
Bedroom tax – number of bedrooms allowed
One bedroom is allowed for:
- every adult couple (unless it is inappropriate for you to share a room because of disability and one of you gets a qualifying disability benefit, in which case two rooms would be allowed);
- 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;
- two children under 16 of the same sex, unless it is inappropriate for them to share a room because of disability;
- 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 adult or child who is getting a qualifying disability benefit or attendance allowance at the lower rate.
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 a week, your eligible rent would be reduced by £14 a week to £86 if you have one spare bedroom, and by £25 a 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 amount of universal credit