Housing Benefit changes for council tenants
Housing Benefit changed for 'working-age' tenants from 1 April 2013. 'Working age' means anyone who was under 61 and six months at 1 April 2013.
The government has introduced a 'size criteria' which limits how many bedrooms your family will receive benefit for. If you have more bedrooms than the government say you need, your benefit will be reduced. The amount of the reduction will depend on how many extra bedrooms you have. You will have a 14% reduction in your benefit if you have one spare bedroom and a 25% reduction if you have two or more spare bedrooms.
There is an example below to help you work out how you will be affected.
How many bedrooms am I entitled to?
The benefit 'size criteria' allows one bedroom for:
- every adult couple (same or opposite sex)
- any other adult aged 16 or over
- any two children of the same sex aged under 16
- any two children under age 10
- any other child
You can also be allowed an additional bedroom if you or your partner receive occasional overnight care from someone who doesn't normally live with you. However, generally you must be getting Disability Living Allowance at the higher or middle rate before this can be awarded or the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
You can also be awarded an additional bedroom if you have children who would normally be expected to share (because of their ages) but it is unreasonable to expect this due to the nature and extent of their disabilities.
In March, the government announced that a bedroom will be allowed for any 'grown up' children who are in the armed forces while they are away on 'operations' (assuming that they normally live with you). Foster carers will also be allowed a bedroom 'in between' placements or within the first 12 months of becoming a foster carer while waiting for a placement.
A couple live in a two bedroom flat. Their rent is £86 per week. As a couple they are expected to share a bedroom. Under the new rules they have one extra bedroom, so their eligible rent is reduced by 14%, ie £12.04. This means the maximum that they can receive under the new Housing Benefit rules is £73.96 per week (ie £86 less £12.04). They would have to pay at least £12.04 per week.
Are you affected by the changes?
The council has contacted all our tenants who we believe are affected by the change. Our Housing Benefit team have written to everyone affected, and we have been visiting tenants to make sure that we have the correct information about who is currently living in your home and the ages of everyone who lives with you. But if you want to contact us first and tell us about who currently lives with you, you can contact housing or benefit services and we will share information with each other so you only have to tell us once.
A policy amendment on under-occupation was made at the Housing Committee on 8 May to support and protect tenants affected by the changes as far as possible. However, it is important for the council to continue to collect all the rent due.
What can you do if you are affected by the changes?
There are a number of things you can do, but everyone's circumstances will be slightly different.
- Move to smaller accommodation. You may qualify for help under our Transfer Incentive Scheme or you can apply for a mutual exchange.
- Rent out a spare room or take in a lodger.
- Pay the extra.
Rent out a spare room or take in a lodger
You must get permission first from the housing department and can only do this if you are a secure tenant. Before you do take in a lodger or sub-tenant, check to see if you will be better off as the rules are quite complicated and it can affect your other benefits or your Single Person Discount for council tax.
If you are thinking of taking in a lodger please view or download our 'Thinking of taking in a lodger?' information sheet (PDF 87kb). There's also more information about this on page 9 of our tenant handbook.
Please note that taking in a lodger needs to be very carefully considered especially if the person is not known to you because they will obviously be sharing your home. Households with children will need to think even more carefully about this because lodgers will inevitably be in close contact with them.
Staying put and paying the extra rent
If you don't want to move or take in a lodger, you need to work out if you can afford to pay the extra rent.
- Do you have an extra bedroom or bedrooms?
- How much is your weekly rent?
- Reduce your net rent, ie your rent less any service charges, by 14% if you have one spare bedroom or 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms. This is the minimum you will have to pay.
There are different ways to pay but make sure you contact us if you get behind with your payments as your home could be at risk if you get into arrears. You can contact our financial inclusion team for help with money matters or you might want some independent advice if you get into debt and need help to manage your finances.
Download a copy of our 'Paying Your Rent' leaflet (PDF 1.06mb).
Make sure you are getting all the benefits you should be.
Check that you are getting the best deal on your utility bills, broadband supplier by visiting www.uswitch.com or other comparison websites.
You might be able to apply for a Discretionary Payment (DP) but these are only given in exceptional circumstances as there is a limited fund available.
You could also see if you can apply to a charity for extra help.
Council Tax benefit changes
In April 2013, the government abolished the national Council Tax Benefit system and councils introduced local Council Tax support schemes to replace it. The government also reduced the grant for Council Tax Benefit by 10%, meaning a shortfall of at least £2.5 million to help low income households in Brighton & Hove.
Brighton & Hove's replacement is the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which came in on 1 April 2013. Although the council is funding the shortfall by £1 million, most working-age households now need to pay something towards their Council Tax. Find out more about the Brighton & Hove Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
How to contact us
- Online: using our change of household form or our benefits calculator
- Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Post: Benefit Services, PO Box 2929, Brighton, BN1 1LR
- Telephone: (01273) 292000 select option 2
- The Welfare rights team run a public advice line every Wednesday morning on (01273) 291116 from 10am until 1pm.
- Request a home visit by emailing email@example.com with your name, address and contact details
Changes to other benefits
As part of the Welfare Reform Act, the government are also changing other benefits, such as Disability Living Allowance. For information on all the changes, go to our benefit changes pages. Our Welfare Rights team also produce some benefit factsheets explaining these changes in more detail.