Housing Benefit changes
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Housing Benefit changes for council and housing association tenants
Housing Benefit changed for 'working-age' from 1 April 2013. 'Working age' means anyone under 61.
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 and the benefits service will shortly be introducing a calculator for you to work out how much you will need to pay.
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.
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.
**Latest update from the government (12-3-13) is that a bedroom will be allowed for any 'grown up' children who are in the armed forces whilst 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 whilst they are waiting for a placement.**
Example caseA 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 will be contacting all our tenants who we believe are affected by the change. Initially we will be writing to people and visiting them 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.
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 this information sheet "Thinking of taking in a lodger?" (87 kb .pdf)
You can also visit the Turn2us website for more information.
The tenant handbook gives more advice about this on page 9.
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. The Turn2us website can help you check.
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 Housing Payment (DHP) 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. Again the Turn2us website has more information about charities and available grants.
Council Tax benefit changes
From 1 April 2013, the government is abolishing the national Council Tax Benefit system and asking councils to introduce a local Council Tax support system to replace it.
Working age people will have their benefit worked out on 91.5% of what they are liable to pay so will usually need to pay 8.5% of their bill themselves
There will be a £100,000 discretionary fund to help the most vulnerable households in exceptional circumstances.
View or download more information on the Council Tax reduction scheme. (68kb pdf)
How to contact us
- Online: using our change of household form or our benefits calculator
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or housing,email@example.com
- 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.