Housing Benefit changes for council & housing association tenants

Benefit change graphic

What's changed?

Housing benefit rules for people under 61 who rent from the council or housing association changed in April 2013.

The government introduced a 'size criteria' which limits how many bedrooms your family can receive benefit for. The government has introduced this measure to bring benefit calculations in the social sector into line with those already in the private sector.

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.

How many bedrooms am I entitled to?

The rules allow one bedroom for:

  • every adult couple (same or opposite sex, married or unmarried)
  • any other adult aged 16 or over (including live-in carers)
  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • any two children under age 10
  • any other child (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • children who cannot share because of a disability or medical condition
  • a carer (or team of carers) providing occasional overnight care

One spare bedroom is allowed for:

  • an approved foster carer with a current placement
  • 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. You may be entitled to additional bedrooms if you have recently suffered a bereavement in the household.

Are you affected by the changes?

The council has tried to contact everyone we believe has been affected by the change. If you want to contact us and tell us about who currently lives with you, you can contact council housing (if you are a council tenant) or benefit services and we will share information with each other so you only have to tell us once.

How to contact us

What can you do if you are affected by the changes?

If you are a council tenant, visit our council housing benefits change page for information on what options are available to you.

Frequently asked questions

What do I need to do?

You do not need to do anything unless you think our records may be out of date, in which case you can contact us to check. If you receive a letter from the Benefits Service asking you to confirm who lives in your home you should provide the information as soon as possible. If you receive any letter about changes to your Housing Benefit and you do not understand the information, please contact us.

What help can I get if my benefit goes down?

See the links above to see what options are available to you. If you are struggling to pay your rent or council tax, you can apply for a Discretionary Payment (DP).

Please note - the Discretionary Payment fund is cash-limited and we may not be able to help everyone who applies.

How will the change be applied?

Existing claims had this change applied from April 2013, all new claims made since will be worked out in the same way.

Who is excluded from the under-occupation changes?

There are some exceptions and exclusions to the under-occupation changes

  • People aged 61 or over are not affected by the provisions so receive full housing benefit if they have spare rooms
  • Foster children - one extra bedroom will be allowed for families who foster children. Families who foster more than one child and have more than one room for that purpose will still need to be supported by local discretionary funds.
  • Military families - families who have children away on active military service will not be penalised if their bedroom is left vacant during their period of service
  • Families with disabled children who cannot share rooms due to those disabilities will not be affected.