Housing Benefit changes for council tenants

Please get in touch with our Housing Income Management Team, if you or anyone you know is affected by any aspect of welfare reform.


Housing Benefit changed for tenants aged under 61 from April 2013

The government 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 depends 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 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.

Example case

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. If you want to contact us 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 2013 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.  

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 the Housing Income Management 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.

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.

How to contact us


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.