Under Occupation

Under Occupation (Bedroom Tax)

Since April 2013 the Government reduced the amount of housing benefit paid to people of working age who have ‘spare’ bedrooms in their homes.  The new criteria means that any working age household deemed to be under occupying will lose a percentage of their housing benefit.

Your housing benefit will reduce by 14% for one room and 25% for two or more bedrooms.

The Government has said that the following people need their own bedroom:

A couple

A single person over the age of 16

Siblings of different genders over the age of 10, but siblings of the same gender are expected to share.

For more information, read our leaflet on benefit changes.

This does not affect tenants of pension age living in sheltered housing.

However, if a pensioner lives in any other type of housing, they will be affected. Any pensioner that has signed a tenancy from April 2016 will have their housing benefit entitlement reduced from April 2018. 

What can you do?

To avoid the 'bedroom tax' you can:

  • Move home by applying to Shropshire HomePoint or Herefordshire Homepoint, or
  • Taking part in a mutual exchange by registering on Homeswapper (see links), or on the dedicated Facebook group 'Mutual Exchange Shropshire' 
  • Take in a lodger to help pay for the shortfall in rent

 

shropshire homepoint         herefordshire Home Point logo        homeswapper logo      facebook logo

Challenges

There have been a number of challenges to the welfare reforms, and in particular the Under Occupancy or 'bedroom tax'.

Some of the challenges have been to us as the landlord, because the household and amount of bedrooms had not previously had an impact on benefits. It became apparent when some households had a deduction in their housing benefit that we held incorrect information on our systems.

Other challenges were that the room was too small to be classed as a bedroom. We have now changed our policy which allows for an inspection of the property if a challenge is made. If the room will not fit a single bed and a chest of drawers or wardrobe, then we will amend the tenancy agreement from the date of the challenge.

Legal Challenges – Exceptions

There were some legal challenges through the courts in relation to the regulations, particularly on discrimination grounds. These challenges brought about some “exceptions” rules. This meant that if you were in the exempt category, you would not be subject to under occupancy. The categories are as follows:

  • Bedroom allowed for a disabled child unable to share a bedroom with a sibling under the usual age regulations
  • 12 month protection on death of a joint tenant
  • Bedroom allowance for a member of the armed forces where the family home remains the main residence when not on tour
  • Bedroom allowed for a student at university so long as the student is in halls of residence. Once a student goes into any form of private accommodation, then the student is deemed to have their own accommodation
  • If the tenant or their partner is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payment and has need of regular overnight care, a room allowance will be given for the carer

If your housing benefit is currently being reduced for a 'spare bedroom' which you believe may come under any of the above criteria and would like to challenge the decision of the local authority, we have letter templates for each of the exceptions categories, and send directly to the council. Please see the links section above.

Different rules between Housing Benefit and Universal Credit

Bedroom Tax
  Housing Benefit Universal Credit

Mixed aged couples

ie one under Pension Credit age, or one of Pension Credit age.

Not affected by the Bedroom Tax as goes by oldest member of the couple.

If on Pension Credit - not affected.

If not on Pension Credit, then mixed aged couple will need to claim Universal Credit and therefore will be affected until he younger member reaches Pension Credit age - ie looks at younger member of the couple.

Non-dependants

Allocated a bedroom . 

Non-dependant couples allocated one bedroom. 

Temporary absence rules (ie 13 / 52 weeks) apply for non-dependants in deciding whether or not to allocate them a bedroom whilst away - special rules for non-dependant adult children in Armed Forces whilst away from home on operations. 

Allocated a bedroom per non-dependant.

Couples will be allocated a bedroom each ie two bedrooms.

Temporary absence rules under Universal Credit are a flat rate of 6 months, except those going abroad (generally one month) away - same special rules for non-dependant adult children in Armed Forces whilst away from home on operations. 

Lodgers / Boarders

Allocated a bedroom.

(Payments made by lodgers / boarders can affect benefits).

Not allocated a bedroom. 

(Payments made by lodgers / boarders disregarded in full for Universal Credit).

Joint tenancies

(not couples)

Eligible rent reduced by penalty if required. Not affected by the Bedroom Tax.
Protection on death of household member. For up to 52 weeks.

None in under-occupation rules but...

3 month 'run-on' - deceased is included in maximum Universal Credit assessment for the monthly assessment period in which they died and two following two monthly assessment periods.

Protection for those who could afford rent when agreement entered into and not made a claim for Housing Benefit for atleast 52 weeks. For 13 weeks. None.