If you have a spare bedroom, you may be affected by the spare room subsidy, which is also known as Bedroom Tax.
What is the Bedroom Tax?
The Bedroom Tax means a cut to the amount of benefit you get if you have a spare bedroom in your housing association home. From 1st April 2013, the Government introduced new size criteria for housing benefit claims in social housing which means that if you do have a spare bedroom, you now receive less housing benefit and have to pay the difference to your landlord or move to a home that has the appropriate number of rooms for your circumstances.
Who is affected?
This tax affects tenants of working age (16 – 61 and 5 months). The Housing Benefit Team at Wycombe District Council have told us who is affected by the tax and we have written to every tenant to explain what they need to do now. If you think you are affected because you have a spare room, please call us on 01494 476100.
What is classed as working age?
Below pension credit age which is 61 years. In the case of a couple, if one party is of pensionable age they will be exempt from bedroom tax. For new claims, both parties will need to be of pensionable age to be exempt.
What does under-occupying mean?
Under-occupying means that you have more bedrooms than you need.
Who is entitled to their own bedroom?
- A couple
- A person aged 16 or older
- Two children of the same sex until their 16th birthday
- Two children of either sex until their 10th birthday
- Anyone who needs overnight care, or their partner
If a house is shared with someone else, how is the room allowance worked out?
If you live in your home with someone else, the size limit rules take into account everyone living in the home when deciding whether you are under-occupying for Housing Benefit purposes. If it is decided that you are under-occupying, a percentage reduction will be taken off the whole eligible rent and any eligible service charges and your Housing Benefit is then be based on the proportion of the rent you are liable to pay.
I care for my children with an ex-partner - are they both entitled to a room?
No. Where parents who don’t live together and have shared care of their children, the children will be treated as living with the parent who is responsible for them and provides their main home.
For someone to be treated as responsible for a child or young person, the child or young person must normally be living with them. If a child or young person spends equal amounts of time in different households, or there is a question as to who they normally live with, they will be treated as living with the person who is receiving Child Benefit for them.
The parent who is not considered to provide their main home will not be entitled to receive Housing Benefit for an extra room for their child/children. If they wish to remain in their current home they will need to make up the shortfall in rent themselves.
What happens if a home has a box room as a bedroom?
This is still classed as a bedroom and will not be excluded from Bedroom Tax.
How much will I lose in Housing Benefit if I am affected?
The cut is a fixed percentage of your Housing Benefit – it will reduce by 14% for one room and 25% for two or more bedrooms. On average, you will lose £14 - £25 a week.
What if I’m happy to pay the difference?
If you feel you can afford to pay the difference between your rent and how much benefit you now receive, you can continue living in your home and just need to continue making regular rent payments to us. The best way to do this is by Direct Debit – we can send you a form to complete if you are not already paying this way.
What if I can’t pay the difference?
If you feel that you can’t afford to pay the difference to make up for the cut of your benefit, you have a number of options.
We have a dedicated Home Budgeting Team who can give you support and advice on things like budgeting and checking if there are any other benefits that you should be claiming. Find out more about our Financial Wellbeing Team.
You can downsize, which is when you move into a smaller home than you have now. We will try to find a suitable home for you but you may need to wait until one becomes available. If there is a home that meets your needs, we offer an incentive for moving that can help.
The best way for you to find a home that means you won’t have to pay extra is to swap with someone. You can do this by applying for a transfer through the Bucks Home Choice website or by applying for a mutual exchange via Home Swapper.
You can also apply for discretionary housing payment – this is available from Wycombe District Council’s benefit department to help people who qualify for housing or council tax benefit, but are having trouble paying their rent or council tax. This is a fixed sum of money which is only available until it runs out. DHP can be paid weekly, or can be a lump sum. Contact the Benefit Team on 01494 421325 or visit their website.
Where can I find out more?
Citizens Advice have more information that you can find here. If you think you are under-occupying your home, please call us on 01494 476100 and we will do our best to help you.