Why is the number of bedrooms being restricted for Housing Benefit purposes?

The Chancellor announced the introduction of size limit rules in the social rented sector in the June 2010 emergency budget. It now forms part of the UK Government's Welfare Reform Act 2012.

How many rooms does the Government say am I allowed?

The new rules will restrict the number of rooms you can receive Housing Benefit for based on the make up of your household.

The new rules allow one bedroom for each of the following: 

  • every adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • any other adult aged 16 or over
  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • any two children aged under 10
  • any other child (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • a carer who does not live with you but provides you or your partner with overnight care

What will happen if I am under-occupying?

If you are assessed as under-occupying your home the rent and any service charges that Housing Benefit is based on will be reduced by a percentage. The amount will depend on how many rooms you are under-occupying by: 

  • 14% if someone is considered to have one extra bedroom
  • 25% if someone is considered to have two or more extra bedrooms 

For example:

If your rent is £60 and your housing benefit is reduced by 14%.  The minimum amount that you will have to pay towards your rent charge will be £8.40.  

If your rent is £80 and your housing benefit is reduced by 25%.  The minimum that you will have to pay towards your rent charge is £20.00. 

Will I be affected?

You will be affected if you have to many rooms, you are of working age and you receive housing benefit. 

What does working age mean?

Anyone who is under state pension credit age. You can check exactly when you will become state pension credit age using this easy guide www.gov.uk/calculate-state-pension

What if my partner is over state pension credit age?

If one member of a couple receiving Housing Benefit is over state pension credit age then the size limit will not apply to that couple.

Am I allowed a room for a foster child?

No, when calculating how many bedrooms a household requires, a room for a foster child will not be taken into account. Therefore, a household that has an extra room for a current or potential foster child will be treated as under-occupying.  If assessed as under-occupying and you are either a foster carer or being assessed to become foster carers you should apply to West Dunbartonshire Council who may be able to help with the shortfall in your rent from the Discretionary Housing Payment fund.  

I share care of my children with my ex-partner, are we both entitled to a room for them?

Where parents who don't live together have shared care of their children, the children will be treated as living with the parent who is treated as 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 whom 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 accommodation they will need to make up the shortfall in rent themselves.

My house has been adapted to cater for my disability, am I included in the size limit rules?

Other than the cases stated above there will be no exceptions to the application of the size limit rules. If there is a reason that an extra room is necessary then West Dunbartonshire Council may be able to help you with the extra rent through the Discretionary Housing Payment fund. 

My child has a disability and is not able to share a room; will I be allowed an extra room for them?

Generally there will be no exceptions to the application of the size limit rules, other than the cases stated above. However families with children, who are unable to share a bedroom because of severe disabilities, will be able to claim Housing Benefit for an extra room.  The benefits section in West Dunbartonshire Council will make a decision on the individual circumstances of the family and decide whether their disabilities are such that it is not reasonable for the children to be expected to share a room. 

My partner has just died, am I going to be expected to move as well?

There may be circumstances where someone in receipt of Housing Benefit would be considered to be under-occupying because of a death in their household. In these circumstances you would be protected and the size limit rules would not be applied for 12 months unless you moved house or had a change in your circumstances. 

I could afford my rent but just lost my job and need to claim Housing Benefit. Does this mean I won't get benefit to cover all my rent because I have an extra room?

If you could previously afford to pay your rent and find yourself in a situation where you now cannot, for example because you have lost you job, provided you have not claimed Housing Benefit in the last 52 weeks, the size limit rules will not be applied for the first 13 weeks.

How can I make up any shortfall in rent?

If you are assessed as under-occupying your home and your Housing Benefit is reduced you may wish to stay where you are and make up the shortfall in rent yourself or: 

  • Move to a smaller house
  • Ask any non-dependants that stay with you to contribute
  • Take in a lodger
  • Increase hours of work
  • Take a job or increase working hours to increase income
  • Apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment