Under occupancy restrictions for social sector tenants
Welfare reform changes – under occupation rules
Factsheet for Housing Benefit claimants living in social housing.
What are the changes?
From 1 April 2013
The new rules restrict the size of accommodation you can receive Housing Benefit for based on the number of people in your household.
There are exemptions from these new rules. See the document at the bottom of this page.
The new rules allow one bedroom for:
- 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 (or team of carers) who do not live with you but provide you or your partner with overnight care
How could you be affected?
It is possible that the amount of Housing Benefit you get to pay your rent and any service charges could go down.
If you are assessed under these rules as having more bedrooms than are necessary for your household you will be considered to be under-occupying that property.
If you are under-occupying there will be a reduction in your Housing Benefit. The amount allowed for rent and any service charges will be reduced by:
- 14% for under-occupancy by one bedroom
- 25% for under-occupancy by two bedrooms or more
If you are thinking of moving you need to consider these changes before renewing or making a new tenancy agreement.
You may be able to get a discretionary housing payment to make up all or some of the reduction. This is if you do not have enough income to pay your rent and have a compelling case for remaining in their current home. We need to hear from you if you are a foster carer, your home has had disabled adaptations or you have a disabled child who requires their own bedroom. We will start to take discretionary housing payment applications in February 2012. However you can register an intention to apply for a discretionary housing payment by calling 01246 354 584 or 01246 345 507.
When will these changes take effect?
The new size limit rules are due to take effect on 1 April 2013.
The local authority will write to anyone affected to alert them to the fact they may be under-occupying and to confirm the information they hold. They will then write again to confirm any reduction in Housing Benefit and how much the reduction will be, before any such reduction takes effect.
It is important that you start to consider what your options might be now and where necessary talk to your landlord or local authority.
Where to go for more information
The Citizens Advice Bureau provides a wide range of advice. To find your local Citizens Advice Bureau, look in the phone book or Yellow Pages, or visit their website.
Shelter offers confidential housing, welfare benefits and debt advice through a network of advice services; freephone Housing Advice Helpline on 0808 800 4444 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday; or online at england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice.
Information about Housing Benefit can be found at www.gov.uk/housing-benefit.