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FAQs about Housing Benefit

In April 2013, the Government will expect people in receipt of housing benefit to contribute towards the cost of what the Government class as spare bedrooms. This is more commonly known as the 'bedroom tax'. Anyone of working age in receipt of housing benefits with one or more spare bedrooms will be affected, with some exceptions.

Do I have to move?
No, you do not have to move. There are a number of options to help you stay in your current home or move to a smaller home. Your Housing Officer will be able to provide you with further details.

Options:

  • You could pay the shortfall from your income.
  • You could go into employment or increase your hours.
  • You could take in a lodger or another family member. This may affect your Housing Benefit and you will need to seek advice on the impact of this as well as speaking to your Housing Officer if you need permission first. Please not that this may not be a suitable option for everyone.

Other options:

I am in a two bedroom property but the second bedroom is only a box room. Will this count?
Yes, every room counts, regardless of size.

I need an extra room because I have a carer who stays overnight. Will I be affected?
When you have an overnight carer, you may not be affected, depending on your circumstances.

My partner and I are separated but share the care of our children. I have a bedroom for my children when they stay. Will I be affected?
Yes. Separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this will be affected. Benefit rules mean that there must be a designated 'main carer' for children, who receives the extra benefit. This would be the person who has primary responsibility for the children, e.g. the person receiving Child Benefit.

My husband is recovering from an operation and is staying in our spare room. Will we be affected?
Yes. Couples who use their 'spare' bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation are not exempt.

I am a foster parent. I have two spare rooms for the two children I foster. Will I be affected by under occupation?
Foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes but one extra bedroom will be allowed under the size criteria rules for use by a foster child or children (subject to certain conditions), so you may not be affected.

My partner is disabled. We have adapted our house and his bedroom to assist him. Will we be affected?
Yes. Disabled people including people living in adapted or specially designed properties will be affected. Even though your partner is disabled and sleeps in a separate adapted bedroom, for benefit purposes you are classed as a couple. However, this could be classed as a priority for
Discretionary Housing Payment.

How is 'working age' defined?
The government has stated the measure will affect only tenants of working age, who are below the Pension Credit age. You can read more about the current Pension Credit age via GOV.UK.
The Government has introduced proposals to increase the state pension age for everyone to 66 by 2020. It is likely that the Pension Credit age will follow this, leaving more people subject to the size limit rule.

I am of pension age, will these benefit changes affect me?
You will not be affected if you or your partner began receiving pension credits before October 2013. Following the introduction of Universal Credit, if either member in a couple is under the qualifying age for Pension Credit then the couple will be treated as 'working age'. This means they would be expected to claim the Universal Credit, and would therefore be subject to the size limit rule.

I am working and get some Housing Benefit. Will the changes affect me?
Yes – and working people will lose the same amount as workless households. This is because any deduction will be calculated as a percentage of Housing Benefit-eligible rent – not the actual amount of Housing Benefit received. This means, for example, that a worker who may be receiving £14 per week in Housing Benefit could stand to lose their entire support.

Under the new system, there is a restriction on the amount of housing benefit under 35s can receive.

I am under 35. How much will my housing benefit be reduced by?
Housing benefit will be reduced from £80 to £55. You will be expected to pay any difference between housing benefit and rental costs. There are some exemptions. Ask your Housing Benefits Office for more details.

When an adult, other than your partner, lives with you, they are called a non-dependant. If you have a non-dependant living in your home, your Housing Benefit may be reduced by a certain amount each week.

What happens when a non-dependant deduction is made to my Housing Benefit?
The appropriate deduction will be taken off the eligible rent before your Housing Benefit is assessed. It is then your responsibility to make up this shortfall. If the highest deduction is being applied it is likely that either you have not provided any information regarding the non-dependant, or the Housing Benefit office have made a mistake. If you think this is the case contact the Housing Benefit department as soon as possible.

Can a non-dependant live with someone without there being a deduction?
Yes. In some situations, and for some non-dependants, there is no charge.

When would there be no charge?
In the following situations, there should be no non-dependant deduction made. If the non-dependant is:

  • Only staying temporarily and has a permanent home elsewhere
  • On remand, or in prison, in hospital, or similar for more than 52 weeks
  • Under 25 and on Income-related ESA, there should be no deduction while they are in the 'assessment phase' of ESA- i.e. the first 13 weeks before the ESA component is applied (or longer in some circumstances).
  • Getting Pension Credit (either Savings Pension Credit or Guarantee Pension Credit or both).
  • There should be no deduction for a full-time student, unless it is the summer holidays and they are living at home and working more than 16 hours a week.

What happens if a non-dependant is off work sick or on maternity leave?
If a non-dependant is off work sick or on maternity/paternity/adoption leave, this doesn't count as being 'in remunerative work' so the deduction should be £11.45 regardless of their earnings during this time.

What happens if a non-dependant works less than 16 hours a week?
If a non-dependant works less than 16 hours a week, this doesn't count as being 'in remunerative work' so the deduction should be £11.45 regardless of their earnings during this time.

I'm 67 and my 30 year old son who works full time has come to live with me following a relationship breakdown. Should a non-dependant charge be made?
If you or your partner is aged 65 (or over) the majority of negative changes to a non-dependant deduction should be deferred for 26 weeks. For example, where a non-dependant moves in, no charge should be made for 26 weeks. After 26 weeks (or a few weeks before) the Housing Benefit Office should write out to you to find out if the non-dependant is still living in your home and what their current circumstances are, and will apply the correct non-dependant deduction at that time.