Under-occupation of social housing (the bedroom tax) | The Tenants' Voice
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Under-occupation of social housing (the bedroom tax)

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under occupation of social housing the bedroom tax

In this article

  • The way under-occupancy or ‘bedroom tax’ works
  • Who will be affected by the tax and who won’t
  • How much you stand to lose in housing benefit


The British coalition government that came to power in 2010 introduced some major changes to the welfare system in the way benefits are to be paid and who is eligible for welfare assistance.

The under-occupancy of social housing, more familiarly known as the bedroom tax, is one of these.

It is important for tenants to understand that this new penalty reduces the amount of housing benefit received if there is a spare bedroom that is not being occupied at the time of claiming housing benefit.

The under-occupation of social housing explained

The Under Occupation penalty was launched in April 2013, but it may also be referred to as Size Limit Rules, Under-Occupancy or Under-Occupancy Rules. The new rules state that the housing benefit you receive will depend on how many people are living in your home.

So, for instance, if your household consists of you and a partner sharing one bedroom, with one child who has a bedroom of their own, but you have one bedroom not being used, then your benefit will most probably be reduced as a result of that un-used room.

The impact of this is that your housing benefit may no longer cover all of the rent as it might once have done – therefore TTV recommends you be aware as it will be up to you to make up the difference and pay the landlord the balance.

Who the under-occupation penalty applies to

If you are a tenant of working age renting a council or housing association home and you receive housing benefit, then you will fall under the rules of the penalty, or ‘Bedroom Tax’. The penalty will apply to all those who currently receive housing benefit as well as any new claimant for housing benefit.

The under-occupation penalty won’t affect:

  • Pensioners claiming housing benefit (any man or woman who is 61 and five months and over)
  • Those living in shared ownership properties
  • People living in caravans, mobile homes and houseboats
  • If you are living in some types of supported accommodation
  • Homeless people housed in temporary accommodation provided by the council (unless it is owned by the council)
  • Anyone making a claim after a year of not making one won’t have to pay the tax for the first 13 weeks

Housing benefit will be reduced by the following amounts:

  • 14% if you have one bedroom not being occupied
  • 25% if you have two (or more) bedrooms not being occupied

If you are worried about how the Under-Occupation penalty will affect your housing benefit, then TTV urges you to seek guidance from a welfare adviser. It is important you make sure you can pay your rent on time and not fall into arrears – this could happen if you are not fully aware of what the penalty will do to your housing benefit and could result in an eviction notice.

Help at hand

The Department of Work & Pensions announced on July 30th 2013 that a £35 million fund had been put in place to help those who may struggle under the Under-Occupation penalty rules. More information can be found here

Where to go for further help and advice

If you disagree with the way the council has worked out your housing benefit based on the bedrooms you are using, you should get advice from a welfare benefits adviser, your local Citizens Advice office or you can use the Shelter Bedroom Tax Checker to see how you will may be affected

In summary

  • The Under-Occupation penalty 2013 is a new measure introduced by the government that reduces the amount of housing benefit you receive based on how many rooms you have in your rented home that are deemed “unoccupied” or “spare”
  • Your benefit will be reduced by 14% of benefit if you have one spare room and 25% if you have two or more rooms spare
  • If your housing benefit is reduced because of the penalty, it is your responsibility to pay the difference in rent to the landlord
  • The government has allotted £35 million towards helping those who will face hardship as a result of the penalty

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