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Under Occupation

Do you have a spare bedroom?

Welfare reforms will cut the amount of benefit that people can get if they have a spare bedroom in their council or housing association home. The Government is introducing a new size criteria for housing benefit claims in social housing. This will apply from April 2013 to tenants of working age.

What do the changes mean?

The size criteria in the social rented sector will restrict housing benefit to allow for one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household.

The new rules allow one bedroon 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 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)

Who else will be affected?

All claimants who are deemed to have at least one spare bedroom will be affected. This includes:

  • Separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this. Benefit rules mean that there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for children (who receives the extra benefit)
  • Couples who use their ‘spare’ bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation
  • Parents whose children visit but are not part of the household
  • Disabled people including people living in adapted or specially designed properties.

When is an extra bedroom allowed?

The Government recently announced (12/03/2013) that:

  • Foster carers who have an extra bedroom will not be affected by the changes (evidence required).
  • Families who have an extra bedroom for someone who serves in the armed forces will also not be affected (evidence required).
  • Families where their children are unable to share a bedroom because a child has severe disabilities and need their own bedroom, may be allowed. Evidence confirming that payment of Disability Living Allowance is made for a child, plus any other medical evidence to support their disability will be required. It is for Castle Point Borough Council to make a judgement on the facts of each individual case before making a decision.

What will happen if I am deemed to be under occupying?

The cut will be a fixed percentage of the Housing Benefit eligible rent. The Government has said that this will be set at 14% for one extra bedroom and 25% for two or more extra bedrooms. Please see examples below;

Example 1

Sonia is a single parent with two children, Rachel who is 11 and Peter who is 9

She lives in a three bedroom flat and currently receives £100 Housing Benefit a week to cover the full rent.

Under the size criteria rules Sonia would be entitled to Housing Benefit for a three bedroom house. As Rachel is over 10 she and Peter would not be expected to share a room. Sonia would therefore not see any reduction in her Housing Benefit.

Example 2

Simon and Anna have two children, Ellie who is 8 and Molly who is 6.

They live in a three bedroom apartment and currently receive £85 Housing Benefit a week to cover the full rent.

Under the new size limit rules they would only be entitled to Housing Benefit for two bedroom accommodation, one bedroom for themselves and one for Ellie and Molly who would be expected to share a room because they are both under 10.

The local authority would consider Simon and Anna to be under-occupying their current accommodation by one room and would apply a 14% reduction.


Benefits are changing in 2013. Find out how you are affected by using our welfare reform calculator.

We will tell you about the following benefit changes:

New rules about spare rooms for council and housing association tenants
The benefits cap
Changes to Council Tax Benefit
Universal Credit

welfare reform calculator

Contact Us

If you are concerned about your situation and how these changes may impact on you please complete the electronic form below and a member of the team will contact you to discuss your situation, and if necessary make an appointment for an interview at our offices.

Form - Benefit Reform Enquiry