Under occupation reduction

This is sometimes known as the 'removal of the spare room subsidy' or 'bedroom tax'. If you are working age and rent your home from a social housing landlord such as the council or a housing association, and have a spare bedroom, your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit may be reduced.

What working age means

What is under occupying?

What happens if I am under occupying?

Accommodation not affected by the new rules

What to do if your Housing Benefit/Universal Credit is reduced

Talk to your landlord

Further help and advice

What working age means

You are considered to be of working age if you're between 16 years to Pension Credit age, you can check your State Pension Credit age at www.gov.uk/state-pension-age

If you are claiming Housing Benefit and both you and your partner have reached pension credit age, you are not affected by the reduction.

If you are claiming Universal Credit and a member of a couple where just one of you has reached pension age, you will be affected by the reduction.

What is under occupying?

If you have more bedrooms than the government says your household needs you will be considered to be under-occupying that property and your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit Housing Costs will be reduced.

The rules allow one bedroom for:

  • Each adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • Each other person over 16 years old
  • Two children of the same sex under 16
  • Two children under 10, regardless of their sex
  • A disabled child who cannot share a bedroom with another child because of their disability
  • 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

What happens if I am under occupying?

If you are of working age and under occupying, then Housing Benefit/Universal Credit will be reduced by:

  • 14% for under-occupying by one bedroom
  • 25% for under- occupying by two bedrooms or more

If only part of you rent is paid for by Housing Benefit or Universal Credit Housing Costs Element, the reduction in entitlement may not be exactly 14% or 25%.

If you think that you will be affected by the Under Occupation Reduction rules you should speak to your landlord as soon as possible.

Example: If your rent is £100 and week and you currently receive £100 in Housing Benefit each week, this will reduce to £86 if you are assessed as having one spare bedroom, and £75 a week if you are assessed as having two spare bedrooms.

This will mean that you will have to pay your landlord the amount of rent that Housing Benefit does not cover. In the example above this will be £14 a week if you have one spare room or £25 a week if you have two. 

Accommodation not affected by the new rules

  • Exempt accommodation - this is a type of supported accommodation arrangement where a housing association, registered charity or voluntary organisation also provides care, support or supervision.
  • Temporary accommodation - this is accommodation made available by a local authority to homeless households.
  • Shared ownership - people who part rent and buy their home are not affected by the changes.

What to do if your Housing Benefit/Universal Credit is reduced

  • Make up the shortfall yourself

You may be able to pay the remaining rent that is no longer paid by Housing Benefit, out of your current income, or increase your income in the following ways:

  • Ask non dependants to contribute more - If you have adult relatives living with you, you could ask them to pay more towards the household. This won't affect the amount of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit Housing Costs you receive.
  • Increase the number of hours you work - Increasing the number of hours you work could help you to pay the remaining rent that is no longer paid by Housing Benefit or Universal Credit Housing Costs. You must report any increase in income to the Housing Benefit or Universal Credit as it may change the amount of your award. You must also get advice about the impact on any other benefits you receive.
  • Starting work - Finding employment may also help you to pay the remaining rent that is no longer paid by Housing Benefit or Universal Credit Housing Costs. You must report any changes in employment to the Housing Benefit or Universal Credit as it may change the amount of your award. You must also get advice about the impact on any other benefits you receive.
  • Move to smaller accommodation

You could choose to move to more appropriately sized accommodation. Your landlord will be aware of the Under Occupation Reduction (Bedroom Tax) changes and can help you to fully consider your housing options.

If you are a Reading Borough Council tenant and would like to consider options for moving please contact your Housing Officer on 0118 937 2161.

  • You may also wish to register with:
    • HomeSwapper - this is free nationwide service. This service has details of other tenants who wish to move and can assist you to exchange your property for a home more suitable to you. You can get further information at www.homeswapper.co.uk
    • HomeChoice (Housing Register) - once you are registered you will be given a priority band, and will be able to bid on appropriately sized accommodation social housing. You can get further information at Homechoice.
  • Taking in a lodger

You could choose to take in a lodger and receive rent from them for the spare bedroom. However, you must get permission from your landlord first. The reduction will still apply, but you can use the money from the lodger to pay for it.

Having a lodger may affect your current benefits, Council Tax, Income Tax, contents insurance and the condition of your home. Always get independent advice regarding the all aspects of renting out a room in your home including any safe guarding risks first.

Talk to your landlord

If you are a Reading Borough Council tenant, please contact the Rents Department on 0118 937 2784 for advice on budgeting and money management, including Debt Advice.

You can also talk to your Housing Officer, or a member of the Housing Advice Team for further information.

If you are a Housing Association tenant please speak to your landlord if you need further assistance.

Further help and advice

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