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Housing Benefit size restrictions in social housing

If you live in a council or housing association home and claim Housing Benefit to help you pay your rent, your Housing Benefit may be cut. This could happen if your home is considered too large for you. This is also known as the 'bedroom tax', the ‘under-occupancy charge’, the ‘social sector size criteria’ and the ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’. These cuts started in April 2013 and you may have had your Housing Benefit cut then. However, your Housing Benefit could be cut at any time for this reason if you move to a bigger property or if there is a change in the number of people living in your household which means that your home is now considered too big for you.

This page can help you find out if you are affected

Top tips

You can use our bedroom calculator to help you work out how many bedrooms you're entitled to for Housing Benefit, before your home is considered too big.

When might you be affected

If you rent your home from a social housing landlord such as the council or a housing association and you are of working age, your Housing Benefit may be cut. This could happen if your home is considered too large for you - for example, if your children have grown up and left home and you now have a spare bedroom.

You won't be affected if you or your partner are no longer of working age. This is the age at which you can get Pension Credit. If you're a woman, this is the same as your State Pension age. If you're a man, it's the State Pension age for a woman the same age as you. It doesn't matter whether you actually get Pension Credit, or whether you're still working or not, it's about whether you're counted as being over working age.

When will your home count as too big for you?

Under the rules, if you have more bedrooms than the government says you need, your home will be counted as being too big for you. If this is the case, you may lose some or all of your Housing Benefit.

It is normally up to your landlord to say how many bedrooms there are in your home. Your tenancy agreement will usually say this.

Your home will be too big for you if you have more than one bedroom for each of the people shown below:

  • each adult couple
  • each other person over 16
  • a disabled child who cannot share a bedroom with another child because of their disability
  • two children of the same sex under 16
  • two children under 10, regardless of their sex
  • any other child.
For example, Mr and Mrs Bell live in a two bedroom flat. Under the rules, they'll have one spare bedroom. They'll get less Housing Benefit as a result.

You'll be entitled to a bedroom for a disabled child who can't share with another child if the disabled child meets certain conditions. There are some other people who are allowed a bedroom for special reasons, for example, if you need an overnight carer who doesn't normally live with you, you're a foster carer, or you have an adult child in the Armed Forces.

It doesn't matter if you think you need your spare bedroom. For example, you may think you need your spare bedroom because:

  • you and your partner need to sleep apart because of a medical condition, or
  • your children have moved out but you keep a spare room for when they come and stay.

The rules will still apply to you.

If someone normally lives with you but is away from home for up to 13 weeks for any reason, they can still count as living with you, but only if:

  • they intend to return to live with you, and
  • their room is not sublet, and
  • they are not likely to be away for more than 13 weeks.

In some circumstances, a person who normally lives with you can still count as living with you for up to a year, but only if they intend to return home and they are away from home for a reason recognised by the rules, for example, they are in hospital or away studying or training.

What happens if your home is too big for you?

If your home is considered to be too big for you, the rent used to work out your Housing Benefit (including any eligible service charges) is cut by:

  • 14% if you have one spare bedroom
  • 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms.

This means you get less Housing Benefit than you would otherwise do. Some people may lose all of their Housing Benefit, particularly if they were only getting a small amount to start with.

You may also be affected by the 'benefit cap' - which is a cap on the total amount of benefits you can get.

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