This advice applies to Northern Ireland. Change country
Housing Benefit size restrictions in social housing: Supplementary Payments
If you want to speak to someone about changes to benefits, you can phone the independent welfare changes helpline for free on 0808 802 0020 or contact your local Citizens Advice.
From 20 February 2017 if you live in a Housing Executive or housing association home and you claim Housing Benefit to help you pay your rent, your Housing Benefit may be reduced if you’re of working age and your home is considered to have more bedrooms than you need. This is known as the ‘social sector size criteria’ (SSSC) or the ‘bedroom tax’.
You will receive a Welfare Supplementary Payment to make up the reduction in Housing Benefit.
How you’ll know if you’ll be affected by the SSSC
The Housing Executive will have written to you in January 2017 if they thought you would be affected by the introduction of the SSSC. The letter tells you what information they have on record about your household, eg the number of people in your household and their ages.
If the information is correct, you don’t need to do anything. If any of the information is wrong, send in a correction in the pre-paid envelope provided. Tell the Housing Executive if there are any special circumstances they should know, for example you need an extra room for an overnight carer.
Once the Housing Executive has reviewed any new information, they will send you a letter with confirmation of your Housing Benefit award.
If you don't agree with their decision, you can challenge it.
What is the Welfare Supplementary Payment?
The Housing Executive will write to you again in February if you are claiming Housing Benefit and are affected by the SSSC to tell you what your new Housing Benefit award is. The Department for Communities (DfC) will write to you separately to let you know about your Welfare Supplementary Payment. You do not need to apply for it.
It will be for the same amount as the cut in Housing Benefit.
It is paid in the same way as your Housing Benefit:
- if the Housing Executive pays your Housing Benefit directly to your landlord, the DfC will pay the Welfare Supplementary Payment to your landlord four weekly in arrears
- if the Housing Executive pays Housing Benefit directly to you, the DfC will pay the Welfare Supplementary Payment to you every two weeks in arrears
Payments can be made until 31 March 2020.
Change of circumstances
If there is a change in your circumstances, you must tell the Housing Executive, for example:
- someone leaves or joins your household
- you have a baby
- you move house
Your Welfare Supplementary Payment will increase or decrease as your circumstances change. For example, if you and your child live in a 3 bedroom property your Housing Benefit will be reduced for one extra bedroom and you will get a Welfare Supplementary Payment to make up for the reduction. If your child moves out, you will now have two extra bedrooms so your Housing Benefit will go down but your Welfare Supplementary Payment will go up.
You should also tell them if you have any special circumstances as you might be allowed an extra bedroom.
If you transfer your tenancy or swap your house with another Housing Executive or housing association tenant, you will lose your Welfare Supplementary Payment unless:
- the new house has fewer bedrooms than your last one, eg. you had two extra bedrooms and now you only have one extra, or
- you move as a Management Transfer.
You do not need to report a change in your rent. The Housing Executive will tell the DfC so that the Welfare Supplementary Payment changes to cover any increase in rent.
Once you or your partner reach State Pension age, you will no longer be impacted by the SSSC. You do not need to tell the Housing Executive. Your Housing Benefit will no longer be reduced and as a result your Welfare Supplementary Payment will stop .
New claims for Housing Benefit after February 2017
If you make a fresh claim for Housing Benefit and are affected by the SSSC, your Housing Benefit notification letter will tell you how much Housing Benefit you will get once the Housing Executive has made the reduction for the SSSC. Be sure to tell the Housing Executive if you have any special circumstances which mean that you need an extra room. You can record it on your Housing Benefit form at Part 10: anything else we need to know. If you are entitled to an extra room, the Housing Executive will send you a new Housing Benefit notification letter.
You will get a separate letter from the DfC to tell you about your Welfare Supplementary Payment. It will be for the same amount as the reduction in your Housing Benefit.
If the DfC has paid you or your landlord too much Welfare Supplementary Payment, they may try to recover the overpayment directly from the landlord by making deductions from future payments, or, if you are no longer getting a Welfare Supplementary Payment, from your benefits.
If you don’t agree with the DfC’s decision on a Welfare Supplementary Payment or on a decision to recover a payment, you can ask the DfC to review the decision .