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Housing Benefit size restrictions in social housing

This advice applies to Wales

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

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?

If you have more bedrooms than the government says you need, your home will be counted as being too big for you. If this happens, you could lose some or all of your Housing Benefit.

It's normally up to your landlord to say how many bedrooms your home has. Your tenancy agreement will usually say this.

You're allowed 1 bedroom for each person living in your home unless they're expected to share. 2 people are expected to share 1 bedroom if they're:

  • 2 adults in a couple
  • 2 children under 10
  • 2 children under 16 if they're the same sex

Adults in a couple don't have to share a room if one of them has a disability which means they have to sleep apart. The disabled partner also needs to get a disability benefit.

A child is allowed their own bedroom if they have a disability that means they can't share a room.

Find out more about when disabled children and adults don't need to share a room.

For example, Mr and Mrs Bell live in a 2 bedroom flat. They don't have any children, and neither of them has a medical condition that stops them sharing a room. Under the rules, they'll have 1 spare bedroom. They'll get less Housing Benefit as a result. 

Getting an extra bedroom for someone who doesn't live with you

You can get an extra bedroom for a person who doesn't always live with you if:

  • you have an adult child in the Armed Forces
  • you're a foster carer
  • someone who lives with you needs an overnight carer

Otherwise, you can only have a bedroom for people who live with you all the time. This means you'll get less Housing Benefit if you have a spare room for children who've moved out but sometimes come to stay.

More about people who are allowed a bedroom for special reasons

If someone normally lives with you but is away from home, they still count as living with you, if they meet these conditions:

  • they intend to return to live with you
  • you haven't sublet their room
  • if they're in the UK, they aren't likely to be away for more than 13 weeks
  • if they're outside the UK, they aren't likely to be away for more than 4 weeks

Someone can still count as living with you if they're away for up to a year if they both:

  • intend to come home
  • 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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