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What are the changes to housing benefit?

If you claim housing benefit to help pay your rent, you may be affected by changes to housing benefit which were introduced in April 2013. The changes mean that some people receive less housing benefit than they did prior to April 1, 2013.

We know that many of our tenants will be worried about what this could mean for them and their families, but we are here to help. This particular page has information to help you find out what’s happening and what help you can get.

How many bedrooms do you have?

From April 1, 2013, if you live in any council or housing association home, not just a DGHP home, and the UK government deem you to have one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms, your housing benefit may be reduced.

This could affect you:

  • If you are born after 5th November 1953 (date correct as of 6th July 2018)
  • Even if you only get a small amount of housing benefit –  for example, if you are working
  • Even if you are sick or disabled

You won’t be affected if:

  • You live in a one bedroom flat or bedsit,
  • You or your partner are old enough to receive pension credits. This would be anyone who was born before 6th November 1953 (date correct as of 6th July 2018).

What is a ‘spare’ bedroom?

Under the new rules, if you have more bedrooms than the UK government says you need, you will receive less housing benefit than you have previously.

The new rules mean you will be allocated one bedroom for:

  • Each adult couple
  • Any other person aged 16 or over
  • Two children of  the same sex under the age of 16
  • Two children under the age of 10, regardless of their sex
  • Any other child
  • A carer (who does not normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care

It doesn’t matter how the ‘spare’ bedroom is used, the new rules apply even if:

  • You and your partner need to sleep apart because of a medical condition
  • The main residence of your children is at another address but you have a spare room for when they stay with you

What happens if you have a ‘spare’ bedroom?

If you have one ‘spare’ bedroom as deemed by the UK government, your housing benefit will be cut by 14% of the rent that you pay every week.

If you have two or more spare bedrooms, you will lose 25%.

If your benefit is cut, you will have to pay your landlord the difference between your housing benefit and your rent.

I’m a foster carer, what happens for me?

When it comes to what is classed as a spare bedroom, foster carers are allowed one additional room in the new UK rules. You will be allowed the additional room providing that you have either fostered/fostering a child, or are an approved foster carer, in the last 52 weeks.

I have a disabled child, what happens for me?

From December 4, 2013, housing benefits regulations are being changed to advise that if you have a disabled child and they cannot share a room with another child, then the additional room can also be awarded for under occupation purposes.


  • Mr and Mrs Bell live with their two teenage sons Adam and Ross, aged 13 and 15 in a three bedroom house in Dumfries. Their rent is £100 per week and they receive £10 per week in housing benefit.

Under the Welfare Reform changes, the UK government rules that their children will be expected to share a bedroom, so the family are treated as having one spare.

Their housing benefit will be reduced by 14% of their rent (14% of £100 = £14), so the family lose all their housing benefit.

  • Mr and Mrs Smith live in a two bedroom flat in Annan. Their rent is £70 per week and their housing benefit covers the full cost of their rent.

Under the Welfare Reform changes, the UK government deems the couple to be under-occupying their home and that they have one spare bedroom.

Their housing benefit will be reduced by 14% of their rent (14% of £70 = £9.80) so their housing benefit is reduced to £60.20 per week. The couple will have to pay £9.80 per week towards their rent.

<< Back to Welfare Reform home


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