Under Occupation Charge (“Bedroom Tax”)
An under occupancy charge can be applied to anyone who is of working age, in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit AND they have more bedrooms in their property than the government think that they need.
An amount will be deducted from any Housing Benefit or Universal Credit entitlement if you have one or more ‘spare bedrooms’.
Will this affect me?
This could affect you:
- If you are born after 5th November 1954 (date correct as of 6th July 2019)
- 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 property
- You or your partner are old enough to receive pension credit.
What is a ‘spare’ bedroom?
Under these rules, if you have more bedrooms than the UK government says you need, you will receive less housing benefit or universal credit.
The legislation states that 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
In certain circumstances, an additional bedroom can be given but there are strict criteria for this to apply. Circumstances that may allow for an additional bedroom are:
- A severely disabled child who is eligible for the middle or high rate care component of DLA care can be allocated their own bedroom in certain circumstances – rules apply
- A carer (who does not normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care – rules apply
- Couples who cannot sleep in same room due to disability – rules apply
- Foster carers – rules apply
It doesn’t matter how the ‘spare’ bedroom is actually used and they do not take account of the main residence of your children being 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 legislation, your housing benefit or universal credit 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. You can apply to Dumfries and Galloway Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment to fund the 14% or 15% under occupancy charge.
I have a disabled child, what happens to me?
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 so long as they child receives the middle or high rate of the care component for Disability Living Allowance. Proof of the Disability Living Allowance being in payment and a supporting letter from your GP may be required.
I’m a foster carer, what happens to me?
Foster carers are allowed one additional room. You will be allowed the additional room providing that you have either fostered/currently fostering a child, or are an approved foster carer, in the last 52 weeks.
I cannot share a bedroom with my partner, how does this affect me?
If it is unreasonable for one member of a couple to share a bedroom with their partner because of either partner’s disabilities, then an additional bedroom can be allocated if the disabled member of the couple is in receipt of:
- Middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, or
- A daily living component of Personal Independence Payment, or
- Attendance Allowance at the higher rate, or
- Armed Forces Independence Payment.
Examples of how this could affect someone
Sarah and Liam have two foster children who have just been placed with them, a girl aged 12 and a boy aged 14. They live in a three bedroom house and are on Housing Benefit. When Sarah and Liam’s housing benefit claim is re-assessed they will be allocated a bedroom for themselves as a couple.
Under housing benefit rules, the foster children are ‘invisible’ and do not count as part of Sarah and Liam’s claiming family and therefore do not count as living in the property and are not allocated a bedroom.
But as the couple are approved foster carers they are allocated an additional bedroom – so are deemed to need a two bedroom property, and therefore have one ‘spare room’. This means that their housing benefit entitlement will be reduced by 14% of their rent charge rather than 25%.
Adam and Stephanie live in a 3 bedroom property with their 4yr old son and receive Universal Credit. Stephanie gets the high rate care component of DLA – she has severe mental health problems meaning that she struggles to sleep at night and is continually getting out of bed which disturbs Adam. As a result Adam sleeps in a different bedroom.
If Universal Credit accept that, due to Stephanie’s disabilities, it is not reasonable for her and Adam to share a bedroom, then they can allocate them each a bedroom – meaning that they will be deemed to need three bedrooms, rather than two i.e. one for Stephanie, one for Adam and one for their son. This means that nothing will be deducted from their benefit award. If Housing Benefit or Universal Credit did not accept the need for separate bedrooms then 14% would have been deducted from their rent charge for Universal Credit.