Only 11 months to avoid the ‘bedroom tax’

28/05/2012

From 1 April 2013, people of working age whose rent is paid by Housing Benefit will have to pay a substantial part of the rent themselves if their home is bigger than the Government’s size rules say they need.

Many people will be surprised by how strict these new rules are. If they affect you then it’s probably best to act now so your Housing Benefit doesn’t get reduced.

The new size rules state you need one bedroom for:

  • each couple in your household
  • each pair of children aged under 16 of the same gender
  • any pair of children under 10 regardless of gender
  • any single people aged 16 or over
  • any additional children.

So, a couple with two boys aged 15 and 13 are seen to need two bedrooms until the eldest has his 16th birthday. A couple with a boy of 10 and girl aged eight are seen to need three bedrooms.

Under the new rules the local authority must check the number of bedrooms in the property of every person on Housing Benefit against the number of rooms their family needs.

How will this affect my rent if I am a customer in the north region?

If the person/family has one bedroom too many, their Housing Benefit will go down by 13%-15% of the eligible rent. So if your rent and service charges total £90, you would find your housing benefit going down by £11.70–£13.50 per week.

If a household has two bedrooms more than the rules say they need, their Housing Benefit will reduce by 23%-25% of the eligible rent. If your rent and service charge add up to £92, your housing benefit would reduce by £21.16–£23 a week.

How will this affect my rent if I am a customer in the south region?

If the person/family has one bedroom too many, their Housing Benefit will go down by 13%-15% of the eligible rent. So if your rent and service charges total £120, you would find your housing benefit going down by £15.60-£18 per week.

If a household has two bedrooms more than the rules say they need, their Housing Benefit will reduce by 23%-25% of the eligible rent. If your rent and service charge add up to £130, your housing benefit would reduce by £29.90-£32.50 a week.

What can I do about this?

Check whether you’ll be affected

For example, if you’re aged 60 and a half now, the rules won’t apply to you. If you’re under this age and unsure if this change will affect you, please ring Customer Services and they will try to advise you. In some complex cases you might need to see a local advice centre.

Downsize to a smaller home

If you will find yourself paying more towards your rent out of your benefit income, one possibility is to look for a move to somewhere smaller.

Homeswapper is a national and local initiative to help you find families wanting to swap to a property like yours. See our website:

www.metropolitan.org.uk/find-a-home/more-information/mutual-exchange.

Metropolitan also is a member of many Choice-Based Lettings schemes, and their contact details can be found on the website

www.metropolitan.org.uk/find-a-home/ more-information/choicebased-lettings-explained.

Consider finding a lodger

If the lodger is a close relative, your housing benefit would probably be reduced, but the reduction might be less than the under-occupation reduction, and they should pay this charge to you. If you give your lodger a licence to rent a room from you, there may be no deduction, although the rules are complex. If you phone Customer Services we can arrange for an advisor to phone you back and explain in more detail.

Get advice on budgeting

We know that empty properties aren’t plentiful, and it’s not always easy to find suitable lodgers. If you will be paying this charge – even just for a few months (for example, until a child has their 10th or 16th birthday) – you should see your local credit union or advice centre now. They can help you to work out a plan for how to budget for your rent, bills, clothes and treats, without taking on unaffordable loans. Our Customer Service Centre has details of advice centres in every local area.

Accessibility

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