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Check if you’re allowed an extra bedroom for Housing Benefit

This advice applies to Wales

If you live in a council or housing association home, your Housing Benefit might be reduced if your home is considered too large for you. This is sometimes known as the 'bedroom tax', the ‘under-occupancy charge’ the ‘social sector size criteria’ or the ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’.

You might be affected if you're of working age. However, check if there are any special rules that might apply to you.

If you need a room for someone who doesn't live with you

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

  • 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

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

  • intend to come home
  • are in hospital, or away studying or training

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 have moved out but sometimes come to stay.

If you're disabled

You're allowed an extra bedroom if someone in your household is disabled and needs regular overnight care from a carer who doesn't live with you. This won't count as a spare bedroom. The person who's disabled needs to be either:

  • the person claiming
  • the partner of the person claiming
  • any other adult who lives with you and gets a disability benefit

The disabled person should also get at least 1 of these benefits:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • the middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance
  • the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment  
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

You can only get 1 extra bedroom for carers, even if more that 1 person in your home needs overnight care. 

You can also get an extra bedroom if you're in a couple and one of you has a disability that means you can't share a bedroom. The disabled person will need to get at least 1 of these benefits:

  • the higher rate of Attendance Allowance

  • the middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance

  • the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment  

  • an Armed Forces Independence Payment

If you're disabled and are affected by the cuts, you should apply to your local council for extra help with your rent - this is known as a Discretionary Housing Payment. Your council should give you priority, particularly if your home has been specially adapted for you. You should also get priority for a Discretionary Housing Payment if it would be difficult for you to move, for example, because you rely on your family and friends who live in the area.

If you have a disabled child

You're allowed an extra bedroom if your child is disabled and can't share a bedroom with another child because of their disability. You're also allowed an extra bedroom if your child is disabled and needs regular overnight care from a carer who doesn't live with you. You must meet the following conditions:

  • your disabled child must be entitled to the middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance
  • your local council must accept that your child’s disability means they can’t share a bedroom with another child

If your local council decide to reduce your Housing Benefit because they think you have too many bedrooms, you can use a template letter from the charity Contact to explain why your disabled child needs a separate bedroom. You can download the letter on ‘Challenging bedroom tax decisions’ from the Contact website or call them on freephone 0808 808 3555.

If your child lives with you only part of the week

If you share the care of your child with the child's other parent, your child will be treated as living with the parent who provides the child's main home. If your child spends equal amounts of time with both parents, they will be treated as living with the parent who claims Child Benefit for them. This may mean you won't be allowed a bedroom for the child.

If you're a foster carer

If any of the following people is an approved foster carer, or in Scotland, an approved foster carer or a kinship carer, they will be allowed an extra bedroom. This won’t count as a spare bedroom. The people are:

  • the claimant
  • the claimant’s partner
  • someone else who is a joint tenant with the claimant or the claimant's partner
  • the partner of someone else who is a joint tenant with the claimant or the claimant's partner

Only one additional bedroom is allowed for a claimant and a claimant's partner if they are both approved foster carers or kinship carers. Only one additional bedroom is allowed for a joint tenant and the joint tenant's partner if they are both approved foster carers or kinship carers.

These rules apply whether or not a child has been placed with the carer, as long as they have fostered a child or have become an approved carer in the last 12 months.

If your child is in the Armed Forces

If you have an adult son, daughter or step-child who is in the Armed Forces and who lives with you but who is serving away from home, they are treated as continuing to live at home.

As long as they intend to return home, the rules won't be applied to the bedroom they normally occupy.

If you're a joint tenant

Everyone sharing a property is counted even if they are joint tenants. If you are a joint tenant and your property is considered too big for you, your Housing Benefit will be reduced.

For example, you're a joint council tenant with your brother and you have a 3-bedroom property. Your brother's child used to live with you so you had one bedroom each. However, now his child has left home, you will be treated as having a spare bedroom.

If somebody in your household dies

If somebody has recently died in your household, this could mean your home would now be considered too big for you. However, if this happens, your Housing Benefit will not be reduced for a year after the death.

If you could previously afford your rent without claiming Housing Benefit

If you could previously afford your rent without claiming Housing Benefit, even though your home is considered too big for you, you will get a short period of grace if you now need help with your rent because of a change in your circumstances. The rules about size restriction won't apply to you for up to 13 weeks if:

  • you're making a new claim for Housing Benefit because of a change of circumstances, for example, if you've lost your job, and
  • you could afford your rent when you first took on your tenancy, and
  • you haven't claimed Housing Benefit in the previous 12 months

Do Housing Benefit size restrictions apply to all types of homes?

If you live in a certain type of social housing, you won't be affected by the rules about size restriction.

This will be the case if you live in:

  • temporary accommodation your council has put you in because you were homeless (but not if the council actually own this accommodation)
  • supported accommodation such as a house or a flat where you get extra help from support workers, or sheltered accommodation for older people

The size restrictions do not apply to site fees for a caravan or mobile home, or to mooring charges for a houseboat. But they could apply if you rent your mobile home or houseboat from the council or a housing association.

Next steps

Check how your Housing Benefit might change if the council think you have too many bedrooms.

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