Bedroom Tax - size criteria in the social rented sector

You may be affected if you are deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms.

The size criteria is also known as the "Bedroom Tax" or under-occupation charge:

  • Size criteria in the social rented sector applies only to working age tenants. 
  • It applies to people living in council, housing association and housing co-operative homes.  
  • A similar scheme already applies to people living in private sector tenancies who are claiming Local Housing Allowance (Housing Benefit for private tenants) and are deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms

What does the size criteria in the Social Rented Sector mean?

The following will be expected to share: 

  • every adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • every other adult (aged 16 or over)
  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • any two children aged under 10
  • any other child (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)

The following can have their own bedroom:

One spare bedroom is allowed for:

  • an approved foster carer who is between placements but only for up to 52 weeks from the end of the last placement
  • a newly approved foster carer for up to 52 weeks from the date of approval if no child is placed with them during that time

Rooms used by students and members of the armed or reserve forces will not be counted as 'spare' if they're away and intend to return home.

Who will be affected?

All Housing Benefit claimants who are deemed to have at least one spare bedroom will be affected including:

  • separated parents who share the care of their children even if they have specifically been allocated an extra bedroom for this
  • couples who use their spare bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation
  • parents whose children visit and stay overnight but are not part of the household
  • disabled people including people living in adapted or specially designed properties.

Bereaved families

Where under-occupancy arises due to a death,  the size criteria reduction will not apply for 52 weeks in order to give bereaved families time to come to terms with their loss and to make the right decisions about their finances and size of accommodation.

What will the reduction to Housing Benefit be?

The reduction will be a fixed percentage of the Housing Benefit eligible rent figure of:

  • 14% for one extra bedroom
  • 25% for two or more extra bedrooms

If you are affected by the size criteria in the social rented sector, what can you do to minimise the impact?

People affected have a number of options, however not all these options may be suitable for or available to you. You may wish to consider:

  • Moving to a smaller property - however due to the lack of available smaller properties in the social rented sector, options to move are very limited and moving to the private sector may not be suitable depending on your circumstances. To get advice about your housing options, you can contact the Housing Options & Support Team on 01738 476000.
  • Renting out your spare room - this may be an option to some people however it must be noted that although lodgers will count as occupying a room under the size criteria rules, any income from a lodger above £20.00 per week will be taken into account and deducted from means tested benefits. There may also be some risks involved. The DWP has produced a Factsheet giving further information about renting out your spare room.  If you are considering doing this, you will need to seek permission from your landlord.  If you are a council tenant, you will need to complete a icon Request for Permission Form - Lodgers [422Kb].
  • Finding work/increasing hours at work - moving into work or increasing working hours can increase your income and help cover any reduction in Housing Benefit. You may want to visit The Hub - Employment Advice Centre for more information on how Perth & Kinross Council can help you increase your chances of finding suitable employment. You may also want to register with the UK Government's Universal Jobmatch.
  • Reviewing household budgets - you may wish to look at ways of reducing non-essential expenditure. The Money Advice Service has useful information on managing money including lots of money saving tips. The council's Libraries can also provide resources to help with reading, writing, numeracy and budgeting. 
  • Having family members contribute more - if there are non-dependants living in your house, the excess rent may be covered through new or increased contributions made by them.
  • Making sure all relevant benefits are being claimed by getting in touch with the council's Welfare Rights Team or an organisation such as Perth Citizen's Advice Bureau who will be able to undertake a welfare benefit check and advise if you are missing out. If you are, you will be given information and advice on how to make a claim.
  • Applying for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) - this can sometimes be paid to help you meet the shortfall between your Housing Benefit and your rent payments, or if you have expenses connected with moving to more suitable accommodation. There is no guarantee that you will receive a DHP because funding is limited and applications have to be prioritised. Anyone claiming Housing Benefit can apply for a DHP but if you are applying to help meet the shortfall in your rent caused by the size criteria, priority has to be given to certain groups such as disabled people living in significantly adapted accommodation.  You can also apply for a DHP for things like removal costs, rent in advance and deposits if you are moving house, for example, to find work or to move from a larger social rented sector tenancy to a smaller one in the private sector. To apply for a DHP, you will need to complete a icon DHP application form [269Kb]. The council also has a Rent bond guarantee scheme which may be able to assist with a deposit to allow you to secure a property in the private sector.

What if I fall into rent arrears due to the size criteria?

If your rent is not paid, the money owed is called rent arrears. Rent arrears are 'priority debts' which means the consequences of not dealing with them are serious - there is a risk of eviction. Find out what to do you if you fall into rent arrears.

Contact details

Welfare Rights Team

Pullar House, 35 Kinnoull Street, Perth, PH1 5GD
Tel 01738 476900 (Option 1)