The 'bedroom tax'

If you have a spare bedroom and you're renting from the council or a housing association and getting housing costs through Universal Credit or are getting Housing Benefit, then the amount of benefit you receive may be reduced. This is commonly known as 'the bedroom tax'.

The information on this page is only for people who rent from a council or housing association. If you rent from a private landlord see the page Help to pay rent if you're a private renter.

Reduced benefit if you have a spare bedroom

If you're of working age, receiving housing costs through Universal Credit or Housing Benefit and renting a property that's bigger than you need, it's likely that your benefit will be reduced. If you have more bedrooms than you need for your household then you'll lose a percentage of your benefit. This is referred to as 'under-occupying' your home or 'the bedroom tax'.

Exemptions to the 'under occupancy' charge

The reduction to benefit for households with extra bedrooms will not apply to:

  • pensioners

  • approved foster carers and kinship carers

  • parents of adult children who are in the Armed Forces, who still live with parents 

  • people living in shared ownership properties

  • people living in accommodation like caravans, houseboats

  • some exempt supported accommodation

  • carers and overnight carers.

Councils have discretion to decide if the 'under occupancy' changes should be made when there is a child with disabilities who arguably could require their own bedroom.

Number of bedrooms

Unless you are covered by one of the exemptions above the 'under occupancy' charge mean that you can only claim benefit for one bedroom for each of these people who live in your home:

  • a couple

  • an adult

  • two children of the same sex

  • two children under 10

  • any other child

  • a non-resident carer providing overnight care.

Joint tenants and the bedroom tax

If you are a joint tenant, then your claim should be worked out in the same way as any other claim. You will need to inform the benefit department about who lives in your household.

If you get Housing Benefit you need to contact the Housing Benefit department at your local council. Find your local council.

Once the size of the household has been worked out then the normal bedroom size-criteria rules will be applied. The benefit department should take not take into consideration how the rooms are divided up between the joint tenants.

If you are under-occupying your home then your benefit will be reduced (see below), the benefit department should take into consideration how the rent is divided between the joint tenants. In addition to this, you will now have to inform the benefit department of any changes regarding your joint tenant as any changes regarding your own household.

Amount of benefit reduction

If you have more bedrooms than you need then a percentage of your 'eligible rent' will be reduced:

  • 14% will be taken off if you have one extra bedroom, or

  • 25% will be taken off if you have two extra bedrooms.

Challenging your 'bedroom tax' decision

You can challenge your 'bedroom tax' decision, but you only have one month from the date you were told your benefit is going to be reduced because you are under-occupying your home, to do so.

If you have a shortfall in your rent due to 'bedroom tax'

The Scottish Government pledged that everyone affected by the 'bedroom tax' in Scotland will be entitled to a Discretionary Housing Payment. You need to apply to the council for this money. Find out how to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Other options

  • take in a lodgerrenting out a spare room would bring in extra income, but get the agreement of your landlord first and check whether this will affect any other benefits that you're currently receiving, the first £20 of any rent you receive won't count as income on your benefit claim

  • ask for a contribution to your rent - your family members may be able to pay more towards your rent

  • move to a smaller property – you may be able to transfer to a smaller property, speak to your council or the housing association you're renting from to see if you can apply to do this 

If you can't pay all your rent after the reduction you may have to think about finding somewhere else to live or you will risk falling behind with your rent and possibly being evicted. 

Tenants who moved in before 1 January 1996  

If you have been receiving Housing Benefit since 1 January 1996, and have been living in the same property during this time, you could be due a refund if the bedroom tax has been applied. Some short breaks in claim are allowed and you continue to be exempt if you had to move because a fire or flood meant your original home wasn't fit to live in.

You should ask the council to look again at your Housing Benefit award if you have been in receipt of Housing Benefit since 1 January 1996 but your benefit was reduced due to the 'bedroom tax'. Don't wait for the council to contact you. Ask for a review of your Housing Benefit award from 1 April 2013. Do this by writing to the council's Housing Benefit department. 

Find your local council.

Temporary accommodation 

Council owned homeless temporary accommodation is included in the under occupancy changes. This means a deduction will apply if you're placed in this type of accommodation and it's too big for your needs. If you're in this situation you should apply for a discretionary housing payment.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 12 January 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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