The Government has introduced new size criteria for housing benefit claims in social housing which may mean a change to the amount of housing benefit you receive depending on your household make-up and how many bedrooms this means you are entitled to under the new housing benefit rules.
It is important to note at this point that this change will only affect people of working age so if you are born on the 1st October 1951 or earlier (or 61 years and 6 months old as at 1st April 2013) you should not be affected. This is the minimum age that you can receive Pension Credit so if you receive any type of Pension Credit you will not be affected.
What do the changes mean?
The size criteria restricts housing benefit to allow for one bedroom for each of the following:
A single adult or couple
Any other adult (16 years old or over)
Two children under 16 of the same sex
Two children under 10 regardless of sex
Any other child
Disabled resident or partner who has a non-resident overnight carer
Who is affected?
All claimants who are deemed to have at least one spare bedroom will be affected. This includes:
Separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this. Benefit rules mean that there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for children (who receives the child benefit)
Couples who use their ‘spare’ bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation
Foster carers because foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes
Parents whose children visit but are not part of the household
Families with disabled children
Disabled people including people living in adapted or specially designed properties.
How much will people lose?
The cut will be a fixed percentage of the Housing Benefit eligible rent. The Government has said that this will be set at 14% for one extra bedroom and 25% for two or more extra bedrooms.
This means that if you get £100 per week Housing Benefit towards a rent of £130 and are deemed to be under-occupying by 1 bedroom your benefit will be reduced by £18.20 (14% of your rent of £130). You would then receive £81.80 per week Housing benefit towards your rent of £130.
Your payable rent would increase from £30 per week to £48.20.
Below are some examples of how different households may be affected:
Tony and Melanie have two children, Sophie who is 5 and Ben who is 3.
They live in a 3 bedroom house and receive £80 Housing Benefit per week towards their full rent of £100, meaning that they pay another £20 themselves.
Under the new size criteria rules they would only be entitled to Housing Benefit for two bedroom accommodation, one for themselves and one for their children who are expected to share as they are under 10 years old.
The Local Housing Benefit department would reduce their Housing benefit award by 14% of their rent as they would deem them to be under-occupying. This would mean that they would receive £66.00 per week Housing Benefit, leaving a shortfall or payable rent of £34.00 (rent = £100, 14% of this is £14.00 plus the £20 per week they already had to pay).
Jill is a single parent with four children, Tom and James who are 12, Carly who is 15 and Sarah who is 17.
She lives in a four bedroom house and currently receives Housing Benefit of £80 per week towards her rent of £130, meaning that she has to pay £50 on top.
Under the size criteria rules Jill would be entitled to Housing Benefit for a 4 bedroom property so would not have her benefit reduced. This is because she would be entitled to one room for herself, one room for Sarah as she is over 16, one room for Tom and James as they would be expected to share as and one room for Carly as she is classed as another child.
Barry is a single man living in a 2 bedroom flat who is currently unemployed.
He shares the care of his son with his former partner. She receives the Child benefit as their son spends the majority of the week with his Mum and stays with Barry on a Saturday night.
Under the size criteria rules Barry’s Housing Benefit would be reduced by 14% of his weekly rent as he would not be classed as the ‘main carer’ of his son and would only be entitled to Housing Benefit for 1 bedroom accommodation.
Sheila lives by herself in a 2 bedroom retirement flat. She was born on the 1st December 1951.
She receives Housing Benefit of £50 per week towards her rent of £75 as she works part time.
Sheila is aware that because she is born after the 1st October 1951 then she will be affected by the size criteria rules and have her Housing Benefit reduced by 14% of her weekly rent figure, leaving her with £39.50 per week (rent = £75, 14% of this is £10.50).
However, she has calculated her pension credit age using the pension calculator on www.directgov.uk which has told her that she will be eligible for Pension Credit from the 6th July 2013 so the shortfall will only affect her for approximately 3 months
So what can you do?
If you think you will be affected by the bedroom tax you need to consider what you are going to do.
You may know someone in your area who is currently looking for a bigger property and may, therefore, want to exchange. If you do please contact your Housing Officer to discuss this as we will not allow exchanges without first giving our permission.
If you do not know of anyone who wants to exchange, are thinking of moving to a different area, or want to consider a wider range of properties then sign up to Homeswapper, the UK’s biggest home swap service. This is free for residents of Wales & West Housing and will give you access to a wide range of properties across the country.
It’s easy to do, just log on to www.homeswapper.co.uk and input your details, making sure that the accommodation you’re looking for matches your needs. Homeswapper will then automatically match you to possible homeswaps.
Alternatively, if you use Facebook you could try HouseSwapWales. This is a new page which helps to link people wanting to exchange their properties and it covers the whole of Wales. Again this is free of charge and easy to use.
Please note that you will need the permission of Wales & West Housing before exchanging your property with anyone else.
As your Landlord we will do whatever we can to help you move if you are affected by the Bedroom Tax. If you are worried about this change please do not hesitate to contact us.