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If you are a council or housing association tenant, your housing
benefit will be cut if you have more bedrooms than your family is
seen as needing. This is commonly described as 'the bedroom tax'.
These rules also apply to help with rent under the Universal
Your local council uses rules that are known as the 'size
criteria'. For housing benefit/Universal Credit purposes, the
following are expected to share one room:
The following are treated as needing their own room:
You are exempt from the bedroom tax if you are a pensioner or
live in a shared ownership property or certain types of support
If you under-occupy by one bedroom then the help you get with
rent is cut by a figure that is equivalent to 14 per cent of your
rent. If you under-occupy by two or more bedrooms then the cut is
25 per cent.
There is no definition of a 'bedroom' in the rules, and your
benefit office is likely to treat you as having the number of
bedrooms that your landlord says you have.
Although the 'bedroom tax' is specific to council and housing
association tenants, the size criteria rules are used to decide
housing benefit/Universal Credit rates for private tenants.
For example, if you rent a private property with three bedrooms
but under size criteria rules are only entitled to two bedrooms,
your benefit will be capped at the two bedroom rate for your
A disabled child will be allowed a separate bedroom if both
This applies regardless of whether you rent from the council, a
housing association or a private landlord.
You will need to provide the office paying you housing
benefit/Universal Credit with details of why your child's condition
prevents them from sharing. You may be expected to provide medical
Initially the rules only allowed for an extra bedroom for carers
who were looking after a disabled adult, but not where they looked
after a disabled child.
However, in January 2016 the Court of Appeal in the Rutherford
case found that this discriminated against disabled children.
As a result the government have now changed the bedroom tax
rules. These new rules, which came into effect on the 1 April 2017,
allow for an extra bedroom where it is used by a carer coming into
your home to provide overnight care for a disabled child. This
applies where your disabled child is your dependent and also to
cases where the child is a disabled adult.
You must show that your child both needs and gets regular
overnight care, and you must also normally show that your child
also gets either DLA care component at the middle/highest rate or
the daily living component of Personal Independence
Payment. If they do not receive one of these benefits then your
housing benefit office can use their discretion to allow an extra
bedroom so long as they are satisfied that overnight care is
needed. However, the Universal Credit office cannot use its
discretion in this way.
Unfortunately housing benefit rules do not currently allow an
extra room for other reasons linked to disability, for example to
store disability equipment.
A child cannot usually be treated as part of your household if
they have 'looked after' status.
However, if your child has come home for part of the week (for
example, at the weekend), your housing benefit office has the power
to treat your child as if they have been part of your family for
the whole week. This may mean your housing benefit then covers an
extra bedroom for them in that week.
Your housing benefit office will take into account the nature
and the frequency of your child's visits home when deciding if it's
reasonable to do this.
From 1 April 2017, the bedroom tax rules changed so that a
couple can be allowed two bedrooms if they can show that they are
unable to share a bedroom due to disability and that at least one
of them is in receipt of one of the following benefits: the dailiy
living component of PIP, the care component of DLA at the middle or
highest rate, Attendance Allowance or armed forces independent
If your child gets DLA at the relevant rate but your housing
benefit office refuses to accept that they cannot share a bedroom,
you should either request a review or appeal against this decision
within one month.
Contact a Family has produced standard appeal letters that you
can use to challenge such a decision.
Discretionary housing payments (DHP) can be made by local
authorities to help tenants meet their rent charges. For instance
they can help to make up a shortfall between your housing benefit
payments and your rent.
These payments are at the discretion of the local authority so
you have no legal right to them. They tend to be made for a
temporary period and you may need to reapply for help
How you make a claim for DHP depends on your
You have no right to appeal a DHP refusal, but you can ask your
local authority to review its decision.
You should seek legal advice if your housing benefit was cut
because you have spare room for an overnight carer for your child
and you were refused DHP.
When deciding whether to give you discretionary housing
payments, many councils take Disability Living Allowance (DLA) into
account as a form of income that is available to pay rent.
In March 2015 the High Court found that Sandwell Council had
acted unlawfully in taking a couple's DLA into account in this way
and this judgement calls into question whether other councils with
a similar policy are acting lawfully.
If, because your child gets DLA, you were either refused a
discretionary housing payment or got reduced payments, seek local
advice about asking your council to reconsider its decision on the
basis that it breaches section 29(6) of the Equality Act and
article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.