Under-occupation (Bedroom Tax)

Back in April 2013, the government introduced a rule that changed the way Housing Benefit is calculated.

If you have too many bedrooms in your home, you may be affected by the ‘Bedroom Tax’. 

What is the ‘Bedroom Tax’?

The ‘Bedroom Tax’ (also known as under-occupation) is a change to Housing Benefit entitlement. Under the ‘Bedroom Tax’ if you live in a housing association or council property that is deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms your housing benefit is likely to be reduced.

Will the ‘Bedroom Tax’ affect me?

You will be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ if:

  • You’re classed as having a spare bedroom
  • You’re aged between 16 and pension credit age
  • You receive Housing Benefit (or the housing element of Universal Credit) while living in a housing association or council property.

Use Citizens Advice’s bedroom calculator to find out how many bedrooms your family may be entitled to.

What is classified as a ‘spare’ bedroom?

You are allowed one bedroom for:

  • Each adult couple
  • Each other person aged 16 or over
  • Two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • Two children under 10, regardless of their sex
  • Any other child

Extra bedrooms can be allowed for:

  • Approved foster carers
  • Adult children serving away as members of the Armed Forces
  • Overnight carers
  • Adult children who are students living away from home
  • Members of a couple when one of them has a disability which means they cannot share a room (to be eligible the disabled partner must get a disability benefit)
  • Disabled children who cannot share a bedroom with another child because of her/his disability (the child must be in receipt of middle or high rate DLA care and the Local Authority must be satisfied that the room cannot be shared.)

Frequently asked questions

How much could I lose?

If you under-occupy your home your Housing Benefit will be cut by the following percentage:

14% for one spare bedroom

25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms


For example:

  • Mandy and Stu live in a four-bedroom house with their three boys aged 10 and 14. The boys will be expected to share a room until the eldest turns 16. The amount of rent Mandy and Stu can claim Housing Benefit or Universal Credit for is reduced by 25% because they currently have two extra bedrooms. It will be reduced by 14% when their sons are no longer expected to share

  • Bill and Sarah live in a two-bedroom property with their daughter Michelle, aged 19. Rent is £90 per week, and they receive full Housing Benefit. Michelle leaves home leaving Bill and Sarah with a ‘spare’ bedroom. The amount of their rent that can be used to calculate housing benefit is reduced by 14%. This means they can now only get a maximum of £77.40 per week Housing Benefit

  • David and Louise have a child, Harry, and live in a three-bedroom house. Harry is very ill, and requires overnight care from someone who does not live in the same house as the family. The Local Authority agrees that a room is needed for the overnight carer, so David and Louise do not have a ‘spare’ room and will not be affected by the ‘Bedroom Tax’.

Are there any exceptions to the tax?

You will not be affected by the ‘Bedroom Tax’ if you live in a Karbon home and we provide you with care support or supervision.

What can I do?

If your Housing Benefit is restricted due to under-occupation, you will have a shortfall between your rent and the amount of Housing Benefit you receive. It is up to you to decide how to manage this shortfall. Here are some options for you to consider:

  • Make up the shortfall from other income (including income from other benefits) or from savings, if available
  • Ask us for a benefit check to see if you’re claiming all you are entitled to, or for advice on how to reduce any debts to free up your available income
  • Increase your income by finding work or increasing working hours
  • Ask adult family members living in your home to contribute more towards the rent
  • Move to a smaller property in the social housing or private rented sector. You can discuss this option with us
  • Apply to your Local Authority for a Discretionary Housing Payment
  • Take in a lodger to live in an unoccupied room. Speak to us about how you could make this work
  • Consider whether you can challenge the authority’s decision to reduce your Housing Benefit. Call us and we can offer advice.

I’ve been affected by the ‘Bedroom Tax’. How long will this last?

A relevant change of circumstances may mean that you will no longer be affected. This could be when you reach Pension Credit age, for instance, or when one of your children reaches the age when they will be allocated their own room.

We can help

If you are worried about finding the money to pay your rent, you should contact us. Our benefits and money team can advise you on whether any extra financial help might be available to you.

If you think you will struggle managing and budgeting your money, have physical or mental health problems that might stop you managing your money effectively, or if you need help dealing with debt please contact one of our benefits and money advisors.

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