Bedroom Tax Frequently Asked Questions

 

What do I do if I need an extra room because….

…….I have a carer who stays overnight…?

If you have a carer who has to stay overnight on a regular basis to care for you or your partner, and there is a bedroom for them to sleep in, you can be allocated an extra bedroom for them.  You need to inform your local council (if you get Housing Benefit) / the DWP (if you get Universal Credit) and they may need proof of your or your partner’s Disability Living Allowance / Personal Independence Payment to show that you / your partner requires this care. If you are getting Housing Benefit a letter from your GP stating the need for overnight care should be enough.

Up to 1st April 2017 the rules did not allow an extra room if the carer is providing overnight care for another member of your household, such as a child or other adult; until then you could apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment. However, following a case in the Supreme Court which said this was unjustifiable discrimination, the rules changed from 1st April 2017, so if it is one of your children, foster children or non-dependants who regularly receives the overnight care, the extra room is allocated. If you get Universal Credit, the child or person requiring the care must be getting either Personal Independence Payment (daily living component) or the middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or Armed Forces Independence Payment. If you receive Housing Benefit, a letter from the disabled person’s GP stating their need for overnight care should be enough.

……I have access to my son / daughter / grandchild and they stay with me regularly…?

Only children who are regarded as ‘normally living with you’ are allocated a bedroom in your home: this means that the parent who gets the Child Benefit for that child will normally be the one who is regarded as needing a bedroom for them, even if access is split equally between parents. However, you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment if you can show that you are struggling to pay your rent and that if you didn’t have a bedroom for the child/ren you wouldn’t be able to see them or very rarely. But each local council has to prioritise which cases they will pay for, and Discretionary Housing Payments are usually time limited to 3 or 6 months, though you can apply again at the end of the period.

….my child is at University and returns home during their holidays…?

If your local council / the DWP accept that your home is your child’s ‘normal home’, and that they come home regularly (eg in the holidays), you should be allocated a bedroom for them. If they don’t accept that it is their normal home you will need to provide evidence such as where they are registered to vote, where they keep most of their ‘stuff’, what they do in the holidays, (eg do they get a holiday job at home?), where they intend to live after University, etc. If your local council / the DWP still refuse to allocate them a bedroom, contact us for advice.

….. my partner has a disability which means we cannot share a bedroom…?

Following a case in the Supreme Court, which said it was unjustifiable discrimination not to allow a second bedroom where there was a medical need for a couple to sleep in separate bedrooms, the rules changed from 1st April 2017. An extra bedroom can be allocated where, due to the disability, it is not reasonable for a couple to share a bedroom. The disabled person must be in receipt of the Daily Living Component of Personal Independence Payment, the middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, the High Rate of Attendance Allowance or Armed Forces Independence Payment.

…..I am disabled and the room is used to store equipment related to my disability…?

This situation is not covered in the Bedroom Tax rules but you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment

……. my children need to sleep separately for a reason other than disability...?

This situation is not covered in the Bedroom Tax rules but if there is a serious problem, and especially if you have the support of a professional (eg social worker) you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment.

…. I am pregnant and the baby will need its own room…?

Until the baby is born you are not allocated a bedroom for him/her. As soon as the baby is born they are allocated a bedroom. You may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment from your local council for the period before the baby is born.

A member of my family has died and now there is an unused bedroom. Will I be affected by the Bedroom Tax straight away?

If you are getting Housing Benefit, then for 12 months after bereavement, your Housing Benefit should be based on the rent used by the local council in your Housing Benefit assessment on the day before the person died.

For example, if Mr Jones was the tenant of a 2 bedroom flat living with his son Bill, and Bill sadly died on 5th May 2016, then Mr Jones would not have his Housing Benefit reduced due to the Bedroom Tax for a year ie until 4th May 2017.

Even if the bereavement doesn’t change the number of bedrooms you are deemed to need, the protection can apply if, before the year is out, you are left with an extra bedroom (eg a son or daughter moves out).

If you are claiming help with your rent through Universal Credit, the rules are different. For 3 months, your Universal Credit “housing cost element” (ie how much can be included in your Universal Credit towards your rent) should be based on the rent used by the DWP in your Universal Credit assessment, on the day before the person died.

My ‘extra’ bedroom is tiny - why should this count as a bedroom?

The Bedroom Tax rules don’t give a minimum size for a bedroom, so your local council/ the DWP will count it as a bedroom. However, a Tribunal Judge has said that, although the size of the room on its own doesn’t determine whether or not the room can be called a “bedroom”, the size and layout are a factor in considering whether the room can really function as a bedroom.

The Judge said that the factors that have to be taken into account when considering whether a room is a bedroom include: size, height, storage space/access to storage, privacy, natural light ie a window, ventilation, heating. Another Judge has ruled that a bedroom should be capable of accommodating a single adult bed, a bedside table and somewhere to store clothes, as well as providing space for dressing and undressing. However, in another case, a different judge decided a room which could only accommodate a bed and a chest of drawers could be classed as a bedroom – as the chest of drawers could serve as both a bedside table and a place to store clothes.

In another case, the Housing Benefit office had decided that there was a ‘spare’ bedroom, because two brothers aged under 16 would be expected to share a room. However, a 3-judge panel decided that, if the light fitting could not be moved, and it was therefore not safe to use the top bunk bed, the bedroom tax should not be applied, as neither of the small bedrooms used by two brothers aged under 16 was suitable to accommodate bunk beds.

If your tiny “spare bedroom” does not meet these standards you might want to try asking your local council / the DWP not to count it as a bedroom, and appealing if they say no. Contact us for advice.

I have lived in this home for years and I don’t want to move but I’m struggling to pay the rent.

Sadly, unless one of the exclusions apply (as described in the main section) then you will have to pay all the rent that is due, to remain in the property. You could try applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment – these can be paid whether you get Housing Benefit or Universal Credit - but unless there are special circumstances the council would generally not award a Discretionary Housing Payment unless you were looking to downsize to a smaller property. Also, remember these payments are time limited and the local council has to decide who to prioritise. Have you considered taking a lodger? There are pros and cons to this, and you need permission, so speak to us about this option before going ahead, contact the Financial Inclusion Team on 0300 111 000 or 0800 633 5500.

I want to let out my ‘extra’ bedroom to a lodger. How do I do this, and is it a good idea?

If you let out a room to a lodger this means that under Housing Benefit rules (see below if you get Universal Credit) the room won’t count as an ‘extra’ bedroom for Bedroom Tax purposes but there are a number of things to consider:

  1. You need to ask us for permission before you take in a lodger.
  2. If the lodger is a close relative* for whom you do not receive Child Benefit, then the local council will class them as a non-dependant even if you regard them as a lodger (see the section on non-dependants for more information on how this would affect your benefit).
    *Close relative means parent, parent-in-law, son, son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, step-parent, step-son, step-daughter, brother, sister or the spouse or partner of any of these people.
  3. If the lodger was previously your non-dependant the local council are unlikely to consider them to be a lodger. They might even refuse you HB altogether if they think this change means you’re trying to “take advantage of the benefit system”.
  4. To be classed as a lodger they must be paying you for accommodation and/or meals (‘board’) on a commercial basis. The local council will want to see some proof of the commercial basis of the arrangement to be convinced they are a lodger- such as a rent book and/or tenancy agreement.
  5. Money over £20 a week which the lodger pays you for their accommodation can affect your benefit entitlements (see below for rules under Universal Credit).
  6. Make sure you, your family, and your property are going to be safe. Do you know the lodger? If not, find out as much as you can, and get character references from at least two people you trust to tell you the truth.
  7. If the lodger causes any damage to the property or anti-social behaviour, this will be your responsibility as our tenant and could affect your rights to remain in the property.
  8. Have you considered whether you are happy to have someone living with you? Make sure you lay ground rules about cleanliness, meals, noise, where they can and can’t go in your home, etc.
  9. Have you considered what you will do if they don’t pay you? Or if you want them to leave? Your lodger is your responsibility as the contract is between you and them – we can’t help you with this.
  10. If you currently receive a 25% discount on your council tax bill because you are classed as living alone you may lose this discount.
  11. New rules mean if you let out part of your home to a lodger you have to check their immigration status under the “right to rent” rules, or face a fine.

Note: If you are getting Universal Credit to help with your rent rather than Housing Benefit, the rules are different:
a. A lodger is NOT entitled to a bedroom under Universal Credit Bedroom Tax rules.
b.

Money

you receive from the lodger does NOT count as income in calculating how much Universal Credit you can get.

There are some useful websites you could look at before considering taking in a lodger:
www.england.shelter.org.uk
www.spareroom.co.uk
www.lodgers.com
www.gov.uk
www.adviceguide.org.uk

Are there any time limits on challenging a Bedroom Tax decision?

The normal time limit to appeal a Housing Benefit decision is one calendar month from date of the decision, although this can be extended to thirteen months if you have very good cause for a late appeal. And if the local council have made a mistake then there is no time limit.

Many of the decisions will have been made when the Bedroom Tax came in, so the maximum time limit to appeal ran out in May 2014. However, every time the amount of your Housing Benefit is altered there’s a new Housing Benefit decision, so you might get the Bedroom Tax removed from a later date even if not right back to the beginning. Contact us for advice if you want to challenge a Bedroom Tax decision.

The normal time limit to challenge a Universal Credit decision is one calendar month, but a late request can be made as long as no more than 13 months have passed since the original decision was made. You can’t go straight to appeal but have to ask for a ‘reconsideration’ first. If you are not satisfied with the reconsideration decision, you can then appeal. If you made your reconsideration request within 13 months of the original decision, but the decision maker refused to look at the decision again because they did not accept that you had a good enough reason for the delay, you can still lodge an appeal. You should submit your appeal within one calendar month of the reconsideration decision (or refusal to accept the reconsideration request), but a late request may be accepted as long as no more than 13 months have passed since the reconsideration decision was made.

I want to move to a smaller property: what can I do?

You can register on homeswapper.co.uk which is a national mutual exchange website. This will show you who in the area you wish to live would be interested in your current home. You would contact any interested people yourself and view each other’s homes. You can exchange with any social housing tenant (council or housing association). Once you have agreed you would like to swap you need to request permission from all the Landlords involved. Contact the Financial Inclusion Team on 0300 111 000 or 0800 633 5500.

What happens if I get into arrears?

The rent we charge is vital to running the services we provide for residents, repairing and refurbishing your home, and providing new homes. Therefore we take rent arrears very seriously.

If you are having problems paying your rent then we can offer you assistance with budgeting and will check that you are claiming all the financial help you are entitled to. We can also refer you to other agencies for help with debt and budgeting advice. However, if your rent is not paid we will take steps to recover the payments. This could include legal action and your home could be at risk of repossession.

If you are experiencing difficulties, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss how we can help you.

 © 2017 Housing Systems Ltd