Guide

Bedroom tax

Outline

From April 2013, social housing tenants of working age have not been able to claim housing benefit for so-called “spare” bedrooms in their homes. The reductions are 14% of eligible rent for one “spare” bedroom and 25% of eligible rent for two or more “spare” bedrooms. 

Shelter explains how this works saying that, if a tenant has one “spare” bedroom and a weekly rent of £100, only £86 would be counted when housing benefit eligibility is assessed. That means that the tenant would have to pay at least £14 of the rent to the landlord themselves – and find the money themselves. If a tenant has two or more “spare” bedrooms and pays a rent of £100 per week, only £75 would be counted when housing benefit was assessed. Someone in that situation would have to pay £25 of their weekly rent to their landlord themselves.

The government tried to call this change the Spare Room Subsidy or the Under Occupancy Charge – but the name Bedroom Tax has stuck.

Problems 

The Bedroom Tax has been one of the coalition government’s most unpopular and controversial changes. Campaigning and resistance against the tax has been strong. Anti-bedroom tax campaign groups operate around the country. 

It quickly became clear that people on benefits would be particularly badly affected by the Bedroom Tax as they struggled to find the extra money for rent out of already small benefits like ESA and JSA

It also became clear that, even if people wanted to downsize to beat the tax, there was a shortage of smaller housing for them to move to. The Independent reported in August last year that 96% of people affected by the tax could not downsize because of a lack of appropriately sized and available properties.

Disabled people have been especially hard hit. There are supposedly exemptions for severely disabled children and people who need overnight carers, but the onus is placed on disabled people and their families to prove their eligibility for exemptions. The exemptions as they exist have not helped disabled people in couples who need separate rooms to sleep in or a room to store equipment. 

Around two-thirds of people hit by the bedroom tax are from households where someone is disabled.

Other disabled people have said that their “spare” rooms are too small to be counted as bedrooms. Room size can be the basis for a challenge, and there have been legal challenges to that effect. People affected by the bedroom tax have been encouraged to challenge councils and housing associations if the “spare” room or rooms they are being charged for are small

People have also been encouraged to challenge councils and housing associations on room use as well as room size – whether the tenants have used their so-called “spare” bedrooms as bedrooms, and whether they should be counted as such. Some people use those rooms for storage or as office areas, particularly if they are small. 

Unite Community has produced a good guide, which explains some of the grounds on which people can appeal the bedroom tax, and has sample letters that people can use to challenge social landlords on the application of the tax.

Joe Halewood’s website is essential reading for bedroom tax campaigners, and gives regular updates of council and tribunal decisions on bedroom tax appeals.

People affected by the bedroom tax can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from their local council. DHPs are only a short-term solution, though, and councils can run out of funds because they are used to cover a variety of housing benefit shortfall problems, including the Benefit Cap. DHPs are allocated for a fixed term and when that term ends, people must find the money to cover the bedroom tax themselves. Shelter has produced a good guide to discretionary housing payments.

The demand for DHPs has caused problems. False Economy research this year showed that councils were running out of DHP funds before the end of the financial year, and that some councils had been forced to turn away three-quarters of the tenants who made DHP requests. 

After the bedroom tax was introduced, housing campaigners discovered a loophole in the legislation, which meant that tenants who had been continuously claiming housing benefit from before 1 January 1996 and who had lived at the same address, could be exempt from the bedroom tax. Those people were eligible for a refund. The government has since closed the loophole.

Links

Bedroom Tax & room size – HB regs say bedroom needs to be a “double bedroom”
Concrete information from Joe Halewood to help challenge the bedroom tax on the basis of room size.

Bedroom tax loophole closes today
Inside Housing article explaining the change in regulations.  

Bedroom Tax victims tell David Cameron: Visit our home and you'll axe the charge
A family with a severely disabled child tell their story – Mirror.

‘Big lie’ behind the bedroom tax: Families trapped with nowhere to move face penalty for having spare room
Up to 96% per cent of those affected have, in effect, nowhere to move to – Independent.

Department for Work and Pensions Stat-Xplore
The DWP’s own statistics which, show, amongst many other things, that a quarter of families on Housing Benefit are in work.

Discretionary Housing Payment
Detailed information from Turn2us about DHP and the situations in which it may – or may not – be paid.

Discretionary housing payments (DHP)
A guide from Shelter.

Is the ‘bedroom tax’ hitting disabled people hardest?
As the government’s austerity programme starts to bite, people living with disability could be bearing the brunt – Disability News Service.

New chapter in ‘bedroom tax’ saga – now councils run out of emergency funds to help worst cases
The Government’s justification for its controversial “bedroom tax” debunked, based on research by False Economy.

New figures show that people are trapped by the bedroom tax
False Economy research reveals that nearly six out of seven affected households are unable to avoid a cut in rent support.

SPeye Joe (Welfarewrites)
Joe Halewood writes about welfare rights and welfare reform.

Two thirds of those hit by ‘bedroom tax’ are disabled
According to the government’s impact assessment, almost two thirds of the tenants affected by the bedroom tax are from households that contain someone who is disabled – ITV.

The Secret Cuts: Part Three, The Bedroom Tax
Alan White and Kate Belgrave find out how the introduction of the bedroom tax hits disabled people and people on benefits.

Tria Hall on the home and bedroom she must pay the bedroom tax on
Disabled woman Trialia Hall is charged the bedroom tax for a two-bedroom flat that her housing association built with two bedrooms for a carer. The housing association moved her from a one-bedroom flat into her new, adapted block. She was awarded a DHP to cover the outstanding rent.

Unite Bedroom Tax Toolkit
Resources and information to help you challenge the bedroom tax.

50,000 people face eviction because of the bedroom tax
False Economy’s research on the impact of the tax.

Your DHP has run out. Pay the bedroom tax yourself. You’re on your own from here
False Economy finds more evidence that evictions are on the horizon and says the bedroom tax needs to be scrapped right away.