From April 2013 if you have one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms in your property the maximum rent on which you can claim Housing Benefit may be reduced by:
- 14% if you have one spare bedroom or
- 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms
The rules allow one bedroom for:
- Each adult or couple
- Two children of the same sex under the age of 16
- Two children under the age of 10 regardless of sex
- Any other child
- A carer, who does not normally live with you, if someone in the household needs overnight care
- Approved foster carers – a reduction for under-occupation will not be made in respect of one additional bedroom for the foster child or children
- Parents of armed forces personnel – adult children who are in the armed forces but who continue to live with parents, will be treated as continuing to live at home when deployed on operations
The rules will not apply to households in the following situations:
- Shared ownership – the size criteria rules will not apply where the claimant part owns their property
- Pension age – any claimant over qualifying age for state pension credit or with a partner over that age will be exempt from the size criteria rules
- Temporary accommodation – any claimant accepted as homeless under Homelessness Legislation and placed in temporary accommodation by the Local Authority will be exempt from the size criteria rules
- Supported ‘exempt’ accommodation – claimants in certain types of supported accommodation will be exempt from the size criteria rules
Following a recent Court of Appeal judgement those whose children are said to be unable to share a bedroom because of severe disabilities will be able to claim Housing Benefit for an extra room.
The Local Authority will assess the individual circumstances of the claimant and their family and decide whether it is inappropriate for the children to share a room. This will include considering the amount of care needed during the night, and the extent and regularity of disturbance to the sleep of the child who would share the bedroom.
If you have a child who cannot share a bedroom with a brother or sister you should contact your GP, Social Work or Support Worker and ask for evidence to support your claim. This could be a letter stating the nature of the child’s disability including the amount of care the child needs during the night and also the impact on another child who would be expected to share a bedroom.
There will be some protection from these rules in the following cases:
- 13 week protection where the tenant could previously afford the rent and Housing Benefit has not been claimed in the last 52 weeks
- For up to 12 months where certain members of the household have died
The Local Authority will write out to all our tenants who are under-occupying their home and in receipt of Housing Benefit. If you do not agree with their assessment, you should contact them immediately. Once you have received a letter from Scottish Borders Council, you will be visited by a member of our team who will discuss your options and how we can help. If you did not get a letter and you think the under-occupation rules apply to you please contact either the Scottish Borders Council or our Financial Inclusion Team immediately.