Changes to housing benefit due to under occupancy
From April 2013, if you live in a council or housing association home and have one or more "spare" bedrooms your housing benefit may be reduced.
Through the Welfare Reform Act the Government has introduced some major changes that will affect the way residents of working age and on benefits will:
- Have their income calculated
- Receive benefit payments.
This also includes residents who are in work but receive partial housing benefit.
The changes affect people of "working age" which means anyone who is under state retirement age.
This explains some of the biggest changes to help you make informed decisions about the size of property you occupy.
How many bedrooms do you have?
From April 2013, if you live in a council or housing association home and you have one or more 'spare' bedrooms your housing benefit maybe reduced.
The cost of having a spare bedroom
1 "spare" bedroom will equate to on average of £11 per week (14%) less towards your rent
2 "spare" bedrooms will equate to an average of £20 per week (25%) less towards your rent.
This could affect you:
- if you are 16 up until state retirement age
- even if you only get a small amount of housing benefit for example, if you are working
- even if you are sick or disabled.
You won't be affected if:
- you live in a one bedroom flat or bedsit, or if you or your partner are old enough to receive pension credits. In April 2013 the pension credit age will be around 63 and a half years.
What is a 'spare' bedroom?
Under the new government rules, if you have more bedrooms than they say you need, you will lose part of your housing benefit. From April 2013 you will be allocated one bedroom for:
- each adult couple
- any other person aged 16 or over
- two children of the same sex under the age of 16
- two children under the age of 10 regardless of their sex
- any other child
- a carer (who does not normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care.
It does not matter how the 'spare' bedroom is used, the new rules will apply even if:
- you and your partner need to sleep apart because of a medical condition
- the main residence of your children is another address, but you have a spare room for when they stay with you.
The " under-occupancy" will apply to residents who have minority access to children as this is not classed as the child's main home.
Exclusions may apply (but each circumstance will need to be considered separately) if:
- Additional rooms are required by children who are unable to share room for medical reasons.
- Additional room/s required by approved foster carers whether or not a child has been placed with them or they are between placements, so long as they have fostered a child, or become an approved foster carer in the last 12 months. (speak to your social worker for more details)
- Adult children who are in Armed Forces but who continue to live with parents will be treated as continuing to live at home even when deployed on operations.
If you are in receipt of benefit a reduction will be made should your property size be larger than that set out in the government's calculation.
Who can I speak to?
Speak to your own landlord about your options. If you are worried about being able to afford to pay your rent you should ask for advice now. If you don't pay your rent you could lose your home, so talk to the rent team about different ways to pay.
Talk to the council housing team about transferring to a smaller home or a mutual exchange, or taking in a lodger. You may be entitled to priority for moving to a smaller property. Please contact the council housing team on 0141 577 4993 / 3719 / 3722 if you wish to discuss your options.
Talk to the council rent team if you are worried about rent arrears on 0141 577 3714.
For financial support advice contact either council's money advice services on 0800 052 1023 or adult and family learning services on 0141 577 3306 or your local Citizens Advice Scotland: East Renfrewshire on 0141 881 2032
Is there any support available?
Additional Support with housing costs is available from the Council.
If you are a tenant within East Renfrewshire and your housing benefit has been reduced for any of the following reasons the Council may be able to help and you should apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.
Circumstances in which additional help is available
- Tenants when housing benefit has been reduced because of the benefit cap.
- Tenants when housing benefit has been reduced following the removal of spare room subsidy in the social rental sector. (Local authority or housing association tenants).
- Private sector tenants when housing benefit has been restricted because of local housing allowance restrictions.
- Anyone who needs additional assistance to prevent homelessness should also apply.
To qualify for assistance you need to be in receipt of housing benefit and require further assistance with housing costs.
How to apply
Application forms have been sent to all tenants affected by removal of the spare room subsidy. If you need help to complete the form you should contact Kerry Martin on 0141 577 3649 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional forms are also available.
Please note the Council cannot provide additional financial assistance through Discretionary Housing Payment unless you submit an application. Even if you applied last year, a new form is required for the current year (1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015).
Help is available, please apply for it!
Try to find some paid work to increase your income. Contact the WorkER team on 0141 577 8438.