Housing Benefit includes a size limit rule for working age people renting from a local authority, a registered housing association or other registered social landlords. 

Does this rule affect my benefit award?

If you are of working age, your Housing Benefit award will be decided based on how many bedrooms your household needs.

You are allowed one bedroom for each of the following:

  • every adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • any other adult aged 16 or over
  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16*
  • any two children aged under 10
  • any other child, (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • a carer (or team of carers) who do not live with you but provide you or your partner with overnight care.

How much will my benefit be reduced by?

If you have more bedrooms than are necessary for your household, you will be considered to be under-occupying that property.

If you are under-occupying there will be a reduction in your Housing Benefit . This will be reduced by:

  • 14% for under-occupancy by one bedroom
  • 25% for under-occupancy by two bedrooms or more.

Example: If your rent is £100 a week, the maximum Housing Benefit is:

  • £86 for under-occupancy by one bedroom.
  • £75 for under occupancy by two bedrooms.                                                                                   

It is your responsibility to make up the shortfall in your rent.

Does this affect everyone who is under-occupying?

This will not affect your Housing Benefit if:

  • you or your partner are of pensionable age.
  • you, your partner or a member of your household are in receipt of a disability benefit and require an extra bedroom due to this disability / condition.
  • you require an extra bedroom for an overnight carer who does not live with you.

Please note - you may be required to supply evidence to ensure you meet the above criteria. 

Am I allowed an extra room for a foster child?

If you or your partner are an approved foster carer, one extra bedroom will be allowed under the size criteria rules for use by a foster child or children.

I cannot afford the shortfall in my rent, what options do I have?

If you are affected by this rule and are not able to afford the shortfall between your benefit and your rent, it is important that you start to consider what your options might be and, where necessary, talk to your landlord or us. You could consider the following options:

Move home

If your financial and household situation is unlikely to change and you feel you would not be able to make up the shortfall in your rent on a long-term basis, you may decide it would be appropriate to move to a smaller property. Your landlord will be able to discuss this option with you and whether they have alternative accommodation available.

Ask other residents to increase their contribution

If you have other adults living with you, such as a grown up son or daughter, you may wish to consider asking them to pay more towards your rent than they currently do in order to help with the shortfall.

Take in a lodger

If you have a spare room you could consider renting this out to help with the rent. You should first check with your landlord whether this is permitted under the terms of your tenancy, and if you are currently in receipt of income support, job seekers allowance or employment support allowance, you should check with the Department of Work and Pensions if this will affect other benefits.

Take a job / increase your hours of employment

If you are not currently working, finding employment could help you with this shortfall. Depending on your current circumstances you will normally be able to earn a small amount without it affecting your benefits. Similarly, if you are currently working, increasing your working hours will normally mean you are better off financially. If you do chose to return to work or increase your working hours, remember to tell the Benefit Office and (if applicable) the Department of Work and Pensions of this change.

Apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment

In certain circumstances we can award you additional help towards your rent via the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme. This is a fund to help claimants who we feel need further assistance with their housing costs. If there are genuine and compelling reasons why you need an additional bedroom or are unable to move to a smaller property - for example, if you or a member of your household are disabled and your property has been adapted to cater for this - you may wish to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to cover the shortfall.

You must be entitled to either Universal Credit or Housing Benefit to be considered for a Discretionary Housing Payment towards your rent.

 Awards for additional help are usually made for a limited period to give you time to make alternative arrangements, and must not be relied on as a long-term solution.