The rules for Housing Benefit say that the amount of benefit you get is based on how many rooms your household needs.
If you are a private tenant, your Housing Benefit is already based on how many rooms you need and on where your home is located. Private tenants don't have to worry about the bedroom tax. When you rent your home from the Housing Executive or from a housing association, you could be affected by the bedroom tax if your home is too large.
How many rooms do you need?
One bedroom is allowed for
- a couple;
- a person aged 16 and over;
- two children of the same sex;
- two children under 10;
- any other child;
- a carer providing overnight care to the claimant or the claimant's partner.
Sometimes parents will share care of a child. However, under Housing Benefit rules, this child can only belong to one household and only the parent who gets Child Benefit will be entitled to a room for this child.
Are you allowed any extra rooms?
You might be entitled to an extra bedroom if
- you have fostered a child, or have been approved as a foster carer, in the last 12 months
- two children in your home, who would otherwise be required to share a bedroom, cannot share because of a disability
- someone in your household is currently serving as a member of the armed forces, but would otherwise be living in your home
Help for people with disabilities
The regulations allow an extra bedroom in respect of disabilities in two specific scenarios. These are
- where two children cannot share because of a disability and
- where the person claiming Housing Benefit or that person's partner requires regular overnight care and there is a spare bedroom for the carer to use.
However, a Supreme Court judgment has found the government has discriminated by restricting the rule about sharing because of a disability to children and the rule about requiring overnight care to adult claimants. Please contact us for advice if you have been told that your Housing Benefit will be reduced and
- an adult couple in your home cannot share because of a disability or
- a carer or team of carers regularly provides overnight care to a child in your household.
What rooms are counted?
The Housing Executive or housing association that you rent from is responsible for saying how many bedrooms are in your home. If you have two living rooms, one of these rooms will probably be counted as a bedroom.
There have been some cases in England where people have successfully challenged a decision that they have too many bedrooms if, for example, a room cannot be used as a bedroom. If you believe that some of the rooms in your home should not be counted as bedrooms, please call us for advice.
What happens if your home is too large?
Your Housing Benefit will be reduced if you have too many bedrooms. However, for the next few years, the money that you lose will be replaced from a separate fund.
Politicians at the Assembly have set up a fund to offset these cuts to Housing Benefit, meaning that most people in Northern Ireland will not actually lose out financially because of the changes. You don’t have to apply for this extra payment. It will happen automatically. This fund will be available until 2020.