What do the recent changes to Housing benefit mean for single people renting social housing or council properties?
If you live in housing association or council housing there are rules namely the ‘bedroom tax’ also called the ‘underoccupancy charge’ limiting the amount of housing benefit you can receive if you are found to have a ‘spare’ bedroom. If you have more bedrooms than the rules allow, your housing benefit will be reduced, and you will have to make up the difference when you pay your rent.
The ‘bedroom tax’ is a 14 per cent reduction in your housing benefit if you are deemed to have one ‘spare’ bedroom. If you have two ‘spare’ bedrooms under the rules, then your housing benefit will be reduced by 25 per cent.
Since there’s a shortage of one-bedroom properties out there, the chances are that THIS IS LIKELY TO HAVE A GREATER EFFECT ON SINGLE PEOPLE THAN ANY OTHER GROUP.
if you haven’t got to grips with how it works and what it could mean for you then read on:
‘Bedroom Tax’ – at a glance
- For starters it’s not actually a tax; it’s a change to Housing Benefit.
- It affects council tenants and anyone renting from a housing association who claims housing benefit and is of working age.
- It doesn’t affect those renting from private landlords.
- The families of armed services personnel and foster carers are exempt
- If you have one spare room there will be a 14% cut in the amount of rent eligible for housing benefit. If you have 2+ rooms, there will be a 25% cut.
- Each single adult or couple is allowed one bedroom.
- If you have children aged under 16 of the same gender they will be expected to share. If the children are under 10 they will have to share regardless of their gender.
- If you have one, if one of your offspring is a student and lives away you should be OK but need to check this with your local Council.
- Some people with disabilities are subject to slightly relaxed rules depending on who cares for them.
- Pensioners have different rules. At the moment they will not have any reductions if one of a couple is of pensionable age. This may change when Universal Credit comes into force and is fully operational.
Housing Benefit (for under 35’s). How the Shared Accommodation Rate effects single tenants
A second government initiative, the Shared & Singles Accommodation rate introduced in 2012 is specifically aimed at single people – here’s the main points:
If you’re a single tenant under 35 and rent from a private landlord the amount of housing benefit you can receive is restricted to the rate you would get for renting a single room in a shared house. This is called the shared accommodation rate. So single people aged between 25 and 34 are now only entitled to Housing Benefit at this shared accommodation rate.
- Effectively, the government believes that you only need one room with shared facilities if you fall in this age group.
- A single person is defined as someone not living as a couple and not having dependent children.
- Applies to those in private rented accommodation. The shared accommodation rate is based on local rents for properties where there is usually a shared kitchen, bathroom, toilet or living room.
- It will not affect you if you rent from a Local Authority or Housing Association, are under 22 years old or have been in care, or live in supported housing.
Sovereign Housing, one of the south of England’s leading housing associations estimates that 84% of residents will be affected by this. They’re calling for a campaign to get it changed.
There are exemptions and special rules though, if you have been in care or if you are already renting a home. The rules can be complicated, so contact your local Council for advice.