What to do if you have been hit by the Bedroom tax

Tenants in social housing have been hit by a new tax on their bedrooms this month. For private tenants, this new rule came in awhile ago, but it is only recently that people living in council houses or flats, or other types of social housing are now being affected.

The new bedroom tax is not a tax per se, it is a reduction in Housing benefit, and you will be affected if you are deemed to have too many bedrooms for your needs. So for instance, a single person living in a two bedroom house will now have their housing benefit reduced, as they do not need that extra bedroom.

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Picture: www.landh.org.uk

What to do if affected by Bedroom tax

So what can you do if you have found out that you are one of the ones that will get a reduction in your housing benefit? Well, it is unlikely that a decision made which has reduced your benefit will change, as it is now the law that the reductions have to take place, but there are other ways of making up the shortfall you are now having to face.

The first thing to do is to make sure that your extra room/s are big enough to warrant being called a bedroom. If they are under a certain measurement, they may be classed as a storage room, and not one suitable for sleeping. You can ask a council member to visit your property and ascertain the exact dimensions of your extra room, and see whether it should be classed as a bedroom.

If it is large enough to warrant the benefit reduction, it is worth making an appointment with your nearest Job Centre to do a benefits check, to ensure that you are claiming for absolutely everything you are entitled to.

Once you have done this, you could consider taking in a lodger for your extra bedroom. The new bedroom rules are that so long as someone is living in the bedroom, the bedroom tax won’t affect you. It will also bring in extra income. You can keep the first £20 of any income earned from a lodger, but you’ll have to check any other benefits you have, as the rest might affect them. Check the rules with your council or talk to an adviser.

Taking in a lodger is a pretty big step however, and you should take your time deciding whether this is the right thing for you and your family to do. It can mean a certain loss of privacy, and you must make sure you get your landlord’s agreement first.

Have you considered moving to another council home or area? The council can help you to find alternative accommodation, by transferring or exchanging locally to another council or housing association home. Many people are looking for larger dwellings so it could work out that your house is sought after, and you could find someone willing to swap homes with you.

If moving out of the area is something you are prepared to do, the council might be able to help. Find your local council on the GOV.UK website.

Finally, in the short-term, to help you make up the difference whilst you look into longer term solutions, you could always ask for a discretionary housing payments, from your local council to help make up any shortfall caused by the bedroom tax. Remember however, that councils only have a limited amount of money for these payments, and they’re likely to give priority to people with disabilities or long-term medical conditions.

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