'Bedroom Tax' Breakdown
Many of you may have heard of the Bedroom Tax, the common term used (instigated by the Labour Party!) to describe the aspect of the Welfare Reforms governing under occupancy of council tenants, which came in to effect early this year. Introduced on the 1st April 2013, the act stated that the Government would reduce the level of Housing Benefit people would receive if you were of working age and were under occupying your home.
In layman’s terms this means that if your house is too big for you, your housing benefit will be reduced – up to 14% of weekly rent if you have one bedroom that isn’t needed, and 25% if you have two extra bedrooms. Depending on how much benefit you receive this could mean a large amount of your weekly income is lost.
The first government statistics released, showing the impact of the controversial subsidiary withdrawal, were: more than 522,000 people have been affected and had their housing benefits reduced by an average of £14.50 a week. Broken down further, more than 429,000 people were penalised for having one bedroom too many (losing an average of £12.66 a week), and more than 92,000 were accused of having two excess bedrooms, losing an average of £23.43 per week.
Fancy a change of scenery?
If you think you will be affected, or you have been affected by the housing benefit cut then there is a solution! You can downsize to a smaller home by moving into a new property with the right number of bedrooms for you. Homeswapper is the UK’s largest and most successful home swap service as it has over 314,000 homes available, and with 9/10 members receiving a house exchanges within 24 hours. It is a direct home swap service for social housing tenants who want to house swap, flat swap or exchange their council house. The service is free to nearly 97% of tenants in the UK; it is an easy to use service and an exciting way to move home. Each person who registers with them receives direct support as they find potential mutual exchange matches over the site.
If you are unsure what your landlord has agreed to, it might be worth looking into what’s called a ‘mutual exchange’ where you have the right to exchange your home with another local authority or housing association anywhere in the UK. However both landlords must give their permission to the exchange. Remember the council won’t pay for your house swap, so you will need to source your own removal companies in your local area to help you move and perform an after tenancy clean.
What do the changes mean to you?
The criteria is fairly basic, especially in the renting sector as you are allowed one bedroom per person or a couple living as part of the same household, however, there are some exception:
- If you have two children under the age of 16 years and are the same gender then they are expected to share a bedroom
- If you have two children less than 10 years of age regardless of gender, they are expected to share a bedroom
- If you are a disabled tenant or you have a partner that needs a non-resident to stay as an overnight carer then you will be allowed one extra bedroom to accommodate this
- If you are involved in foster caring you will be allowed an additional room on the condition that you have already fostered a child or have become approved in the last 12 months
- Adult children that are in the Armed Forces will be treated as continuing to live at home even when they are deployed on operations – regardless of duration
- If you have a child with serve disabilities then you will be allowed an extra bedroom if their disability affects them being able to share a bedroom with a sibling
Who will be affected?
Everyone who claims benefits and lives in council housing who has at least one spare bedroom that is not needed. This will also include:
- Many separated parents who share the care of their children. It now states that there must be a ‘designated’ carer for the children who will receive the extra benefit
- Couples who use their spare bedroom, even if you are using it as a recovery room after an illness or operation
- Parents whose children visit but are not part of the day to day household
- Disabled people, even including people who are living in specially adapted or designed properties
All in all many people are going to be affected by the benefit cut; an estimated 660,000 working age tenants will be affected.
Who will not be affected?
You will not be affected by the ‘Bedroom Tax’ if you or your partner has reached the state pension credit age – this means you will have turned 61 years and 5 months old by the 1st April 2013. If you are worried that you could still be affected, take a look and see if you fall into any of these following categories, as the housing benefit reduction won’t apply to you:
- People who are living in shared ownership properties
- People who are living in caravans, any type of mobile home – including house boats
- People who are living in a form of supported accommodation
- Homeless people housed in temporary accommodation that is provided by a privately run society or the council
What is a bedroom?
The government came to the agreement that it is the landlord’s responsibility to specify the size of the property and how many bedrooms it has – this in turn will reflect the amount of rent charged. It is handy to know that the ‘bedroom tax’ will not take into account whether the room is a single or a double bedroom size; it simply needs to be stated as a bedroom.
If you are feeling particularly worried about not being able to afford your rent then you should contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau who will discuss your options with you; you can talk about home swapping as well as your options to move to another council property.
Bio: Karen James is an aspiring writer who loves nothing more than walking her dogs and spending time with her grandchildren. Having moved around a lot due to her busy work life, she recommends the fantastic services of Transit Express for all furniture removal and packing service needs whenever you move, whether renting or getting the keys to your first owned home!