BEDROOM TAX (BT)
Since 2013, the government
reduced Housing Benefit (HB) to people in social housing who have one or
more "spare" rooms. (Social housing is council, housing association or
similar. Councils administering HB make the cut.)
The government gives
councils extra funds called Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs)
to help tenants in hardship due to the bedroom tax. It’s important to
claim this money. Many people in need are not getting DHPs. Instead of
making these funds available to tenants as they should, councils say
they don't have the money, and refuse or ration help to people. They are
handing back millions of pounds to central government in unspent DHPs:
Many people are protesting against this.
You can challenge bedroom
The council will not write to you separately to tell you that your HB is being
reduced because of the bedroom tax – it will only show up on your usual
HB statement, so read it carefully. The deadline to challenge it is
one month after the council write to you about how much HB they are
paying you – so write immediately to the benefits section of your
council asking them to review their decision. You can still challenge
it late if you have ‘good reason’, e.g. illness, bereavement, family
crisis or similar. If you have been paying the difference but want to
challenge it, you still can. Explain why you didn’t before, for example,
if you have only just received advice.
Start your letter with: ‘I
think the decision is wrong because...’ Fill in your reasons after
checking the guidance and rules below to see what applies to you. Put
your council reference number on any letters, sign and date them, and
keep a copy. Always post by ‘signed for’ delivery, or hand deliver it
and get a receipt, and send a copy to your MP and ward councillors.
if your council has taken account of how many bedrooms you are
bedroom for a couple.
bedroom for a person aged 16 or over.
bedroom for two children aged under 16 of the same sex.
bedroom for two children aged under 10 (boys and girls are expected to
bedroom for any other child.
bedroom for a severely disabled child. Severely disabled children do not
have to share a room with anyone else. The council will decide if that
applies to your child. They should take into account the severity of a
child's disability (including getting DLA and medical evidence); other
children's sleep being disturbed if they shared a room with your
disabled child, etc.
bedroom for a foster child (if you are an approved foster carer or have
fostered a child in the last 12 months). The same should apply to
kinship carers (grandmothers, other relatives) if they are known to
extra bedroom if you or your partner needs an overnight carer to stay.
This is usually based on the disabled person getting Attendance
Allowance or Disability Living Allowance/PIP care component, and the
carer staying at least half the week. If the carer stays less, and/or if
you don’t get AA, DLA or PIP, you can still make a case that you need a
room for a carer to stay – back it with medical evidence from your GP,
hospital consultant or similar professional.
bedroom for a son, daughter, lodger, etc., serving in the armed
forces who are away if they intend to return to your home.
bedroom for students away from home if they are only away temporarily
(less than 52 weeks) and intend to return home. Students who come
home for holidays can keep their room.
you share the care of a child, the child is counted as living in the
home of the person who gets Child Benefit for them. If that is not you,
your child will not be allowed a bedroom in your home. This is being
challenged by grandmothers and separated families with shared care of
different situations are not officially recognised, but you can
successfully argue for them to be recognised
exempted from the BT and get full HB.
Govanhill Law Centre,
Scotland has compiled a list of possible reasons (below) people
can use in different situations. They refer to human rights law, but you
can describe your situation in your own way, such as, you are about to
take in a grandchild, or moving would be too stressful.
It is always helpful to have
support statements from teachers, health visitors, social workers or
other professionals. Detailed evidence improves your chances of success.
List of possible
you have a disabled person living in the household you may be able to
disabled adult lives in my house and requires their own bedroom because
of the needs of their disability. To ignore the needs of a disabled
member of my household and treating them as not being entitled to their
own room to sleep in is discriminatory and unlawful in relation to the
Human Rights Act 1998.’
‘The disabled member of my household requires a bedroom for
therapeutic/care purposes/to store medical equipment in relation to
AND ‘My home has been specially adapted to meet the needs of a
someone in your household has mental or physical health problems you may
be able to say:
‘A member of my household
has mental or physical health problems which would make moving from
their home harmful, and requiring such a move is discriminatory and
unlawful in relation to the Human Rights Act 1998.’
you and your children have previously experienced domestic violence, you
may be able to say:
‘My children need a safe
space because they previously lived in a household which experienced
domestic violence and requiring such a move is unlawful in relation to
the Human Rights Act 1998.’
you have a small galley-style kitchen you may be able to say:
‘I have a small
galley-style kitchen and you have wrongly classified my dining-room as a
Bedroom or boxroom? If you have a bedroom which is too small or narrow
to be used as a bedroom, you may be able to say:
‘I have a small box-type
room which is not a bedroom, and you have wrongly classified this as a
Tenants have won many such
cases at tribunal. It depends how big the room is and how you use it. Go
online to find your local Council’s Housing Allocation Policy or contact
them directly and find out what the minimum bedroom size is in your
area. If any rooms in your property are smaller than this, they
should not be called a ‘spare bedroom’. You can also ask your
landlord to confirm or re-assess the number of bedrooms at your
property. Alternatively, you can argue that you do not/cannot use your
spare room as a bedroom and should give your reasons.
you are separated from a former partner and share childcare on a
part-time basis, you may be able to say:
‘I am separated from my
former partner and require the room you have wrongly classified as a
spare room to meet my childcare and parental duties. To ignore my duties
as a parent, and ignore the needs of my children to stay with me, is
discriminatory and unlawful in relation to the Human Rights Act 1998,
and contrary to the Children Act 1995.’
none of the above apply, then you may wish to argue the following:
‘You have wrongly classified as a spare bedroom the room I use as a
family play room/storage room/games room
[which is essential because...]’
3. If your tenancy started before 1 January 1996, get advice. You may be able to get a
refund for payments from April 2013 despite the government "closing
the loophole" in March 2014.
Apply to the council for
a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP), even if you are disputing that
the BT applies to you.
Check with your council
their rules for getting DHP, as they can vary. Councils are not obliged
to pay DHPs, they have discretion, but they must act "fairly". See claim
form from Camden:
Councils are discriminating
when they say that because you get disability benefits, you are better
off than job seekers, so don’t qualify. Get back-up from an organisation
or your MP to challenge them to count your disability expenses. Disabled
people and families have high extra costs for disability needs.
Disability Living Allowance or other non-means-tested benefit should not
be treated as income to pay rent.
This legal precedent was established by Ian Burnip against Birmingham
City Council regarding the Local Housing Allowance limit for private
tenants. The principle also applies to BT. See:
you have rent arrears due to BT and are threatened with eviction,
lawyer to take up your case – Legal Aid is available for any
Going to tribunal
If you are unhappy with the
council’s BT decision, you can ask for your case to be heard by an
independent tribunal. First, the council will look again at its
decision. If their decision stays the same and you object, they send
your case to the tribunal. Then the tribunal will contact you directly.
Contact your local law centre or advice centre, to find free
representation at your tribunal. You could also represent yourself if
you want to:
People have won their
cases at tribunal – many based on disability needs.
Disabled women have proved that their partner needs their own room:
Surinder Lall successfully argued that the room was used for his Braille
Sometimes the DWP will appeal against the tribunal decision even though
the council has decided to accept the tenant’s rights. Campaigners in
Fife, Scotland, expect to win a landmark case on room size which the DWP
Opposition to the Bedroom Tax has had a BIG effect. The BT was condemned by Raquel
Rolnik, the United Nations Special Investigator on Housing. The Scottish
government now guarantees DHPs for everyone who applies, in effect
abolishing BT. In Scotland, people who have already paid BT for a year
are pressing for refunds, or to have their rent arrears cancelled. The
Welsh Assembly has called for BT to be scrapped. In a UK-wide court
challenge, disabled children won the right to their own room. Many more
legal challenges are under way, by people in different situations,
Couples where one or both are disabled, each need their own bedroom
or space for essential equipment – and have been allocated it by the
separated parent sharing care of children needs room for them to stay.
and children fleeing violent partners need a "safe room"
in their home if he comes to attack them.
is also being challenged. This is where your total benefit income,
including rent, is cut to £500 a week for single parent or two parent
families and couples without children, and £350 a week for a single
person. This is done by cutting your Housing Benefit. Women are
challenging discrimination against women and mothers in particular:
Single mothers and children fleeing domestic violence
unwaged carer for her disabled grandmother