Last updated:

13th July 2023

Housing Benefit for Social Housing Tenants

How to claim Housing Benefit for help towards your rent

You will need to check whether you need to apply for Universal Credit or Housing Benefit for help towards your rent. Applications must be completed online. Read our How to claim Housing Benefit page for more details. 

Housing Benefit rules for Council Tenants

Housing Benefit for tenants renting from the Council or Housing Associations is based on the number of bedrooms the government says you need. If you have more bedrooms in your house than this your Benefit may be reduced.

How does a spare bedroom affect my Benefit?

  • If you have 1 ‘spare’ bedroom your Housing Benefit will be reduced by 14 percent of the rent you pay each week
  • If you have 2 or more ‘spare’ bedrooms, your benefit will be reduced by 25 percent of the rent payable     

Can I get additional benefits to help pay my rent?

Yes. You can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment. Discretionary Housing Payments for rent costs can only be made to people who are entitled to at least 50p a week Housing Benefit. Read our Discretionary Housing Payments page to find out if you're eligible to apply. The Government has made additional Discretionary Housing Payment funds available specifically to help 2 groups who may be affected by the introduction of the 'spare bedroom' rules.

These are

  • People living in significantly adapted accommodation, and 
  • Foster carers

How many bedrooms are needed, according to the rules?

Under normal rules you are entitled to 1 bedroom for:

  • Every adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • Any other person over 16
  • Any 2 children of the same gender aged under 16 
  • Any 2 children aged under 10 regardless of their gender
  • Any other child (other than a child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • Carer(s) providing regular overnight care 

Who will not be affected?

  • People of pension credit age or whose partner is, will not be affected by the change.

The following tenancy types will not be affected:

  • Shared ownership properties. This is where the tenant part-owns the property under a shared ownership lease.
  • Supported 'Exempt' accommodation. This is a particular type of supported accommodation provided by the council, a housing association or a registered charity or voluntary organisation where care, support or supervision is provided through the landlord.
  • Mooring charges and mobile home or caravan site rents
  • Temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfast or short-term leased accommodation used by the Council to prevent homelessness.
  • Bail hostel or probation hostel. The tenancy must be approved by the Secretary of State

Temporarily not affected

In the following situations people will not be affected by the rent restriction rules straightaway.

  • If you could afford to pay your rent when you moved in but now can't, e.g. you've lost your job, the size limit rules will not be applied for the first 13 weeks of a new claim, provided you have not claimed Housing Benefit in the last 52 weeks. The restrictions will be applied earlier than 13 weeks if you move house or have another change of circumstances.
  • If someone in your household dies - there may be circumstances where someone in receipt of Housing Benefit would be considered to be under-occupying because of a death in their household. In these circumstances they would be protected and the size limit rules would not be applied until after 12 months or they moved home or there was another change of circumstances (whichever came first)

Rules for foster carers

When calculating how many bedrooms a family unit requires, a maximum of 1 room for a foster child can be taken into account. So a household that has more than 1 room for a current or potential foster child will be treated as under-occupying. 

While you are receiving a payment for a foster child you should be able to use this payment to make up the shortfall between benefit and the rent charged. 

If you are a registered foster carer between placements and have more than 1 bedroom reserved for foster children you may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment to cover any shortfall in rent until your next foster child is placed with you.

Rules for separated parents

Where parents are separated and share the care of the child, a bedroom will only be allowed in the home that is considered to be the child's main home. Where both parents have the child for an equal number of days each week, their main home will be with the parent who receives child benefit for them.

Rules for disabled children

Claimants whose children are unable to share a bedroom because of severe disabilities will be able to claim Housing Benefit for an extra room.

If you live in accommodation that has been significantly adapted for you or someone in your household due to a disability, you may be entitled to a Discretionary Housing Payment to make up any shortfall in your rent from having a reduction for your spare room.

Rules for children away at university

The bedroom size limit rules do not allow you to keep a room for a person who is away at university, unless the absence is temporary (less than 52 weeks for students) and the young person concerned intends to return home.

Discretionary Housing Payments

You can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to help pay your rent. Read our Discretionary Housing Payments page to find out if you're eligible to apply.

Free advice

You can get free, independent advice about rent difficulties from the following organisations

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