What is the Government's under-occupancy charge?
Welfare reforms launched in April 2013 reduced Housing Benefit payments for tenants living in social accommodation thought to be larger than their need.
Commonly referred to as the ‘bedroom tax’ or ‘under-occupation penalty’, reforms applied to working age tenants renting in the social sector from a council, housing association or other registered social landlord.
A single bedroom is now permitted for each couple and adult over the age of 16 living as part of the household. The Government has outlined the following exceptions:
· Children under 16 of the same gender are expected to share a single room
· Children under 10 are expected to share a room regardless of their gender
· A disabled tenant or partner who requires an overnight carer will be allowed an extra room in the property
· Foster carers will be allowed one additional room – on the condition that they have fostered a child or have become an approved foster carer within the past 52 weeks
· Parents with adult children in the armed forces will be able to retain a bedroom for that individual while they are deployed on operations
Tenants living in properties larger than this will see cuts made to the amount of Housing Benefit they receive to pay their rent: those with one spare bedroom will lose 14% of their eligible rent, while tenants with two or more spare bedrooms will lose 25%.
The Government said it designed the strategy to cut spending on Housing Benefit in the social rented sector and free up residences for people living in overcrowded accommodation.
At its launch, the ‘bedroom tax’ was expected to affect an estimated 660,000 benefit claimants – almost one third of all working age Housing Benefit claimants in social housing.