If you’re on a low income (with savings of less than £16,000) and pay rent, then you could receive help from the government in the form of Housing Benefit. What you’ll receive will depend on whether you rent privately or from a council, as well as your income and general circumstances.
A spare bedroom in your home could reduce what you receive as a result of Housing Benefit spare room reduction, also known as the bedroom tax. But does this apply if either you or someone you live with is disabled?
What is bedroom Tax?
In April 2013, changes were made to Housing Benefit which included the introduction of the ‘spare room subsidy’ or bedroom tax. These rules mean that if you have extra bedrooms in your rented property, then the amount of Housing Benefit you receive could go down. This only applies if you’re of working age, pensioners won’t be affected.
If it is decided that you’re under–occupying a property under these rules, your Housing Benefit will be reduced by:
• 14% of the ‘eligible rent’ for one spare bedroom
• 25% of the ‘eligible rent’ for two or more spare bedrooms
For example, let’s say your eligible rent is £200 a week, your Housing Benefit pays £100 of this and you pay the other £100. If you had one spare bedroom the reduction would be 14%, so your Housing Benefit would be reduced by £28 a week. If you have two or more spare rooms in your home, it would be reduced by £50 a week.
If a bedroom is occupied by one of the following, it cannot be classed as a spare bedroom:
• An adult over the age of 16
• Two children under the age of 16 of the same gender (they are expected to share)
• Two children under the age of 10 (they are expected to share)
• Any other children
• A couple
• An overnight carer for someone in your home
• Students and members of the armed or reserve forces who intend to return home
Do I have to pay if I’m disabled or live with someone that is?
With that in mind, whether you’ll have to pay bedroom tax with a disability will depend on your circumstances. If a disability means that you or someone in your household requires an overnight carer (that isn’t a family member) to provide them with 24 hours care then you will be allowed one additional bedroom.
If you have a disabled child that cannot share a bedroom with another child because of their disability, then they too will be exempt. To qualify for this, they must be entitled to the highest or middle rate of the care component of the Disability Living Allowance and the local authority must be satisfied that the child cannot share a bedroom with another child. If you believe someone living in your household is exempt from paying bedroom tax, then get in touch with your local council.
As it stands, the rules do not exempt a child with disabilities who requires an additional bedroom for an overnight carer. Despite the fact that the Court of Appeal ruled that the bedroom tax unlawfully discriminates against disabled children who require 24-hour care, after hearing the case of one couple caring for their disabled grandson. This decision has been appealed by the government and an appeal is likely to be heard at the Supreme Court in March. Until the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing, the rules haven’t changed.
If you’re disabled (or someone you live with is) and are affected by the cuts, then you should apply to your local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment to cover any reductions that you face in your Housing Benefit because of bedroom tax. You should be given priority if your home has been specially adapted for you and it would be difficult for you to move.