Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do if I need an extra room because…

I have a carer who stays overnight?

If you have a carer who has to stay overnight on a regular basis to care for you or your partner and there is a bedroom for them to sleep in, you can be allocated an extra bedroom for them. You need to inform your local council (if you get Housing Benefit) / the DWP (if you get Universal Credit) and they may need proof of your or your partner’s Disability Living Allowance / Personal Independence Payment to show that you / your partner requires this care. If you are getting Housing Benefit, a letter from your GP stating the need for care should be enough.

Up until 1st April 2017, the rules did not allow an extra room if the carer was providing overnight care for another member of your household, such as a child or other adult. Until then you had to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment. However, there was a case in the Supreme Court and the judge said this was unjustifiable discrimination. The rules were then changed.

Now, if it is one of your children, foster children or non-dependants who regularly receives the overnight care, the extra room is allocated. If you get Universal Credit, the child or person requiring the care must be getting either Personal Independence Payment (daily living component) or the middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or Armed Forces Independence Payment. If you receive Housing Benefit, a letter from the disabled person's GP stating their need for overnight care should be enough.

I have access to my son / daughter / grandchild and they stay with me regularly?

Only children who are regarded as ‘normally living with you’ are allocated a bedroom in your home. This means that the parent who gets the Child Benefit for that child will normally be the one who is regarded as needing a bedroom for them, even if access is split equally between parents. However, you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment if you can show that you are struggling to pay your rent and that if you didn’t have a bedroom for the child/ren you wouldn’t be able to see them or very rarely. Keep in mind each local council has to prioritise which cases they will pay for and Discretionary Housing Payments are usually time limited to 3 or 6 months, though you can apply again at the end of the period.

It still might be worth appealing as a few people have won their appeal based on a child 'normally living' in 2 homes - but there are no guarantees.

My child is at University and returns home during their holidays?

If your local council / DWP accept that your home is your child’s normal home and that they come home regularly (eg in the holidays), you should be allocated a bedroom for them. If they don’t accept it is their normal home, you will need to provide evidence such as where they are registered to vote, where they keep most of their belongings, what they do in the holidays (eg do they get a holiday job at home?), where they intend to live after university, etc. If your local council / the DWP still refuse to allocate them a bedroom, contact us on 0300 304 5000 for advice.

My partner has a disability which means we cannot share a bedroom?

Following a case in the Supreme Court, which said it was unjustifiable discrimination not to allow a second bedroom where there was a medical need for a couple to sleep in separate bedrooms, the rules changed from 1st April 2017. Now an extra bedroom can be allocated where, due to the disability, it is not reasonable for a couple to share a bedroom.

The disabled person must be in receipt of the Daily Living Component of Personal Independence Payment, the middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, the High Rate of Attendance Allowance or Armed Forces Independence Payment. Until the rules change it would be a good idea to ask your local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

I am disabled and the room is used to store equipment related to my disability?

This situation is not covered in the Bedroom Tax rules, but you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment. Contact us on 0300 304 5000 for advice.

My children need to sleep separately for a reason other than disability?

This situation is not covered in the Bedroom Tax rules. If there is a serious problem and especially if you have the support of a professional (eg social worker) you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment. Contact us on 0300 304 5000 for advice.

I am pregnant and the baby will need its own room?

Until the baby is born you are not allocated a bedroom for him/her. As soon as the baby is born they are allocated a bedroom. You may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment from your local council for the period before the baby is born. Contact us on 0300 304 5000 for advice.

Further Questions

Further Questions

A member of my family has died and now there is an unused bedroom. Will I be affected by the Bedroom Tax straight away?

If you are getting Housing Benefit, then for 12 months after bereavement, your Housing Benefit should be based on the rent used by the local council in your Housing Benefit assessment on the day before the person died.

So for example, if Mr Jones was the tenant of a 2 bedroom flat living with his son Bill, and Bill passed away on 5th May 2016, then Mr Jones would not have his Housing Benefit reduced due to the Bedroom Tax until 4th May 2017, a year after his passing.

Even if the bereavement doesn't change the number of bedrooms you are deemed to need, the protection can apply. For example if, before the year is out, your child moves out and you are left with an extra bedroom.

If you are claiming help with your rent through Universal Credit, the rules are different. For 3 months, your Universal Credit housing cost element (ie how much can be included in your Universal Credit towards your rent) should be based on the rent used by the DWP in your Universal Credit assessment or the rent used by the local council in your Housing Benefit assessment (if you were on Housing Benefit at the time) on the day before the person passed away. The rules do not apply if it was your non-dependant who died (ie anyone other than your partner or a child you get Child Benefit for).

My ‘extra’ bedroom is tiny - why should this count as a bedroom?

The Bedroom Tax rules don’t give a minimum size for a bedroom, so the local council will count it as a bedroom. However, a Tribunal Judge has said that although the size of the room on its own doesn't determine whether or not the room can be called a bedroom, the size and layout are a factor in considering whether the room can really function as a bedroom. The Judge said that if someone disputes whether their "spare" room is really a bedroom, the Housing Benefit Office, if they disagree, will have to explain why they feel it is a bedroom. Investigations such as measuring the room, taking photos and such the like will be undertaken if they disagree with the tenant.

The Judge said that the factors that have to be taken into account when considering whether a room is a bedroom include: size, height, storage space / access to storage, privacy, natural light i.e. a window, ventilation, heating. Another Judge has ruled that a bedroom should be capable of accommodating a single adult bed, a bedside table and somewhere to store clothes, as well as providing space for dressing and undressing.

So if your tiny "spare bedroom" does not meet these standards you might want to try asking your local council / the DWP not to count it as a bedroom and appealing if they say no. Contact us on 0300 304 5000 for advice.

I have lived in this home for years and I don’t want to move, but I’m struggling to pay the rent.

Sadly unless one of the exclusions as described in the main section, you will have to pay all the rent that is due to remain in the property. You could try applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment – these can be paid whether you get Housing Benefit or Universal Credit - but unless there are special circumstances the council would generally not award a Discretionary Housing Payment unless you were looking to downsize to a smaller property.

It is worth remembering these payments are time limited and the local council has to decide who to prioritise. Have you considered taking a lodger? There are pros and cons to this and you need permission, so speak to us about this option before going ahead. Contact us on 0300 304 5000

I want to let out my ‘extra’ bedroom to a lodger. How do I do this and is it a good idea?

Information about Lodgers

A lodger is someone who rents a room in your home without having exclusive rights to any part of your property. A lodger ideally needs their own room and also to be able to share communal areas, for example, the bathroom and kitchen. Residents have been asking for more information on our guidelines for taking in a lodger; please see below.

  • Remember you must obtain our written consent before allowing a lodger to move into your home.
  • A request for permission needs to include the name, date of birth and sex of the intended lodger. A form of ID, a photograph and evidence they are allowed to be in the UK will also be required. Please speak to your Housing Officer if you are unsure by calling 0300 304 5000.

We will consider all requests for permission of a lodger. The main reasons for refusal are, but are not restricted to:

  • If the lodger would cause overcrowding
  • There are substantial rent arrears
  • Notice has been served for breach of tenancy at any time previously

We recommend that a Licence Agreement is used between you and the lodger, to ensure all parties understand their responsibilities.

It is a breach of your tenancy for you to allow a lodger to have exclusive use of your home. Therefore a copy of the Licence Agreement detailing the terms should be sent to us.

We will not be able to assist if you have any issues with your lodger, for instance if they will not leave, or if they cause damage to your home.

  • Please remember as part of your tenancy agreement you will be responsible for the behaviour of the lodger. If they cause a nuisance or annoyance then action could be taken against you for breach of tenancy.

We are a not-for-profit organisation; we do not permit residents to charge a lodger more than 50% of their weekly rent or £50 per week whichever is the least.

  • Income you receive from lodgers will have an effect on other benefits you receive. Please check this before allowing a lodger to stay, as you could be financially worse off. If you hold a Starter Tenancy you do not have the right to take in lodgers during the first 12 months of the Tenancy. You will also need to inform the Council of any lodgers coming into your home.
  • If you currently receive a 25% discount on your council tax bill because you are classed as living alone you may lose this discount. New rules mean if you let out part of your home to a lodger, you have to check their immigration status under the "right to rent" rules or face a fine.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are getting Universal Credit to help with your rent rather than Housing Benefit, the rules are different:

  • A lodger is NOT entitled to a bedroom under Universal Credit Bedroom Tax rules.

If you let out a room to a lodger this means that under Housing Benefit rules (see below if you get Universal Credit) the room won’t count as an extra bedroom for Bedroom Tax purposes but there are a number of things to consider:

  • You need to ask us for permission before you take in a lodger
  • If the lodger is a close relative* for whom you do not receive Child Benefit, then the local council will class them as a non-dependant even if you regard them as a lodger (see the section on non-dependants for more information on how this would affect your benefit).
  • If the lodger was previously your non-dependant,the local council are unlikely to consider them to be a lodger. They may even refuse you Housing Benefit altogether.if they think this change means you're trying to take advantage of the benefit system.
  • To be classed as a lodger they must be paying you for accommodation and/or meals (board) on a commercial basis. The local council will want to see some proof of the commercial basis of the arrangement to be convinced they are a lodger - such as a rent book and/or tenancy agreement.
  • Money over £20 a week which the lodger pays you for their accommodation can affect your benefit entitlements.
  • Make sure you, your family and your property are going to be safe. Do you know the lodger? If not, find out as much as you can and get character references from at least two people you trust to tell you the truth.
  • If the lodger causes any damage to the property or anti-social behaviour, this will be your responsibility as our tenant and could affect your rights to remain in the property.
  • Have you considered whether you are happy to have someone living with you? Are sure you lay ground rules about cleanliness, meals, noise, where they can and can’t go in your home, etc.
  • If you currently receive a 25% discount on your council tax bill because you are classed as living alone,you may lose this discount..
  • Money you receive from the lodger does NOT count as income in calculating how much Universal Credit you can get.

*Close relative means parent, parent-in-law, son, son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, step-parent, step-son, step-daughter, brother, sister or the spouse or partner of any of these people.

There are some useful websites you could look at before considering taking in a lodger:

Are there any time limits on challenging a Bedroom Tax decision?

The normal time limit to appeal a Housing Benefit decision is one calendar month from date of the decision, although this can be extended to thirteen months if you have very good cause for a late appeal. If the local council have made a mistake then there is no time limit.

Many of the decisions will have been made when the Bedroom Tax came in, so the maximum time limit to appeal ran out in May 2014. However every time the amount of your Housing Benefit is altered there’s a new Housing Benefit decision, so you might get the Bedroom Tax removed from a later date even if not right back to the beginning.

Contact us on 0300 304 5000 for advice if you want to challenge a Bedroom Tax decision.

The normal time limit to challenge a Universal Credit decision is one calendar month. You can't go straight to appeal but have to ask for a reconsideration first.

I want to move to a smaller property: what can I do?

You can register on Swap and Move which is a national mutual exchange website. This will show you who in the area you wish to live would be interested in your current home. You would contact any interested people yourself and view each other’s homes. You can exchange with any social housing tenant (council or housing association). Once you have agreed you would like to swap you need to request permission from all the landlords involved. Speak to your Housing Officer for more information.

You can also register with us for a transfer, although we cannot tell you how long you would have to wait. You can also contact your local council to be registered on their housing waiting list.

What happens if I get into rent arrears?

The rent we charge is vital to running the services we provide for residents, repairing and refurbishing your home and providing new homes. Therefore we take rent arrears very seriously.

If you are having problems paying your rent, we can offer you assistance with budgeting and will check that you are claiming all the financial help you are entitled to. We can also refer you to other agencies for help with debt and budgeting advice. However, if your rent is not paid, we will take steps to recover the payments. This could include legal action and your home could be at risk of repossession.

If you are experiencing difficulties, please contact us on 0300 304 5000 as soon as possible to discuss how we can help you.

What happens to my rent arrears if I apply for a Debt Relief Order?

The Debt Relief Order is a new method of dealing with your debts. Once a Debt Relief Order is approved by the Insolvency Service your creditors cannot take legal action to recover the debts.

However, if you have rent arrears on a current tenancy, we can continue action for possession of the property which could lead to an eviction.

Contact the income team urgently by calling 0300 304 5000 or email income.team@estuary.co.uk

Debt

If you are in debt there are a number of independent agencies who can help you: