Under Occupation - Frequently Asked Questions

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Housing Benefit is reduced for some people who are living in a property larger than required for their household size. This applies to working age people renting from a social landlord such as the Council or a housing association.

It does not apply to pensioners.

What are the rules?

The rules restrict the size of accommodation you can receive Housing Benefit for, based on the number of people in your household. The rules allow for 1 bedroom for:

  • every adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • any other adult aged 16 or over
  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • any two children aged under 10
  • any other child (other than a child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • a carer (or team of carers) who do not live with you but provide you and your partner with overnight care
  • a disabled person in receipt of certain disability benefits, where they are physically unable to share a room
  • an approved foster carer, who is between placements (up to 52 weeks from the end of the last placement)
  • a newly approved foster carer (up to 52 weeks from the date of approval), if no child is placed with them during that time

What does under-occupying mean?

If someone is assessed as having more bedrooms in their accommodation than is necessary, they will be under-occupying that property.

This means they will get a reduction on their Housing Benefit.

Under-occupying is also known as 'Bedroom Tax'.

If I am under-occupying, what reduction will I get in my Housing Benefit?

  • 14% of your eligible rent for under-occupying one bedroom
  • 25% of your eligible rent for under-occupying by two bedrooms or more

If you are thinking of moving, you need to consider these changes before you renew or make a new tenancy agreement.

If your Housing Benefit is cut, you will have to pay the difference between your Housing Benefit and rent to your housing provider.

What are my options?

  • Pay the difference between your rent and the amount of Housing Benefit you receive.
  • Move to a smaller property - Information about moving in the social sector.
  • look at the possibility of taking in a lodger - you could rent out your additional room(s) to a lodger for additional income. You would need to check that your landlord allows this. Additional income received from a lodger may count as extra income, so you would need to report this as a change in your circumstances

If you don't want to move, you can remain in your present home but you will have to pay any shortfall in rent due to any extra unoccupied or 'spare' bedrooms. 

If you have a specific reason for needing to stay in your property, such as disability, you may be able to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments

Who does 'Bedroom Tax' or under-occupation not apply to?

  • anyone who lives in a one bedroom flat or bed-sit
  • anyone who is old enough to receive Pension Credits
  • anyone whose partner is old enough to receive Pension Credits
  • anyone with a shared ownership property

My house has been adapted to cater for my disability - am I included in the size limit rules?

Other than the cases stated above, there will be no exceptions to the application of the size limit rules.

I have a carer (or team of carers) who do not live with me but provide me and my partner with overnight care. What can I do?

They may be entitled to a bedroom. Complete the Additional Bedroom for Overnight Carers form to  to provide us with details and we will give you a decision.  

Apply now

Someone in my household has a disability and is not able to share a room - will I be allowed an extra room for them?

You may be able to receive an extra room allowance if you have a disabled person who is unable to share a bedroom. The disabled person must be in receipt of:

  • the care component of Disability Living Allowance (middle or high rate)
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance or
  • Armed Forces Independent Payment

 If you think this may apply to someone in your household, please complete the Extra Bedroom form below.

Apply now

My child is away at university - can I keep their room for when they are home in the holidays?

The new size limit rules do not allow for this, unless the absence is temporary (less than 52 weeks for students) and the young person concerned intends to return home. 

Am I allowed a room for a foster child?

Yes. When calculating how many bedrooms a family unit requires, a room for a foster child will be taken into account

I am in the Armed Forces, am I affected?

Adult children who are in the Armed Forces but who continue to live with parents will be treated as continuing to live at home, even when deployed on operations. This means that the size criteria rules will not be applied to the room normally occupied by the member of the Armed Forces if they intend to return home.

I share the care of my children with my ex-partner - are we both entitled to a room for them?

Where parents who don't live together have shared care of their children, the children will be treated as living with the parent who is responsible for them and provides their main home.

For someone to be treated as responsible for a child or young person, the child or young person must normally be living with them. If a child or young person spends equal amounts of time in different households, or there is a question as to whom they normally live with, they will be treated as living with the person who is receiving Child Benefit for them.

Will the shared accommodation rate apply?

There is no shared accommodation rate in the social rented sector. A person living on their own will require one bedroom, whether or not the property is self-contained, regardless of their age.

I share the house with someone else - how is my room allowance worked out?

If you occupy your accommodation jointly with someone else the size limit rules will take into account everybody living in the property. If it is decided that you are under-occupying, a percentage reduction will be taken off the whole eligible rent and any eligible service charges, and your Housing Benefit will then be based on the proportion of the rent you are liable to pay.


Stewart rents a three bedroom flat which he shares with George. The rent is £100 a week and they split the rent 50/50. Stewart currently receives Housing Benefit to cover his share of the rent.

Under the size limit rules Stewart would be considered to be under-occupying as he and George would only require two rooms.

As he is over occupying by one room a 14 % reduction would be applied to the full rent making it £86, as Stewart is liable for half the rent he would then receive £43 Housing Benefit a week.

If Stewart decided to remain in the flat he would need to make up the remaining £7 himself.

My partner has just passed away - am I going to be expected to move?

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 for a period of 12 months or until they moved home or there was another change of circumstances (whichever came first).

I could afford my rent but have just lost my job and now need to claim Housing Benefit - does this mean I won't get benefit to cover all my rent because I have an extra room?

If you could previously afford to pay your rent and find yourself in a situation where you now cannot - for example, because of a loss of employment - provided you have not claimed Housing Benefit in the last 52 weeks, the size limit rules will not be applied for the first 13 weeks. They will be applied earlier than 13 weeks if you move home or have another change of circumstances.

How much will my benefit be cut by?

To work out how much your benefit will be cut, take your weekly rent amount and then divide this amount by 100, then multiply it by the percentage for the spare bedroom (14% for one spare bedroom or 25% for two). 

Here are some examples that might help: 

Total weekly rent Amount you have to pay if you have 1 spare bedroom  Amount you have to pay if you have 2 spare bedrooms

I am under occupying, what shall I do?

You may want to consider the following options:

  • Apply to find someone to swap homes with you to a property more suitable for your needs. Find out about mutual exchange.
  • Make an application to join the Choice Based Letting scheme via Gateway to Homechoice to enable you to bid for a smaller home. We may be able to assist you in finding a home with fewer bedrooms, although this is subject to availability. Find out more about Gateway to Homechoice.
  • If your tenancy agreement allows it, you could take in a lodger. You are not allowed to sub-let your property, but you may be able to let one of the bedrooms. 

What if I don't want to move?

You can remain in your present home but from April 2013 you will have to pay any shortfall in rent due to any extra 'unoccupied/spare' bedrooms. If you have a specific reason for needing to stay in your property such as having disabled adaptations, you may be able to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments.

Contact Details

Ipswich Borough Council,
Housing Services,
3E Grafton House, 
15-17 Russell Road,

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01473 432000