Social sector size criteria (aka the Bedroom Tax)

The size criteria changes affect most Housing Benefit claimants who are of working age and rent properties from a local authority, a registered Housing Association or other Registered Provider of Social Housing. A claimant of working age is one who has not reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit.

How or who do I pay the shortfall to?
The size criteria changes will reduce the amount of Housing Benefit that is paid either to your landlord or yourself. You will need to make arrangements with your landlord to pay the shortfall. If you are unable to pay all or part of the shortfall you must contact your landlord to discuss this.

Who made the decision?
The size criteria changes have been introduced by the government as part of their welfare reform changes. Sefton Council has to implement these changes when assessing your Housing Benefit.


It is possible that the amount of Housing Benefit you get to pay your rent and any service charges could go down.

If you are assessed under these rules as having more bedrooms than are necessary for your household you will be considered to be under-occupying that property.

If you are under-occupying there will be a reduction in your Housing Benefit. The amount allowable for rent and any service charges will be reduced by:

• 14% for under-occupancy by 1 bedroom
• 25% for under-occupancy by 2 bedrooms or more

If you are thinking of moving you need to consider these changes before renewing or making a new tenancy agreement with your landlord.

It is important that you start to consider what your options might be now and where necessary talk to your landlord or the council.

From 1 April 2013, The Government introduced size rules into Housing Benefit for working age people* renting from a local authority, a registered housing association or other registered social landlord.

*working age people are those who have not reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit. The qualifying age for Pension Credit is linked to the age that a woman qualifies for a state retirement pension. Between 6th April 2010 and 5th April 2018, this is increasing gradually from 60 to 65. To find out the age that you, or your partner, reach the qualifying age for pension credit, log on to www.gov.uk

The new rules restrict the amount of Housing Benefit based on the size of your accommodation and the number of people in your household.

When determining how many bedrooms you need, a set formula is used. One bedroom is allowed for each of the following:

• a single claimant or any adult couple
• any two children aged under 10
• any two children of the same sex aged 15 or under
• any other adult aged 16 or over
• any other child
• a non-resident carer**

**A bedroom is allowed for a carer, who lives elsewhere and stays overnight on a regular and frequent basis to look after anyone in your household, provided there is a ‘spare’ bedroom available for them to use.

Additional bedrooms can also be allowed in certain specific circumstances:

• Foster carers - If you have foster children placed with you, have had any foster children placed with you in the last 12 months or have become an approved foster carer within the last 12 months.
• Member of the Armed Forces - If you have a member of your household who would be resident at the property but is absent because they have been deployed on operations as part of their armed service.
• Disabled Children - If you have a disabled child who would normally be expected to share a bedroom with another child, but due to the nature of their disability, it is not reasonable to do so as this would result in regular sleep disturbance to the other child.
• Disabled couples - If you and your partner sleep in separate bedrooms because it is not reasonable to share due to a disability which one or both of you may have.

If you are assessed as under-occupying your accommodation and experience a reduction in your Housing Benefit, there are a number of courses of action which may be open to you.

Before deciding to act on any of them, please give the matter very careful consideration and where appropriate take independent advice or discuss the situation with your landlord.

Move home
You may decide that it would be sensible to move to appropriately sized accommodation in the social rented sector. Your landlord will be able to talk this through with you and advise you as to whether this is a viable option. You may decide that moving to the private rented sector would be appropriate. Again your landlord or the council will be able to advise you about this.

Ask other household members to contribute
If you decide to stay in your current accommodation and make up the shortfall in rent yourself, you may wish to ask other adults living with you to contribute to the additional rent.

Take up paid employment or increase hours of work
If you or your partner are not currently in employment, finding a job could help you pay the additional rent. If you are already in employment, you may consider increasing your working hours if possible to make up the shortfall in rent. However any additional income you have coming in will affect your entitlement to Housing Benefit.

Take in a lodger
Taking in a lodger to fill an extra bedroom may be a good option for some claimants. The lodger would be assessed as part of the household, meaning you may not necessarily be considered to be under-occupying and you may have more income due to the extra rent. However any rental income you have coming in could affect your entitlement to Housing Benefit. You will need to check the terms of your tenancy before you take in a lodger as you may need to obtain your landlords consent.

Apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)
In certain circumstances a claimant may be entitled to a payment from the DHP Fund. This is a fund administered by the council for those they consider in need of additional help with their housing costs. The fund is cash limited and there is only enough money in it to cover a small percentage of the cases affected by the under-occupation rules. Additionally, the government has stipulated that priority consideration should be given to foster carers and to tenants of properties where there have been substantial adaptations made to enable a disabled person to continue to live at the property.

Where to go for more information
You can get more information from Gov.uk which provides information on public service in one place including up to date information on the Housing Benefit changes. Please telephone telephone: 0345 140 0845 (lines open: Monday to Friday 8am – 6pm) or visit our One Stop Shops: Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm, located in Cambridge Arcade, Southport and 324-342 Stanley Road, Bootle, L20 3ET

The Citizens Advice service provides a wide range of advice. To find your local Citizens Advice Bureau, look in the phone book or Yellow Pages, or visit the Sefton Citizens Advice Bureau website.

The Citizen Advice service has produced a useful at a glance guide of who to contact for advice on a variety of issues.

Shelter offers confidential housing, welfare benefits and debt advice through a network of advice services; freephone Housing Advice Helpline on 0808 800 4444 8am-8pm Monday-Friday and 8am-5pm Saturday-Sunday and online at the Shelter website.

The Housing Benefit regulations do not contain any definition of a ‘bedroom’. Our initial decision as to the number of bedrooms at your address is based on information provided by your landlord and also information provided on your Housing Benefit application form. You should contact us straight away if you disagree with the information we have.

A recent Upper Tribunal Decision stipulated that space standards set out in the 1989 Housing Act for the purposes of statutory overcrowding assessments are not relevant to Housing Benefit regulations. As such, there is no minimum size threshold which would determine whether or not a room is large enough to be classed as a bedroom. This does not mean however that size is irrelevant, just that there is no minimum  room size to  determine whether a room be included as a bedroom in the calculation of your Housing Benefit.

If you feel that any of the designated bedrooms in your property are too small to be used as bedrooms, and decide to dispute this with us, we will look into this further. It is likely that we will visit your home to look at the room or rooms in dispute. If we decide that the room is suitable to be used as a bedroom, then we will explain why and you would then have the right to appeal to an Independent Tribunal.

We would look at a number of things when making a decision and size would certainly come into this.  We would look at the dimensions of the room and whether the room was sufficiently large to fit a standard single bed along with space for storage of belongings and space to move around, get dressed etc. We would then look at things such as whether the room has a window, the height of the ceiling, the lighting, ventilation and similar heating to the rest of the property etc.

If we feel that the room is suitable to be used as a bedroom by an adult or a child on a full or part time basis we will include it as a bedroom for Housing Benefit purposes irrespective of the actual circumstances of the persons living at your address.

If you feel that one of the rooms in your address should not be classed as a bedroom due to the fact that it is too small to be used as such then you should also raise this with your landlord. The reason for this is that your landlord will have set your rent level based upon the number of bedrooms in the property. If the number of bedrooms is incorrect then it is possible that your rent may also have been set at an incorrect level. If the landlord agrees to re-classify your address to the correct number of bedrooms, and reduce the rent in line with this, then we would amend your Housing Benefit claim accordingly without the need for any further dispute.


If you are unable to pay your rent, you may be entitled to a Discretionary Housing Payment in certain cases. However, these payments will be limited and you should make provision to pay any shortfall to your landlord or they make take action against you to recover this amount.

The changes do not mean you have to move from your existing property. However, they do mean that the council will provide less support to you in paying your rent.

Therefore, you must make provision to pay any shortfall to your landlord or they make take action against you to recover this amount, and ultimately your tenancy could be at risk if you do not keep up the rental payments on your property.

There are a number of other courses of action which may be open to you. Before deciding to act on any of them, please give the matter very careful consideration and where appropriate take independent advice or discuss the situation with your landlord.

If you receive Housing Benefit and you rent your home from a private landlord, you will not be affected by these changes. Payment of Housing Benefit for the private rented sector is already affected by the operation of Local Housing Allowance. This sets the eligible rent for claimants based on the size of their household and the area in which they live.

If you are affected by the size criteria changes but you have a child that requires their own room by reason of a severe disability, you may be allowed an extra bedroom when your Housing Benefit is calculated.

You will be required to complete an application form and supply certain additional details. If you have a child that you feel needs their own room but does not suffer from severe disabilities you may wish to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).

This is a payment that can be made in addition to your Housing Benefit but will require you to complete an application form. The council has limited funds to pay a DHP and so it will not be paid indefinitely.

Following a successful appeal to the UK Supreme Court, with effect from 1st April 2017, Housing Benefit regulations have been introduced to allow an additional bedroom in circumstances where it is not reasonable for members of a couple to share  a bedroom because of a disability to one or both members of the couple. The disabled member(s) of the couple must be in receipt of certain DWP disability benefits.

If your children are not normally resident with you then they would not previously have been included in the calculation of your Housing Benefit. Therefore, they will not be included when the size-criteria rules are applied. If custody is shared between both parents, the children are usually considered to be resident with the parent who claims the Child Benefit for them.

If your property has been adapted for your disability you will be treated as a priority applicant for a Discretionary Housing Payment in accordance with guidelines set by the Government. You will need to make an application for this. The council has limited funds to pay a DHP and so it will not be paid indefinitely.


Last Updated on 11 October 2017