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Housing Benefit Explained

Housing Benefit was designed to help you pay your rent if you’re unemployed, on a low income or claiming benefits. Universal Credit has been introduced to replace this benefit.

Your Housing Benefit, or housing costs element of Universal Credit might be reduced. This is often referred to as the ‘Bedroom Tax’ or the ‘under-occupation penalty’ or the ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’.

Housing Benefit could be reduced if you live in council or social housing and have a spare bedroom(s). If you have more bedrooms than the government says you need, your home will be counted as being too big for you. The reduction is:

  • 14% of the ‘eligible rent’ for 1 spare bedroom
  • 25% of the ‘eligible rent’ for 2 or more spare bedrooms

Your home will be too big for you if you have more than one bedroom for each of the people shown below: 

Sharing a room:

  • an adult couple
  • two children under 16 of the same sex
  • 2 children under 10 (regardless of sex

The following can have their own bedroom:

  • A single adult (16 or over)
  • a child that would normally share but shared bedrooms are already taken, for example you have 3 children and 2 already share
  • a couple or children who cannot share because of a disability or medical condition
  • an overnight carer for you, your partner, your child or another adult - this is only if the carer does not live with you but sometimes has to stay overnight

One spare bedroom is allowed for:

  • an approved foster carer who is between placements but only for up to 52 weeks from the end of the last placement
  • a newly approved foster carer for up to 52 weeks from the date of approval if no child is placed with them during that time

If rooms are used by students and members of the armed or reserve forces then these will not be counted as ‘spare’ if they are away and intend to return home.

To find out more about government services and information please go to

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