Welfare Reform Changes April 2013

Underoccupying Your Home

Changes to housing benefit in the social rented sector

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 introduces new rules for the size of accommodation that Housing Benefit will cover for working age tenants renting in the social sector. This will bring them in line with the private rented sector.

If you rent your home from a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) such as Hyndburn Homes and you have more bedrooms than your household needs, then these changes may affect you and the amount of Housing Benefit you receive.

From April 2013 all working age tenants renting from a local authority, housing association or other registered social landlord will receive housing benefit based on the need of their household.

The size criteria allows one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household with the following exceptions:

  • children under 16 of the same gender are expected to share
  • children under 10 are expected to share regardless of gender
  • a disabled tenant or partner who needs a non-resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra room.

This means those tenants whose accommodation is larger than they need may lose part of their Housing Benefit as the amount of ‘eligible rent’ which is the maximum about of Housing Benefit we can pay to that household will reduce:

  • those with one spare bedroom will have their eligible rent reduced by 14%
  • those with two or more spare bedrooms will have their eligible rent reduced by 25%

In February 2013 we wrote to all households which we think will be affected by this changes, based on the information we hold about the size of the properties.  We have been working with landlords to ensure than as much information is given as possible before the changes take place.

What are my options?

If you are affected by these changes, you have a number of options:

1. You can remain in your current house and receive less Housing Benefit.  You will be responsible for paying the shortfall in your rent directly to your landlord.

2. You can downsize to a smaller property.  Housing associations have been working with tenants to match them to a suitably sized property for several months and you should contact your landlord if you wish to be considered for a move.

3. If your tenancy allows for it and your landlord agrees, you could rent out your spare bedroom. The Department for Work and Pensions offers advice on renting your spare room on their website.

I cannot afford the additional rent, what are my options?

Talking to your landlord about your rent is the best place to start when you find yourself unable to pay your rent.  Negotiating a lower rent, a downsize or a payment plan might be reasonable options for you. Do not wait until you are in arrears before talking to your landlord.

If you are in financial difficulty as a result of these changes, you can apply to us for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).  A DHP is temporary, short term financial help towards the shortfall in your housing benefit – it is paid to those who cannot reduce their outgoing any further and to help bridge the gap between having a shortfall in rent and finding a more suitable property.

You can apply for a DHP using this form and returning it to us at the Council.  We require information from you about your income and expenditure and not all DHP applications are awarded.

Where can I find out more?

The Department for Work and Pensions website contains further information about these changes as well as other welfare reforms.  Information and advice includes details on what to consider when renting out a room or how to seek help when falling in to rent arrears.

Information from the Council

Your annual Housing Benefit statement from the Council will be sent to you in March 2013.  This will include a breakdown of the Housing Benefit you will be awarded from April 2013.

If you think the information we have use to calculate your Housing Benefit is not correct then you must inform us.  You can tell us about changes in several ways including online using our e-citizen service.

Our forms are also available to download.

Alternatively, please email or telephone us. 

Forms are available collect at our Broadway Offices.

From March to June is our busiest time of the year for telephone calls and this year we expect to be busier than in previous years and your call is likely to take longer than usual to answer.  Email us your questions and we aim to respond in one working day.