Welfare reform

Housing Benefit changes for tenants who are under-occupying social housing

Government rules introduced in 2013 reduced the amount of Housing Benefit that council and housing association tenants can claim if their home is considered too large for their needs. This is commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'.

The rules only affect people of working age.

What do the changes mean?

Your Housing Benefit is based on the number of bedrooms your household needs.

The rules allow one bedroom for:

  • a couple (married or unmarried)
  • any person aged 16 or over
  • two children under 16 of the same sex
  • two children aged under 10 regardless of gender
  • any other child (other than a child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • people who need an overnight carer
  • adult children who are in the armed forces (they are treated as living at home even if deployed on operations)
  • disabled children who are unable to share a bedroom with a sibling due to a severe disability

Approved foster carers are also allowed one extra room as long as they have:

  • fostered a child
  • become an approved foster carer in the last 12 months

Changes introduced in April 2017

From 1 April 2017 the Council can allow an extra bedroom for:

  • a disabled adult or child who needs and receives regular overnight care from a non-resident carer
  • a couple who can't share a bedroom due to a severe disability.

The disabled person must usually be receiving a qualifying disability benefit, such as:

  • Disability Living Allowance paid at the middle or highest rate
  • Personal Independence Payment, daily living component.

How could this affect you?

You may get less help towards your rent and service charges if you are assessed under these rules as having more bedrooms than your household needs.

The amount of rent that you can claim Housing Benefit for will be reduced by:

  • 14 per cent if you have one extra bedroom
  • 25 per cent if you have two or more extra bedrooms

Changes to the number of people living in your home

It is important to notify the Benefits Service if there are any changes to the number of people who live in your home. Complete the 'changes to housing occupation' form and return it. Any necessary adjustments will then be made to your Housing Benefit.

Download the 'changes to housing occupation' form

What steps can I take if I am affected?

If your Housing Benefit is reduced, you need to consider how you will make up the extra amount. You are generally expected to pay any outstanding rent yourself, however you may be able to get extra financial support if you are in financial difficulty (see below).

Council tenants can contact the Housing Welfare Advice Team on 020 8921 3129.

Housing association tenants can contact their housing association direct.

It is important that you carefully weigh up your options and get specialist advice if you need to.

Getting extra help

You may be able to get extra financial support called a discretionary housing payment (DHP) if:

  • your Housing Benefit has been reduced because of these rules; and
  • there are special circumstances that make it particularly difficult for you to meet the shortfall or move home.

Discretionary housing payments are extra payments made by local authorities. There is no legal entitlement to a payment.

For example, it is worth making a claim if your home has been adapted because of the disability of one of the people living in the home or if there are other disability related factors. Contact our Benefits Service for advice about this at or on 020 8921 4900. Council tenants can contact the Housing Welfare Advice Team on 020 8921 3129.

Example: John is a single person age 49 who is living in a two-bedroom council property. John has multiple sclerosis and is on Employment and Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance. His home has been adapted to meet his needs. John previously received full help towards his rent, but now he faces a 14 per cent reduction in his Housing Benefit because he has one extra bedroom.

John has completed the housing under-occupation form to notify the Royal Borough of Greenwich about his disability and the adaptations that have been carried out to his home. John is awarded a discretionary housing payment to cover the shortfall and also receives advice and support to apply for a reduction on his Council Tax.

Home adaptations for disabled people

If your home has been adapted to meet the needs of a disabled person, you may also get a reduction on your Council Tax bill

Get help finding a job

Get help with household costs

You could ask those who live with you to contribute more towards the costs of running the house.

Apply to move to a smaller property

Please ask your housing officer about this.

Consider renting out a room in your house

For example, you could rent to a friend or relative. Please note that this could affect your benefits. You can learn more about the rules and find practical tips and advice in our factsheet for council tenants.

Download advice for council tenants on taking on lodgers

Free independent advice on managing your money

You can get free advice by contacting:

Check if you are missing out on tax credits or other benefits

Contact the Welfare Rights Service for a free benefit check.

Where can I get more information?

Greenwich Citizens Advice Bureau provides independent general advice on a wide range of legal issues for people living or working in the borough.

Shelter offers confidential housing, welfare benefits and debt advice through a network of advice services.

You can also visit the Gov.UK website to get more information about Housing Benefit and the Rent-a-Room Scheme.

Information about the Rent-a-Room Scheme (Gov.UK)

Contact Housing Welfare Advice Team

Guidance for council tenants.

020 8921 3129

Contact Welfare Rights

Welfare Rights enquiry form

Public Advice Line: 020 8921 6375

Textphone number: 18001 020 8921 6375

Fax: 020 8921 2016

Welfare Rights Service,
The Woolwich Centre,
35 Wellington Street,
London SE18 6HQ

Contact Welfare Reform Team

Contact Welfare Reform for advice.

Welfare Reform Team: 020 8921 2840

Welfare Reform Project Officer (private tenants): 020 8921 5220

Contact Advice and Benefits

Advice and Benefits,
The Woolwich Centre,
35 Wellington Street,
London SE18 6HQ

020 8921 4900

020 8921 2016

Contact GLLaB

The Old Library,
Calderwood Street,
Woolwich SE18 6QW

020 8921 2440

Free independent money advice

Greenwich Money Advice:

020 8309 8646

Meridian Money Advice:

020 8293 3432

National Debt Line:

0808 808 4000

Contact Greenwich Citizens Advice Bureau

020 8853 9499

Contact Shelter

Use the freephone number for confidential housing, welfare rights and debt advice.

Open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, Saturday to Sunday 8am to 5pm. Includes minicom service.

0808 800 4444