Under occupancy

Where a social sector tenant occupies a dwelling that is considered too large for their needs, they are classed as under occupying the dwelling and the maximum rent awarded for housing benefit and universal credit is reduced by:

  • 14% where under-occupying by one bedroom
  • 25% where under-occupying by two or more bedrooms.

Once reduced the eligible rent is known as the ‘limited rent’. This change affects all new claims and existing awards from 1st April 2013, unless exempt.

It’s based on the number and ages of persons living in the claimant’s household - similar to the rules for Local Housing Allowance, but not exactly the same.

Who’s affected?

One bedroom is allocated to each of the following types of occupier and each occupier may only be in one category:

  • A member of a couple who cannot share a bedroom because of severe physical or mental disability, but only where an additional bedroom exists within the home
  • A member of a couple who can share a bedroom
  • Every adult couple
  • A member of the armed forces who is away on operations and who intends to return to the dwelling
  • A person aged 16 and over
  • A child who cannot share a bedroom because of severe physical or mental disability, but only where an additional bedroom exists within the home
  • Two children of the same sex aged 15 years or less
  • Two children regardless of sex who are aged 9 years or less
  • Any other child aged 15 years or less.

An additional bedroom is allocated for:

  • A non-resident overnight carer where the claimant, the claimant's partner, a foster child or any other person occupying the dwelling as home is a person who requires overnight care subject to prescribed restrictions
  • A foster child living with an approved foster carer
  • an approved foster carer between placements for up to 52 consecutive weeks
  • A newly approved foster carer pending a placement for up to 52 consecutive weeks from the date of approval.

Who's NOT affected?

  • A claimant who has reached the qualifying age for state pension credit
  • A joint tenant
  • A non-registered housing association where the rent is a registered fair rent
  • A shared ownership tenancy
  • Mooring charges for a houseboat
  • Site fees for a caravan or mobile home
  • Exempt accommodation, as defined in regulations
  • Temporary accommodation, as defined in regulations
  • A claimant who qualifies for up to:
    • 52 weeks protection following the death of a linked person
    • 13 weeks protection where they could previously afford all the financial commitments of the dwelling.

What should I do if I can no longer afford to pay my rent?

If your benefit is due to go down, it is very important that you act now to plan how you will manage these changes.

We recommend you talk to your landlord as soon as possible to see whether they will reduce the rent on your property.

If it’s not possible to renegotiate your rent you could either make up the shortfall yourself or start looking for cheaper alternative accommodation. You might also want to talk about your situation with Citizens Advice (external link).

We may also be able to help you meet the gap between your benefit entitlement and the rent you pay by awarding a discretionary housing payment.

The amount of money available for these payments is limited so we will have to consider your circumstances carefully.

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