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Changes to Housing Benefit in wake of Supreme Court ruling

New Regulations have been passed, coming into effect on 20th April 2017, which expand the circumstances in which a household is permitted an “additional” room by Housing Benefit rules. These changes apply to both the social and private rented sectors.

The Supreme Court ruling

In November 2016, the UK Supreme Court delivered judgment on several challenges to the bedroom tax policy. They ruled in favour of 2 claimants, who claimed that the rules discriminated against disabled children and disabled adults respectively.

Although the challenges were in relation to the bedroom tax, the Supreme Court’s ruling applied to Housing Benefit rules for both the social and private rented sectors.

In the wake of the judgment, the Government have passed Regulations which expand the circumstances in which a household is permitted an “additional” bedroom.

The new Housing Benefit rules

The Regulations expand the circumstances where a household can claim an “additional” bedroom on grounds of disability:

  1. Previously, only a child who could not share a bedroom due to disability was permitted a room of their own. Now, a member of an adult couple who cannot share a bedroom due to disability will also be permitted a room of their own.
  2. Previously, only an adult who required overnight care was permitted an “additional” room. Now, a child who also requires overnight care will also be permitted this “additional” room.

It is important to remember that these changes apply to Housing Benefit in both the private rented sector and the social sector.

The previous Housing Benefit rules

Under the previous Housing Benefit rules – which establish the Local Housing Allowance system of housing benefit in the private rented sector, and the size criteria or “bedroom tax” in social housing – households were permitted a certain number of bedrooms. One bedroom was allowed for:

  • A couple
  • Any other adult over 16
  • 2 children of the same gender
  • Any 2 children under the age of 10
  • Any other child

In addition to this, households were permitted one or more bedrooms which were “additional” to these. Households were permitted an additional bedroom where:

  1. A child could not share a bedroom, due to disability
  2. The tenant or their partner (i.e., an adult) required overnight care
  3. A household member was in the armed forces and away on operations, but intending to return
  4. The tenant or their partner was a foster carer or “qualifying parent/carer” (meaning someone who cares for a child on behalf of an authority, someone who cares for a child prior to adoption, or someone awaiting confirmation of adopting a child)
  5. A household member had died in the previous year, and this would otherwise result in the bedroom tax being imposed

Households renting privately would only get enough Housing Benefit for the number of bedrooms they were seen to need (the Local Housing Allowance or LHA system), while social rented households would see their Housing Benefit affected by the “bedroom tax” if they had any spare bedrooms.

Welfare Reform Training from Housing Rights

Housing Rights is delivering a 1-day course on Welfare Reform & Housing in Belfast on 27th April, and a ½ day course in Derry/Londonderry on 1st June. 

Tagged In

Benefits, Social Tenancies, Private Tenancies, Welfare Reform


Stephen Orme

This article was written on 4 April 2017. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.