Overcrowding and under occupation
You will normally be considered to be overcrowded where:
- the property is lacking one or more bedrooms; or
- two children of the same gender are sharing a bedroom, where one is aged 16 or over; or
- two children of opposite genders are sharing, where one child is over 10 years of age; or
- there are not enough bedrooms for all the people in your household who can be reasonably expected to live with you.
There may be exceptional instances where separate bedrooms for household members may be warranted on medical or social grounds. This will need to be confirmed by a professional.
Please note that if you are successful in bidding for a property with an additional bedroom, you may not be eligible for a higher rate of housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit. You may be considered as under-occupying.
Where a household applies to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council as homeless, the Council must decide whether or not they are homeless under section 175 of the Housing Act 1996. In reaching a decision, the Council will give regard to whether a household is statutorily overcrowded and whether it is reasonable for a household to continue to occupy their accommodation. Where it is determined by the Council that statutory overcrowding exists, under section 177(2) of the Housing Act 1996, the Council may also have regard to the general housing circumstances prevailing in relation to housing within the Basingstoke and Deane district.
What can be done to improve my overcrowding situation?
Waiting for social housing can take a long time. In the meantime you may wish to consider trying to improve your current living arrangements whilst you wait for more suitable accommodation. Are you able to:
- De-clutter your home to make extra space or use storage solutions?
- Change the sleeping arrangements in your home, for example by using a sofa bed in your living room?
- Use bunk beds to make better use of the space available?
- Use folding tables or other alternative furniture to create additional space?
- Find larger accommodation that is more suited to your needs in the private sector?
You may have a reduction in your housing benefit entitlement or the housing element of universal credit if:
- your current housing association property is too big for your household
- you have a spare bedroom or bedrooms
- your children have separate bedrooms.
This is due to under-occupation rules introduced by government in April 2013. You may have heard this called the bedroom tax.
How do I know if I'm under-occupying?
You should be aware of the following:
- You will be entitled to housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit for one bedroom for each person aged over the age of 16 or each couple in your home.
- Two children under the age of 10, regardless of gender, are expected to share a bedroom.
- Children aged 10 years of age or older, but under the age of 16, are expected to share with one other child of the same gender.
- Children with a disability may not be expected to share a bedroom. The housing benefit team or the DWP will make a decision about this referring to supporting information.
- You may be entitled to housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit for an additional bedroom if you require a resident or non-resident carer who provides overnight care for a member of your household. The housing benefit team or the DWP will make decisions about this with regard to relevant supporting information.
- You will be entitled to housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit for a bedroom for foster children, even when you are between placements.
- You will be entitled to housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit for a bedroom for any member of your household who is a serving member of the armed forces.
What happens if I am under-occupying?
If you live in a social rented home and claim housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit, we will assess whether you are under-occupying. If you are, there will be a percentage reduction to your housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit. This will depend on how many rooms you are under occupying:
- 14% if you are considered to have one extra bedroom.
- 25% if you are considered to have two or more extra bedrooms.
What you use your spare room for is irrelevant. If it is decided that you have more bedrooms than the rules say you need, you will lose part of your housing benefit or the housing element of your universal credit and must make up the shortfall.
For example, Mr and Mrs Jones live in a two-bedroom housing association flat costing £70 per week in rent and they receive maximum housing benefit or housing element of universal credit of £70 per week. From April 2013 the amount of eligible rent used in the calculation would be reduced by 14% or £9.80. This is because their second bedroom is regarded as a spare room under the new rules and they are considered to be under-occupying. Therefore, the maximum housing benefit or housing element of universal credit that Mr. and Mrs. Jones can receive is £60.20 per week.
If you have any queries or have been affected by these changes it is important that you contact the housing benefit department on 01256 844844 or the DWP regarding your universal credit on 0800 328 5644. Further information relating to universal credit can be found by visiting the GOV.UK universal credit page.
Who won't be affected by the new rules?
The under-occupation rules will not affect you or your partner if you have reached pension credit age. On 1 April 2013 you will have reached state pension credit age if you are a man or woman aged 61 years and 5 months.
The reduction in housing benefit entitlement or the housing element of universal credit for households with extra bedrooms also will not apply to:
- people living in shared ownership properties
- people living in caravans, mobile homes and houseboats
- people living in some types of supported accommodation.
- homeless people housed in short-term accommodation provided by the council, unless the accommodation is owned by the council.
What are my options if I have been affected by the housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit under-occupation rules?
You could consider:
You may be able to move to other social rented accommodation with the help of your landlord. You may also be interested in using the Homeswapper scheme. Alternatively, you may choose to look at privately rented properties to find the right size accommodation for your household. You can also join the council’s housing register as a transfer applicant, a transfer via the housing register is unlikely to be your quickest option.
Rent out your spare bedroom(s)
With the agreement of your landlord you may be able to take in a boarder or lodger to fill any unoccupied room(s). This would mean your spare room would not be treated as unoccupied for the purposes of applying for housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit and the under-occupation rules. You may find you are better off due to the additional income.
Have family members contribute more
If you have non-dependants living in your home the excess rent you are now responsible for could be covered through their new or increased contributions.
Move in to work/increase hours
Moving into work or increasing working hours may increase your income and help to cover any reduction in your housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit.
- Contact the council by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 01256 844844. Get more information about housing benefit.
- Speak to Citizens Advice
- Contact Shelter for confidential housing, welfare benefits and debt advice. Call the Freephone Housing Advice Helpline on 0808 800 4444 from 8am to 8pm on Monday to Friday and 8am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.
- Contact the council’s housing register and advice department on 01256 844844 or via email at email@example.com .
- Contact the DWP regarding universal credit on 0800 328 5644 or get more information about universal credit on the GOV.UK website.