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Under occupancy

Under-occupancy means you have more rooms in your home than the government says you need - not whether you have rooms that you don't use.

The changes have been applied across the country and we cannot alter them. Where we can we are helping people to stay in their homes – if they want to.

If you claim housing benefit, live in a council or housing association home and are of working age then the amount that you claim may be reduced if you are under-occupying.

If you live in a shared ownership property the under-occupancy rules do not apply, and if you rent privately, the amount you receive will depend on the local housing allowance.

How many bedrooms am I entitled to?

You are entitled to one bedroom for each of the following:

  • Two people living as a couple
  • A single person over the age of 16
  • Two children under the age of 10 (regardless of their sex)
  • Two children of the same sex aged under 16 years
  • Any other child.

If you share the care of any children with an ex-partner only the person who they live with normally will be able to claim the room space for them. If a child spends equal amounts of time in different households, or if there is question about who they normally live with, then the person who receives the child benefit will be able to claim the room space.

The Citizens Advice Bureau - bedroom advice has more information on the number of bedrooms you are entitled to.

How much benefit will I lose?

If you have more bedrooms than you need, your benefits may be reduced by 14 per cent for one extra bedroom, or 25 per cent for two or more bedrooms.

In Leicester, the average amount people are losing is £11.07 for one room and £19.87 for two or more rooms each week.

When will I start to lose money?

If you make a new claim for housing benefit – and have not claimed housing benefit during the past 52 weeks – then the under occupancy rules will not be applied for the first 13 weeks of your claim. After 13 weeks you will have to make up any shortfall in your rent.

If someone passes away then you will not lose money immediately.

What is considered to be a bedroom?

The number of bedrooms a home has is decided by the landlord (the council or housing association). It is this information that we use when we decide whether someone is under occupying. 

In some properties a downstairs room, attic room or small box room may be considered to be bedrooms. If you are unsure how many bedrooms your home has then you should contact your local housing office if you are a council tenant or your landlord if you live in a housing association property.

I have too many bedrooms – what can I do?

You can put your name on the housing register for a smaller home, you could register for a mutual exchange (again through the housing register), register with Homeswapper or speak to your local housing office.

You could also look for a home in the private rented sector – but this is likely to be more expensive than your current home.

You might be able to apply for help with your rent through the discretionary housing payment fund.