There are many changes occurring to the welfare benefits system, and people need to be fully aware of what these changes are, and how they will be affected.
The change in housing entitlement is causing major concern, both and nationwide and locally. Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau is already seeing many residents who are being assessed as ‘under-occupying’ in social, local authority housing.
A property is under-occupied if it has more bedrooms than the household needs according to the size criteria. The rules allow one bedroom for each adult couple, one for each other person aged 16 or over, one bedroom for two children of the same sex aged under 16, and a shared bedroom for two children under the age of 10 – regardless of their sex.
If the benefits regime decides that you have one more room than you need, your Housing Benefit will be reduced by 15 per cent, and for two or more rooms, the Housing Benefit reduction is 25 per cent.
Residents need to consider how they will manage with the reduction in housing benefit. One option is to downsize, by moving to another property. The local authority landlord will pay something towards removal expenses and redecoration of any new property if appropriate.
Otherwise you might take in a lodger. You can keep quite a bit of the income from this, but you must give some food, e.g. breakfast cereal, to have a lodger. If you consider doing this you need to let your landlord know, so you ensure you are not breaking any of your tenancy conditions.
You might also consider getting one of your grown up children to move back in. Many young people are finding it much too expensive to rent privately in Hackney.
There has been some confusion with people thinking they might be exempt from the Bedroom Tax, and not have to pay it.
While there are various exemptions from the benefits cap (such as those receiving working tax credits, or disability living allowance), the same exemptions don’t apply here.
Exemptions that do apply, and allow for an extra bedroom, are if the housing benefit claimant or their partner needs overnight care, or is an approved foster carer.
In some circumstances, a child may not be expected to share a room if they have severe disabilities.
Also, an adult child who is a member of the armed forces and is serving away may still be counted as living at home. There is a bedroom calculator for social housing tenants on the Citizens Advice Bureau Advice website at adviceguide.org.uk.
You may contact Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau at: 300 Mare Street, E8 1HE (opposite Hackney Empire)
Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau
300 Mare Street, E8 1HE
0844 499 1195 – Adviceline
adviceguide.org.uk or eastendcab.org.uk