What is under-occupation?

The under-occupation rules (also known as the social sector size rules) put a restriction on the rent used to calculate Housing Benefit. The restriction will apply where you:

  • are of working age

  • live in social housing accommodation and

  • are assessed as having more bedrooms in your property than you need.

How many bedrooms is my household allowed?

The rules allow one bedroom for:

  • an adult couple (married or unmarried)

  • any other adult aged 16 or over

  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16

  • two children (boy or girl) aged under 10

  • any other child (but not a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)

  • a carer or team of carers who do not live with you but provide you or your partner with overnight care

  • a couple where they are unable to share a bedroom because of a disability. To allow the extra bedroom, one or both of the couple must be receiving at least one of the following: 

    • Attendance Allowance
    • high/middle rate disability living allowance or the daily living allowance of Personal Independence Payment
    • Armed Forces Independence Payment.

You can use the Bedroom Calculator for Social Housing Tenants to work out how many bedrooms you are allowed.

How much benefit will I lose?

If you are of working age, your benefit will be reduced by the following amount if you have more bedrooms than your household needs:

  • 14% of the ‘eligible' rent (the amount of rent we use to work out your benefit) for one spare bedroom

  • 25% of the ‘eligible' rent for two or more spare bedrooms.

Who is not affected?

The rules on under-occupancy do not apply if:

  • you or your partner have reached the qualifying age for state pension credit

  • your home is part of a shared-ownership scheme

  • you live in non-mainstream accommodation, such as a houseboat, caravan or mobile home

  • we have placed you in temporary accommodation for homeless people

  • you live in certain types of supported or sheltered accommodation.

What help is available to you?

If your Housing Benefit is reduced because of these rules you should speak to your landlord straight away to discuss your options. Don’t delay contacting them as they may start taking legal steps to evict you if you do not pay the shortfall.

Discretionary Housing Payment Scheme

The government has given us a limited amount of money to help people who are struggling with housing costs. Where the amount of housing benefit you get does not cover your rent, you may be able to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment in certain circumstances.

Discretionary Housing Payments are not benefit payments - they are separate payments which may be paid if we believe you need extra financial support.

More information on Discretionary Housing Payments

Discretionary Housing Payment Policy

Discretionary Housing Payment Application Form

Where can I get additional support and advice?

You can get free, independent advice about rent problems from:

Citizens Advice Bureau (Telephone: 03444 111 444)

Money Advice Service (Telephone: 0300 500 5000)

National Debtline (Telephone: 0808 808 4000)

Shelter (Telephone: 0808 800 4444)