Bedroom tax - it might affect you
Some of you will have heard about the Welfare Reforms, particularly the ‘bedroom tax’, and the changes that are going to happen next year which will affect you as a housing association tenant.
As your landlord, we want to make sure you have as much information as you can to understand the impact of these changes and how you can continue to live in a home that is suitable for you. On this page, we have a list of questions and answers but if you need to know anything else, please contact us.
What is Welfare Reform?
Welfare Reform is the Governments process of re-forming the framework of social security and welfare provisions.
What is the bedroom tax?
The bedroom tax means a cut to the amount of benefit you can get if you have a spare bedroom in your housing association home. The Government will introduce new size criteria for housing benefit claims in social housing which means that if you do have a spare bedroom, you will receive less housing benefit and will have to pay the difference to your landlord or move to a home that has the appropriate number of rooms for your circumstances.
This new tax will be in place from April 2013 and will affect tenants of working age (16 – 61 and 5 months).
Watch this helpful video that takes you through all the welfare reform changes here:
Will it affect every tenant?
Tenants who are of working age and claiming housing benefit to help pay rent, but have what the Government deems to be a ‘spare’ bedroom will be affected from April 2013. The following people need their own bedroom:
- a couple
- a single person over the age of 16
- siblings of different genders over the age of 10, but siblings of the same gender are expected to share.
How will I know that I’m affected?
Based on the information we have about you on our records which tells us how many people live in your home and how many bedrooms you have, housing benefit will automatically be reduced if you fall into the bedroom tax criteria. You will receive a letter in the post before April 2013 to let you know.
How much will I lose in housing benefit?
The cut will be a fixed percentage of your housing benefit – it will be reduced by 14% for one room and 25% for two or more bedrooms. On average, you will lose £14-£25 a week.
What if I can’t pay the difference?
If you feel that you can’t afford to pay the difference to make up for the cut of your benefit, you can consider moving into a smaller property. Please speak to your neighbourhood officer to find out how to register for this kind of move. You can consider both a transfer and a mutual exchange.
What if I’m happy to pay the difference?
If you feel you can afford to pay the difference between your rent and how much benefit you now receive, you can continue living in your home and just need to continue making regular rent payments.
Where can I find out more?
This useful leaflet talks you through the changes: Buckinghamshire welfare reforms [pdf] 4MB that tells you more about the changes. If you think you are under-occupying your property, please call us on 01494 476100 and we will be able to help and advise you.
Universal Credit – changes to rent payments
As well as the bedroom tax, there is also another change to benefits which will affect everyone in social housing who claims benefits and is of working age.
From October 2013, anyone making new claims for benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support, Tax Credits and Housing Benefit, will receive one four weekly payment to cover all of these benefits, rather than getting them separately. This means that you will be responsible for paying your rent directly to us as your landlord from this one payment – we will no longer receive housing benefit direct from the Local Authority.
This will be a big change for a lot of you who are used to having your rent come out from benefit directly. With the change, some of you may struggle to prioritise essential payments such as rent and may be worried about rent arrears. If this is the case, talk to you neighbourhood officer who will be able to talk through a number of options with you, including setting up a Direct Debit.
Useful web links
- www.wincred.org – helps you identify ways of maximising your household income, get information and tips on saving money
- www.energywatch.co.uk – a site that compares gas and electricity prices
- www.ssafa.org.uk - SSAFA help and support those who serve in the Armed Forces and those who used to serve - even if it was only for a single day
- www.uswitch.com - a free, impartial online and phone based comparison and switching service that helps customers compare prices on a range of services including gas, electricity, home phone, broadband providers and personal finance products
- www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk - offers health advice and information 24 hours a day, online and on the phone
- www.firststopadvice.org.uk - an independent, free service providing advice and information for older people, their families and carers about care and housing options in later life
- www.hiddenfees.co.uk – an online guide to avoiding unexpected additional charges for goods and services