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About bedrooms and under occupancy

From 1 April 2013 the government cut the amount of housing benefit working age people, who live in a council or housing association property, will get if they have more bedrooms than their family needs (this is known as under occupancy). Find out more about what this means using the links below:

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How many bedrooms am I entitled to?

If you are of working age, live in a council or housing association home, and claim housing benefits, under the new rules that came into effect on 1 April 2013 you are entitled to housing benefit to cover one bedroom for:

  • every adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • any other adult aged 16 or over
  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • any two children aged under 10
  • a carer (or team of carers) who provide overnight care
  • any other child*

*If you foster a child, or look after a child whose main home is elsewhere, the child will not be included when
assessing the number of bedrooms you require.

Some worked examples 

So, for example a couple or single parent:

  • with no children will need one bedroom.
  • with one child will need two bedrooms.
  • with a boy and girl aged under 10 will need two bedrooms.
  • with a boy and girl aged 11 and 15 will need three bedrooms.
  • with two boys aged 11 and 15 will need two bedrooms.
  • with two boys aged 13 and 16 will need three bedrooms.
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What if I have too many bedrooms?

Since 1 April 2013:

  • If you have one bedroom too many, your housing benefit will be cut by the equivalent of 14% of your rent.
  • If you have two, or more bedrooms too many, your housing benefit will be cut by the equivalent of 25% of your rent.

Please note:

  • We will not make the decision on how many bedrooms there are in your home. This will be the responsibility of your landlord, who will be asked to accurately describe your property, in line with the rent charged. We will not be able to change this decision.  
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What if I have a room for a carer or I'm recently bereaved?

If you have an extra bedroom for an overnight carer, your benefit may not have been cut as a result of your carer's bedroom.

If you have a extra bedroom that is only used by carers during the day, or for medical purposes, you will not be entitled to housing benefit for this bedroom.

There are also exceptions for people who have too many bedrooms because of a recent bereavement.

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What if I am pregnant?

If you are pregnant and have an empty room ready for your unborn child, your benefit will be reduced until your child is born.

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My housing benefit has been cut - what can I do?

If you are assessed as having too many bedrooms (known as under-occupying) in your home, and your housing benefit is cut, you have a number of options:

1. Stay in your current home and make up the rent shortfall yourself

There are a number of ways you can make up your rent shortfall, including taking in a lodger, or working more hours.

Increase your hours or get a job
If it is possible, you may want to consider increasing your working hours to make up the shortfall in your rent. Or, if you aren't currently working, you may want to think about getting a job. Before doing this, we recommend you read our fact sheet about additional income.

Ask non-dependent adults to contribute to the rent 
You may have grown up children or adults living with you (your parents for example). To help meet your extra housing costs, you may want to think about asking them to contribute.

Take in a lodger
Taking in a lodger to fill an extra bedroom may be a good option. The lodger would be assessed as part of your household, which means you my not be considered to have too many rooms (under-occupying). You'll also have more income due to the extra rent. Before considering taking in a lodger, you'll need to speak to your landlord, and we also recommend you read our following factsheet fact sheet about lodgers.

2. Move to a smaller home

Rather than meet your shortfall in rent, you may feel it is better to move to a smaller home.

Your housing association/landlord will be able to talk this through with you and let you know whether this is possible.

If there aren't any smaller housing association homes available, you may decide that moving to a private rented home is more appropriate.

Again your landlord will be able to advise you about this. Our housing team can also provide advice and guidance on moving to a private rented home.

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Get extra help with paying your rent or moving costs

We have a small pot of funding to help people in real need with their housing costs. This means, even if you already receive housing benefit, you may be able to get some extra money called 'discretionary housing payment' (DHP).   You may also be able to apply for help if you are moving into a smaller house because your housing benefit has been cut. The funding is not enough to support everyone, but if you are in real need we recommend you find out more.

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What happens if I don't pay my rent?

If you don't pay your rent, the money you owe your landlord will be called a 'rent arrear'. The consequences of not paying your rent arrears are serious and there is a risk you could be evicted from your home.

Your landlords will usually have the right to seek a court order to evict you for not paying your rent (rent arrears). In certain circumstances your landlord may be able to evict you without the need to obtain a court order first.

The rules about when and how a landlord may evict you for rent arrears differ according to the type of tenancy agreement you have.

The type of tenancy agreement you have will depend partly on who your landlord is. If you are unsure of what type of tenancy you have you should check your tenancy agreement. Find out more about tenancy and eviction.

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How to deal with rent arrears

If you can't pay your rent, or have missed rent payments, or if you're worried your payments are not being made, sort things out as soon as you can. Even if you have other debts, make sure you prioritise rent arrears.

Things to do to help you get back on track:

  • make a list of all your debts and put them in order of priority.
  • write down all your income and expenses – then see how much you've got to pay your debts.
  • work out how much you can afford to pay to each creditor (a person or organisation you owe money to).
  • consider seeking advice from a debt advice agency such as National Debtline.
  • most importantly, talk to your landlord – try to reach an agreement about paying off the arrears, but don't agree to pay more than you can afford.
  • Remember that once your rent is being paid in full again, the arrears that have built up will still have to be paid off.
  • One way to do this is through an agreed debt management plan.
  • There are lots more handy hints and tips about how to tackle debt on our sister website
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Get help and advice on rent difficulties

There are also lots of organisations who offer free, independent advice about rent difficulties and may be able to advise you on how to maximise your benefits, as well as tell you about any additional benefits you may be able to claim.

They may also be able to assist you with filling out the forms and ensuring that any claims are not held up by incomplete paperwork.

These organisations include:

Shelter offers face-to-face, phone, email and online advice about any housing problems (not just homelessness).

Visit or call 0808 800 4444 (calls are free from UK landlines and main mobile networks).

Citizens Advice Bureau offers free, confidential advice face-to-face or by phone. Some also offer home visits, and some give email advice.

Visit or call 03444 111 444. TextRelay users should call 03444 111 445.

The National Debtline is a free, confidential service offering independent advice about dealing with debt. You can get information online or by calling the free helpline.

Visit or call 0808 808 4000.

There are lots more handy hints and tips about organisations who can help you on our sister website

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Need help and support?

For further advice and guidance contact the housing benefit team on 01543 308900 or email

You can also get advice and guidance from:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Shelter offers confidential housing, welfare and benefits advice. Freephone 0808 800 4444, Monday - Friday 8am - 8pm, or Saturday and Sunday 8am - 5pm and online at
  • You can also get more information at
  • Contact your housing association to discuss your options - if you are affected by the change, we recommend you talk to your housing association about the changes and your possible options.

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Get in touch or visit...

Our location and travel details >>

Phone our contact centre: 01543 308 000
District Council House, Frog Lane, Lichfield, Staffs, WS13 6YY

If you need to contact a team direct, please visit our contacts page for team phone numbers and email addresses.

Opening times

Our main reception at Frog Lane in Lichfield is open Monday - Friday, 8.45am - 5.15pm. Our phone lines close at 5pm.