by Sarah Ashcroft

One of the most controversial subjects in recent months has been the new Labour-dubbed ‘bedroom tax’ the government is introducing. Whatever your thoughts and feelings on the issue, perhaps the most sensible course of action now is to work out exactly how the change will affect you and your family.

The bedroom tax is part of the welfare reform promised by the coalition government and will see the amount of housing benefit dished out to certain people slashed. Individuals, couples or families who are deemed to be living in a property that is too big for them will have their allowance reduced so that it’s more in keeping with the amount somebody in their circumstances should be receiving.

Effectively, it’s bad news for those who live in a property that includes spare bedrooms, as these will be seen as going to waste and subsequently trigger a reduction in housing benefit. So if you live in a council property or housing association home, now is the time to consider how a change in benefits could affect you, as the measure is due to be implemented from next month.

When it comes to determining how many bedrooms a home contains, certain factors will be taken into consideration. For instance, all children under the age of 16 of the same gender will be expected to share a bedroom, while all under-tens – regardless of whether they are male or female – will also be deemed to be in one room.

All the spare rooms will then be added up and households will learn whether they will still receive the same benefits or face a reduction. Those who no longer qualify for the full amount will find that they lose 14 per cent of their housing benefit if they have one extra bedroom, while the total will go down by 25 per cent if they have two or more spare places to sleep.

It’s estimated that about 660,000 working-age social tenants will be impacted by the welfare reform, potentially resulting in many having to move to a smaller property in order to once again meet the rules for the full amount.

Parents who have separated but both have access to their children face one of the most important criteria of the scheme. Under the new rules, one parent will have to make themselves the ‘main carer’, meaning only they can claim benefits for an extra bedroom.

Other people who will be affected by the bedroom tax include foster carers, parents who have children visit but don’t live with them and families with disabled children. There are plenty of people around the UK who must consider the impact of a reduction in housing benefit.

It will be left up to landlords to determine what constitutes a bedroom and what doesn’t. This has already led to many tenants seeking to prove that certain rooms are not suited for sleeping.

Those who haven’t yet made arrangements to deal with a shortfall in funding will have to act quickly if they are to cope with the changes when they are introduced next month.

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Published on: March 27, 2013