Bedroom tax changes – new rules are confirmed

The government is finally changing the bedroom tax rules to bring them into line with the Supreme Court judgement in the Rutherford case.

This means that from 1 April, a bedroom won’t be treated as a spare room if it is used by overnight carers who provide regular care to a disabled child. This applies regardless of whether the child is a dependent or an older adult child with disabilities.

At the same time the rules are also being changed so that a couple can be treated as needing two bedrooms where they are unable to share due to a disability.

What is the bedroom tax?

The amount of help that you get with your rent can be cut if you are treated as having a spare room in your property. This applies both to claimants who are getting housing benefit and those who get help with rent under Universal Credit.

Under the current rules a bedroom can be treated as a spare room despite the fact that it is being used by overnight carers who visit you to provide overnight care to a disabled child. The Supreme Court decided that this discriminated against disabled children in the Rutherford case in November 2016. The government is now finally changing the law to bring it into line with the Rutherford judgement.

What do the new rules say about a room for an overnight carer?

When the housing benefit office or the Department for Work and Pensions are deciding if you are to be treated as having a spare room, they must ignore a bedroom that is being set aside for the use of a carer, or team of carers, who come to your home to help look after your disabled child at night. This applies both in social housing and where you rent from a private landlord.

In order to benefit from this you must show that your child receives overnight care regularly and that a bedroom is set aside for a carer or team of carers. It does not matter. The carer can be anyone who provides care and who does not normally live in the home, including an extended family member. Overnight care must be provide ‘regularly’. This does not mean that overnight care is being provided on the majority of nights, but merely that the need for overnight care arises often enough that it is reasonable to keep a bedroom for that purpose.

Normally the child must also be in receipt of the care component of Disability Living Allowance at the middle or higher rate or the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment at any rate. If a child is not in receipt of one of these qualifying benefits, the Housing Benefit office have the discretion to still allow an extra bedroom so long as there is alternative evidence that overnight care is needed and is being provided. However for universal credit the child must get one of these disability benefits as no such discretion applies.

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