Social Size Criteria, or the ‘Bedroom Tax’, changes how much housing benefit you are entitled to if you live in social housing.
Social housing means a property owned by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) or a Housing Association.
Social Size Criteria does not apply if you or your partner are state pension age or if you live in supported or temporary housing.
What is Social Size Criteria?
Housing benefit for those people in social housing is now calculated on the number of bedrooms you are deemed to need compared to how many bedrooms you have. This already applies to private rented tenants.
One bedroom is allowed for:
- a couple
- a person aged 16 or over
- two children of the same sex aged under 16
- two children aged under 10
- any other child (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)
- children who can’t share because of a disability or medical condition
- a non-resident carer or carers providing overnight care
You might be allowed to have an extra bedroom on your Housing Benefit calculation if you are:
- an approved foster carer who has a child placed with you
- an approved foster carer who is between placements but only for up to 52 weeks from the end of the last placement
- a newly approved foster carer for up to 52 weeks from the date of approval if no child is placed with you during that time
There are also provisions for students and members of the armed forces who are away from home to have their bedroom counted as being occupied. Couples that cannot share a bedroom because of a medical condition or a disability may also be allowed an extra room.
How your Housing Benefit is affected
If you are deemed to have one or more extra bedrooms in your household then your Housing Benefit will be reduced.
This applies to Housing Benefit for your rent and certain service charges. Your Housing Benefit award be reduced by:
- 14 per cent if you have one extra bedroom
- 25 per cent if you have two or more extra bedrooms
Support if you are affected by the Social Size Criteria
There is support available to help you if your Housing Benefit has been reduced in the form of a Welfare Supplementary Payment.
This payment will cover your loss of Housing Benefit until 31 March 2020. You don’t need to apply for this. The Department for Communities (DfC) will identify those affected by the Social Size Criteria and send a letter advising about this payment.
If you receive the Housing Benefit payment yourself then this payment is paid to you otherwise the Department for Communities (DfC) will pay it directly to your landlord.
What if your circumstances change?
If your circumstances change then this can affect the Welfare Supplementary Payment you receive to mitigate the effect of the Social Size Criteria.
For example, if you move to another property without management transfer status that is owned by a housing association or NIHE and it has either the same number of bedrooms or more bedrooms than your current property then your Welfare Supplementary Payment will end.
If you are worried or need advice about the Social Size Criteria in Northern Ireland, contact our helpline on 0800 915 4604.