Spare bedrooms - financial situation

Money issues for people on low incomes

There a variety of benefits available for people with low incomes.

  • In most cases how much you earn and your hours of work will impact on the your eligibility/the amount you’ll receive. Many benefits can only be claimed if you work for less than 16 hours a week.
  • Housing benefit is only available for rented accommodation and will be reduced if your house is deemed to have a spare bedroom.
  • Income support can be claimed whilst you’re in work if you have a low income and are a carer, disabled or single parent with a young child.
  • As long as you are actively searching for a full-time job, you can receive JSA on top of income from a part time role.
  • ESA can also be claimed whilst you’re earning, but you still need to attend regular interviews and have your capacity to work assessed.
  • The Social Fund can offer a variety of one of payments to help those on low incomes meet certain expenses, including funerals and maternity preparations.
  • All benefits are subject to the new benefits cap.

Times are undoubtedly tough, even for those of us lucky enough to have an income. With wages remaining static whilst inflation continues to push up the cost of living, those on low pay can easily find themselves struggling to make ends meet.

Housing Benefit

Housing benefit is only available to those who live in rented property, be that from a private landlord, a housing association or a council. If you have a mortgage, you’ll need to look to other sources for help. Shopping cheaply online can hugely cut down on outgoings.

The benefit can only be spent on rent payments, and not any other living expense. A number of factors go into determining how much you’ll get. One of the most important is you ‘eligible rent’. This means the amount deemed reasonable for housing in your area that would prove suitable for you and your family. As you can imagine, this will vary a lot depending on your circumstances.

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Spare bedrooms - financial situation


Another big issue is spare bedrooms. Your payments will be reduced by 14% of your eligible rent if you have a spare room and by 25% if you have two. You also need to bear in mind that, as far as housing benefit is concerned, a room can be deemed spare if other rooms could conceivably be shared. All of the below are expected to share:

  • Adult couples.
  • 2 Children under 10 of either sex.
  • 2 children under 16 of the same sex.

This means under 16s can only have their own room if they are an only child, they’re the only child of their sex, or all the other rooms are taken by other adults or sharing children.

If for example, a house contained an adult couple in one bedroom, a 12 year old boy in another and a 14 year old boy in another, the two boys would be expected to share and the house would be judged to have a spare room.

Income affects benefits

Your income will also affect how much you’ll be given (this includes other benefits, pensions and savings) and whether you live with another person who might contribute to your rent. If you have a partner, only one of you can receive housing benefit. Your benefits may also be limited by the benefits cap which came in to effect as of April 2013.

In most cases the following people will be excluded from housing benefit;

  • Those with savings above £16,000
  • Asylum seekers.
  • Full time students.
  • Those who rent from a family member.

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