From 1 April 2013, new rules restrict the eligible rent if you are considered to be under-occupying your accommodation. These rules only apply to people of working age. People of pension age are exempt.

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How this rule may affect claims for social rented sector tenants

If you are of working age, you will be entitled to one bedroom for the following people in your household:

  • Every adult couple (married or civil partners or living as married or civil partners)
  • Any other adult aged 16 or over, including non dependants
  • Any two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • Any two children aged under 10
  • Any other child
  • Any foster child or foster children, if you or your partner are approved foster carers
  • A severely disabled child who would normally be expected to share a bedroom
  • A carer (or team of carers) who do not live with you but provide you or your partner with overnight care
  • Any adult child who is in the armed forces and deployed on operations
  • A sub tenant
  • A boarder

The spare room subsidy rules will apply a reduction in your eligible rent if you have one or more spare bedrooms

What reductions will be applied

We will compare the number of bedrooms allocated to you by your social landlord to your bedroom entitlement above. Any working age claimant who is considered to be under occupying will have a:

  • 14% reduction in their eligible rent for one spare bedroom
  • 25% reduction in their eligible rent for two or more spare bedrooms

What to do if you have had your eligible rent reduced by these rules

If you need help with completing the DHP form you can ask your local Citizens Advice Bureau or if you are vulnerable, housebound or have a disability you can contact our Welfare Benefits Team on 020 8545 4178.


General exemptions

  • Tenants who are of pensionable age are exempt
  • If you are a working age tenant of a registered social landlord or registered provider of social housing, there are 2 exemptions:
    • people who are approved foster carers
    • people who have an adult child serving in the armed forces deployed on operations.

Temporary exemption for specific cases

It has recently come to light that there is protection from the spare room subsidy rules for those claimants who fall under one of the protected categories below:

  • Where a claimant has been continuously claiming Housing Benefit since 1st January 1996, without a break of more than four weeks or a change of address;


  • Where a person inherited a tenancy from a relative or family member; AND
    • That relative or family member had a continuous HB claim from 1st January 1996; AND
    • The person who inherited the tenancy:
      • is entitled to HB straight after the family member's claim ended; AND
      • their HB has been paid continuously since 1st January 1996, without a break of more than four weeks or a change of address.

How does this affect you?

We have checked those claim that we think may be temporarily protected from the spare room subsidy rules. We will write to you if we have looked at your claim. There may be some cases however, that we have not identified. If you believe you may be protected from these rules, please contact us.

If you are protected

If we have told you you are protected under this temporary exemption, you must check the categories above and if they do not apply you must let us know.

The Government has confirmed that they did not intend in their spare room subsidy policy to give protection to pre January 1996 claims. So the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) aim to end the protection from 3rd March 2014. When the rules start again we will have to reduce the rent used to assess your HB again. This means your HB will go down. If you cannot afford to pay the shortfall, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).

If you are not protected

If we have already written to you to tell you that you are not protected from these rules but you believe you should be, you have until 31st May 2014 to ask us to reconsider our decision or lodge an appeal. To ask us to reconsider the decision or appeal against the decision you can:

You should:

  • state that your main reason for your request or appeal is that you believe our original decision on 1st April 2013 is wrong and that you are exempt.  
  • Tell us why you think you are exempt by explaining why you fall under one of the exemptions listed above.
  • Give us details such as person's names, relationships and relevant dates to support your request or appeal.
  • Ask your landlord for details of your tenancy if you need more details. Your landlord may have rent account records back to January 1996.     

Fact sheets

We have produced some useful factsheets for you to get more information and detailing where you can get advice about the changes. Click on the links below to read or print them

Contact us

For more details about our opening hours and how to contact us, go to Merton Benefits Service contact page.