Local authorities and advisers: removal of the spare room subsidy

Toolkit for local authorities, housing providers and support organisations in the social rented sector, providing information on the removal of the spare room subsidy.

Since April 2013 there have been new rules in Housing Benefit for working-age people living in social housing. This is referred to as the removal of the spare room subsidy.

This toolkit contains background information about the removal of the subsidy. It also contains a range of supporting materials that can be used to explain the changes to claimants, and the options available for managing any rent shortfall. You can use these materials in your own communications.


From April 2013 Housing Benefit is based on the number of people in the household and the size of the accommodation. This applies to all working-age tenants renting from a local authority, housing association or other registered social landlord. The rules were announced in the Welfare Reform Act 2012.

The rules allow one bedroom for:

  • every adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • any other adult aged 16 or over
  • any 2 children of the same sex aged under 16
  • any 2 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 carer (or team of carers) providing overnight care

One spare bedroom is allowed for:

  • 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 them during that time

Rooms used by students and members of the armed or reserve forces do not count as ‘spare’ if they’re away and intend to return home.

People who have recently suffered a bereavement in their household may also be entitled to additional bedrooms.

This means those tenants whose accommodation is larger than they need may lose part of their Housing Benefit. Those with one spare bedroom will lose 14% of their eligible rent and those with 2 or more spare bedrooms will lose 25%.

How you can help support those affected

Housing Benefit claimants need to know how this change affects their benefit. There are a range of options that claimants can consider, including:

Move into work or increase hours

Moving into work or increasing working hours may increase a claimant’s income and help to cover any reduction in Housing Benefit. See our factsheet ‘What happens to Housing Benefit when you earn more’ for more information.

Having other adults in the household contribute more

If there are other non-dependants living in the accommodation, the excess rent may be covered through new or increased contributions.

Moving home

Claimants may be able to move to more appropriately sized social rented accommodation with the help of their landlord. Alternatively, they may choose to look at privately rented property to find the right sized accommodation for their household.

Swapping your home through your council (also known as ‘Homeswapping’) may also provide a simple way of identifying suitable alternative accommodation and help renters better match their requirements. For further information, claimants can talk to their local authority or housing association.

Managing rent payments

See our factsheet for claimants ‘Help with managing your rent payments’

Discretionary Housing Payments

An additional £25 million a year is available to help disabled people living in significantly adapted accommodation.


We published full guidance on administering this change in HB Circular A4/2012.

We sent guidance to local authorities in HB Bulletin U2/2013 to confirm that they should follow case law (Burnip/Gorry/Trengove) and allow a room for a disabled child who is unable to share a bedroom.

The ‘Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy: good practice guide’ provides ideas and good practice for local authorities on the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy. It summarises the information provided by local authorities, when they applied for additional Discretionary Housing Payment funding.


Factsheets for you to use in your own communications to help claimants understand the changes and consider their options more thoroughly. You can add local contact details, local housing contacts and other advice appropriate for your area.

Communication products

These products provide core material for your own communications. You can add local contact details, local housing contacts and other advice appropriate for your area.

Miscellaneous documents

Published 1 March 2013
Last updated 18 September 2014 + show all updates
  1. Removed link to Chartered Institute of Housing survey as the survey has now closed.
  2. Published link to Chartered Institute of Housing survey on housing mobility.
  3. Published the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy: good practice guide.
  4. Added YouTube video highlighting the recent changes to the rules for Housing Benefit for working age people living in social housing. Added a link to other videos (under 'Communications products') including a case study on the use of the homeswapping scheme.
  5. Updated with the latest information about changes to Housing Benefit. Added links to sample communications and updated factsheets for use by local authorities, housing providers and support organisations in the social rented sector.
  6. First published.