Size criteria Welfare reforms have reduced the amount of benefit that people can get if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom. The applicant is entitled to one bedroom for each of the following: (a)a couple (within the meaning of Part 7 of the Act) (b)a person who is not a child (c)a child who cannot share a bedroom (d)two children of the same sex (e)two children under 10 regardless of gender (f)a child
There is an entitlement to an extra bedroom where: The tenant or partner needs a non-resident over night carer A member of the Armed Forces will be treated as continuing to live at home when deployed on operations where they are (a) a child/step child of the claimant (or partner); (b) was the claimant’s non-dependant before joining the forces away on operations, and (c) intends to resume occupying the property as their home. Other exemptions? DWP Circular HB U1 2014, where there is a continuous claim for HB since 1996 the size criteria should not have been applied
Who is affected? Separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this. They will need to designate the ‘main carer’ Couples using the spare bedroom to recover from illness/an operation Parents who visit their children but are not part of the household Disabled people living in adapted or specially designed properties
The reductions If the claimant’s dwelling exceeds the number of bedrooms they are deemed to require the level of housing benefit is reduced by: 14 % where there is an excess of 1 bedroom 25% where there are 2 or more excess bedrooms
Consequences Govt’s impact assessment showed a loss of an average £14/week. Housing association tenants were expected to lose £16/week 660,000 working-age social tenants expected to be affected – 31% of existing working-age benefit claimants in the social sector DWP’s interim report (June 2014) showed rent arrears has increased by 16% in the 6 months following implementation of the size criteria 19% of those affected had applied to downsize but only 4.5% had done so
Legal challenges Burnip v Birmingham CC [ 2012] EWCA Civ 629,  HLR 1 the regs had a discriminatory effect on the disabled, that discrimination could not be justified R(MA and others) v SoS Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 13,  HLR 19 Each contended that they needed an extra bedroom because they were disabled. There was discrimination but it was justified. Funding for DHPs had been significantly increased. Burnip distinguished. Permission to appeal to the CoA granted in December 2014
Benefit cap £350 for a single claimant £500 for couples Where the income from benefits exceeds the relevant amount the authority must reduce housing benefit R (Oao JS and SG) v SoS Work and Pensions Supreme Court, 18 March 2013  UKSC 16 Regs were not incompatible with Art 14 ECHR. The fact that they affected a greater number of women than men had an objective and reasonable justification.
Kuljit Bhogal Joint Head of the Housing Team at Cornerstone Barristers Author: Cornerstone on Anti-Social Behaviour: The New Law’ published in February