Trying to beat the Bedroom Tax might be a tall order but there are ways we can check a) whether we really have to pay it and b) whether there are ways to cover the cost of it
For people who cannot bear to move or want to keep their spare room(s) free for kids and friends to come and stay, it may be that it’s worth paying for. For tenants on a tight budget, there could be a number of options available if you are deemed to have too many bedrooms and are hit by the Bedroom Tax. Many of us are stretched to the max money-wise but it’s always worth checking if there’s something else we could try.
1. Talk to your Landlord
If you rent from a housing association or the local council, they’ll know all about the Bedroom Tax. They can talk through your options, including whether or not you might be exempt from it or could consider moving to a smaller property.
One option is to look at renting privately but it is rare that even a much smaller place will be cheaper than social housing, even after the Bedroom Tax – it’s worth checking, though, as it depends where you live.
People who will suffer hardship as a result of these changes can apply for a payment from the local council’s Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) which is being increased by £30 million for this purpose. In Scotland, DHP is currently awarded to cover Bedroom Tax – but you have to apply for it. More info on housing options can be found on Shelter’s website here.
2. Lose Some, Win Some
There are some rules of thumb that Quids in! lives by. People on lower incomes, whether in work or not, should always do a benefit check everyone now and again. They’re simple to do online – they just ask some basic questions about your set up at home. Then they give you an idea about anything you might be entitled to. Billions of pounds are going unclaimed each year, so it could be you, (more here).
The other thing is to do a budget check, which again is easy to do online, just popping in the monthly money coming in and going out. There might be a small amount of legwork, checking the bills and writing down the cost of shopping over a few weeks. By the end, you should see if enough is coming in to cover everything. If not, you might see where you can cut back. If it still seems you’ll be in the red, get help. There’s more advice on budgeting here.
3. Nothing Going On But The Rent
Maybe it’s time to look at ways to bring in a little extra to cover the cost of the Bedroom Tax. For people with adult children at home, it is probably time to ask them to pay rent. If they’re out of work, they might need to be checking they’re on all the benefit they could be, to help them out.
If the spare room really is empty, you might be able to take in a lodger, provided there’s nothing in your tenancy agreement to stop you. See advice from StepChange about this option
4. Offset The Setback
As people move onto Universal Credit (UC), one of the system’s redeeming features is that taking on a few hours paid work will no longer be lost pound for pound from benefits. Even for people with no children or relatives to care for (who can earn a bit before their benefits are affected at all), UC claimants keep 37p of every pound they earn. (See our Better Off In Work? feature here.)
So if the Bedroom Tax is £14 a week, finding about five hours a week should cover it. For those who can consider making a little more, visit our Boost Your Income section here for ideas
5. Balance The Books
We should all check we definitely have more coming in than going out from time to time. That’s all there is to budgeting and there are loads of websites to help check we’ve remembered everything. And that includes the cost of Bedroom Tax.
If we can’t cover the essentials, like rent and bills, then we may have to think about more drastic action like moving to a smaller home. But maybe there are other things to cut down on – or ways to boost our income.