Benefits - cap and room restrictions

Benefits cap

There is a limit on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called the benefit cap. 

Prior to 7 November 2016 the limit is £500 per week for a couple or lone parents and £350 per week for single people with no children. Your Housing Benefit may be reduced if your total benefits exceed these amounts.

The Government has confirmed that the cap limits will be reduced further. For couples or lone parents the limit will be  £384.62 per week and for single claimants £257.69 per week.

Your benefit will not be capped if you meet any of the conditions below:

  • You or your partner work enough hours to qualify for Working Tax Credit. 
  • You or your partner are over the qualifying age for state pension credit.
  • If you, your partner or your children receive one of the following benefits:
    • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
    • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
    • Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP)
    • Attendance Allowance
    • Support component of Employment and Support Allowance
    • Industrial Injuries Benefit
    • War Widow’s or Widower’s Pension
    • Carer’s Allowance
    • Guardian’s Allowance

More information on benefits included and not included in the cap

What can I do to stop the benefit cap applying to me?

If you find work you may qualify for Working Tax Credit and this would mean you are not affected by these rules.

If you’re already affected by the cap, then your Housing Benefit will be reduced to the new level from 7 November 2016.

If you’re only affected by the new cap then your Housing Benefit will be reduced from week commencing 14 November 2016.

Can I get any further support?

If you are affected by the cap, and will struggle to pay your rent then you can apply for further support through a Discretionary Housing Payment. More information on Discretionary Housing Payment and to download an application form

Room restrictions for those in social housing

Since April 2013, Housing Benefit is restricted for working age claimants living in property larger than their needs within the social sector (Council and Housing Association tenants). The number of rooms you are entitled to is calculated in a similar way to those who privately rent.

You are allowed one bedroom for:

  • Each adult couple.
  • Any other adult (aged 16 or over).
  • Any two children under 10.
  • Two children of the same sex under age 16.
  • Any other child.
  • A carer who does not live with you but provides you or your partner with overnight care.
  • A foster child if you are an approved foster carer and you have an extra bedroom in your property to be used for a foster child. This includes periods of up to 52 weeks where there is no foster child placed with you.

Children can only be included in your household calculation if they spend the majority of their time with you; this normally means that you or your partner gets child benefit for them, if you have three day or weekend access only they normally cannot be included. Foster children are not included.

If you are the parent of a non-dependant in the armed forces, they will continue to be included whilst away on operations.

Disabilities are not taken into account when calculating the numbers of rooms you require, however if you need a carer to stay overnight on a regular basis, but they live elsewhere, you will qualify for an extra room for them to stay in.

If you have one extra bedroom the amount of rent we use to calculate your benefit will be reduced by 14%. If you have two or more extra bedrooms the amount of rent we use to calculate your benefit will be reduced by 25%.

What options are available to meet the shortfall?

If your benefit is reduced as a result of this change, you have the following options:

  • You could start work or increase your hours - Help with moving from benefits to work
  • You could move to a property with fewer bedrooms. More information on housing allocation
  • You could take on a boarder or lodger, if you have your landlord's permission to do this. Any income you receive from a boarder or lodger may also affect your Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support or other state benefits.
  • Other family members could contribute more. Any non-dependants may be able to cover the extra rent.
  • You may be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payment
  • Budget to pay the shortfall. Non-payment of rent is not an option as this would result in rent arrears and you could lose your home. More information on where to get advice

You may wish to discuss these options further with Contact Harlow or with independent bodies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.