Find out how bedroom sizes relate to the size criteria and statutory overcrowding.
7 March 2013
The Federation is aware of a rumour circulating on facebook and elsewhere that bedrooms under 70 sq ft should not be counted for the purposes of the social housing size criteria for claimants of Universal Credit and Housing Benefit. This rumour is incorrect. It appears to be based on a misreading of the space standards set out in the Housing Act 1985 for the purpose of defining statutory overcrowding.
The UC/HB social housing size criteria depend on the number of bedrooms in the property, and for this purpose a room is either a bedroom or it is not. There is no such thing as a half-bedroom, or a bedroom deemed suitable for occupancy by one person but not two. In principle, the size criteria regard any room designated as a bedroom as being capable of accommodating a couple or two children (unless the children are of different sexes and one of them is over 10).
It has been suggested that requiring two persons to occupy a small bedroom might amount to statutory overcrowding under Part 10 of the Housing Act 1985. Section 326 of the 1985 Act requires that a room to be occupied by two persons should be at least 110 sq ft in area (10.22 sq m), but for this purpose children under ten count only as “half persons” and babies under the age of one are disregarded. The corresponding minimum sizes for 1.5 persons, 1 person, and 0.5 persons are respectively 90, 70, and 50 sq ft (8.36, 6.50, 4.65 sq m), room sizes that are fairly small by ordinary standards.
The room sizes in s326 of the 1985 Act are for the purpose of deciding whether the statutory space standard is met, for which purpose s326(2)(b) of the Act specifically states that “a room is available as sleeping accommodation if it is of a type normally used in the locality either as a living room or as a bedroom”.
The fact that the Act counts living rooms, not just bedrooms, as available for sleeping means that it is almost inconceivable that any social housing could be so fully occupied that the 1985 Act is breached, since even if a designated bedroom is smaller than the 1985 Act lays down, the Act contemplates that the occupant(s) could sleep in the living room instead.
There may sometimes be a legitimate question about whether a particular room should properly be designated as a bedroom, but this is a matter for landlords to determine.
National Housing Federation (housing associations)
Do the regulations define a bedroom?
No. The Government’s view is that it is for landlords to specify the size of the property and this ought to match what is on any tenancy agreement and reflect the level of rent charged. The bedroom tax will not take account of whether a room is a single or a double bedroom. A room either is a bedroom or is not a bedroom.
There have been rumours circulating on social media that room under 70 sq ft do not count as a bedroom - but this is not the case. The information seems to be based on a mis-reading of the Housing Act regarding overcrowding
Although I have the greatest sympathy for people affected - and I live in council housing myself - as boroughpaul says, it is not a tax; it is a reduction in the housing benefit paid where a tenant/HB claimant is under occupying a property which is too big for them. Personally, I object to the use of the word 'tax' in 'bedroom tax'.