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Social Sector Size Criteria

Published: Wed, 26 Jul 2017
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This is sometimes referred to as ‘Bedroom Tax’ and on 20 February 2017 it came into effect in Northern Ireland.

Who is affected?

Housing Executive and housing association tenants considered to be ‘under-occupying’ their homes.  It does not apply to privately rented properties.

What is happening?

If a household is considered to be ‘under-occupying’, the eligible rent used to calculate Housing Benefit will reduce by:
  • 14% if under-occupied by 1 bedroom, or
  • 25% if under-occupied by 2 or more bedrooms

Financial help / Welfare Supplementary Payment

If a household’s Housing Benefit reduces because of this Welfare Change they may receive a Welfare Supplementary Payment.  This payment scheme is in place until 31 March 2020.
There is no need to apply for this financial help as the Housing Executive will work with the Department for Communities to calculate the amount to be paid.  This will then be paid in arrears directly to the account receiving the Housing Benefit payments.  

What bedrooms are allowed?

The criteria now allows one bedroom for:
  • every adult couple
  • anyone else aged 16 or over
  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • any two children aged under 10
  • any other child (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • Couples or child(ren) who cannot share because of a disability or medical condition
  • Non-resident carer or carers providing overnight care

Who is not affected by the changes?

You will not be affected if:
  • you, or your partner, have reached the qualifying age for State Pension credit
  • you live in supported exempt accommodation
  • you live in a houseboat, caravans or mobile home
  • you live in a shared co-ownership scheme
  • you live in temporary accommodation

Are any extra bedrooms allowed?

Your household may be allowed an extra bedroom:
  • If you are an approved foster carer who has a child placed with you
  • If you are an approved foster carer who is between placements but only for up to 52 weeks from the end of the last placement
  • If you have become a newly approved foster carer for up to 52 weeks from the date of approval if no child is placed with you during that time
  • If certain family members who normally live with you who are students or are in the armed forces and are away but intend to return home
You may also be allowed an extra room if you had a bereavement recently in your household.

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve put together a series of Frequently Asked Questions (Adobe PDF 586 KB) with some practical examples which we hope will help.

Advice and Information

Housing Executive’s Housing Benefit team: 03448 920 902.
Independent Welfare Changes Helpline (Freephone): 0808 802 0020 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
It is operated by the Welfare Reform Advice Services Consortium consisting of Citizen’s Advice, Advice NI and the Law Centre NI.
Government’s website nidirect at: