If you are a housing association tenant in East Staffordshire and your housing benefit has been reduced since 1st April 2013 because you have more bedrooms than you are allowed under the new social sector size criteria rules, this page will help you decide what to do.

You are responsible for paying to your landlord the difference between the full rent and your reduced housing benefit.

Whilst you live in your current home you will need to use some of your other income to pay this amount, perhaps with help from other household members. If you can keep doing this then you do not need to consider other options. However if it is going to be a struggle there are a number of options available to you as follows.

Remember the rules that have changed are housing benefit rules. Hence they will no longer affect you if you can get work or earn more so that you no longer need to claim housing benefit.

You can also earn a small weekly amount to help you pay the rent without it affecting your housing benefit; £5 if you are single, £10 as a couple, £20 if you are disabled or a carer, £25 as a lone parent.

For advice about money problems see financial difficulties.

Under-occupiers social housing

Move home through Mutual Exchange

Mutual Exchange means swapping your home with another housing association or council tenant. You could swap your home for a home with fewer bedrooms.

You may be able to swap with someone in your local area, or you may decide to move somewhere else.

If you decide to swap your home you will need to find someone prepared to move to your home whose home you are prepared to move to. Most East Staffordshire housing associations belong to HomeSwapper. Contact your landlord to discuss this option.

Move home through the housing register

If you live in a house you can have highest priority (Band 1) on the housing register to move to a flat or a bungalow. This means you could move within a few months.

If you live in a 4-bedroom house you can have highest priority (Band 1) to move to a 3-bedroom house. Again this means you could move within a few months.

If you live in a flat or a bungalow you can have Band 3 priority on the housing register to move to a flat or bungalow with fewer bedrooms. You will hopefully be able to move within 12 months.

Join the the housing register

Move to the private rented sector

You could move to private rented housing. The maximum amount of housing benefit you can claim in the private sector is called the Local Housing Allowance Rate.

Move to social housing in another district

You may be able to move to council housing or housing association housing in another district.

Visit the Website of the relevant council to see if you qualify for its housing register and what priority you could expect.

Take a lodger

You could rent your spare bedroom to a lodger.

You would then no longer be under-occupying and so your housing benefit would not be reduced for under-occupation. However the Council may take into account some of the rent you receive from your lodger when it calculates your housing benefit entitlement. For advice about the housing benefit implications visit the Council's Customer Service Centres or telephone the Benefits team on 01283 508422.

Discretionary Housing Payments

The Council has a small amount of funding from the Government to help people whose housing benefit does not cover their rent. Awards are discretionary and each application will be considered on its merits.

Apply to the Council as homeless

If the Council assesses that you cannot afford your rent then it is unreasonable for you to continue to occupy your home which makes you technically homeless.

This will normally only apply if you are no longer receiving a Discretionary Housing Payment. Speak to Housing Options to pursue this option. You will be expected to move home as soon as possible and you may need to move to private rented housing.