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Housing benefit is paid based on your assessed housing need, NOT just how much your rent is.

You will have to contribute towards your rent if you are:

  • working age and
  • claiming housing benefit or universal credit and 
  • assessed as under-occupying your home.

What is under-occupying?

Under-occupying means that you have been assessed as having more bedrooms than the Government thinks you need.

Who is entitled under the new rules to a bedroom?

  • A couple
  • A person aged 16 or older
  • Two children of the same sex until their 16th birthday
  • Two children until their 10th birthday (any gender)
  • Any other child
  • Where the claimant or their partner requires over night care

Under-occupying by one bedroom? Your housing benefit will be reduced by 14%. We estimate this to be about £12.50 a week for a three bedroom home.

Under-occupying by 2 bedrooms or more? Your housing benefit will be reduced by 25%. We estimate this to be about £22.50 a week for a three bedroom home.

You will responsible for paying any shortfall in the rent on time and keeping a clear rent account.


The following are exempt from these underoccupying rules:

  • Tenants (or their spouse) over the qualifying age for claiming pension credit (this will vary depending on when the tenant (or spouse) was born).
  • Tenants who need the bedroom for a disabled child who is unable to share a bedroom.
  • Tenants who need the bedroom for a non-dependant who is serving in the armed forces and plans to return to the property.
  • Tenants who are approved foster carers and need the bedroom for a fostered child.
  • Disabled tenants, a child, or non-dependent adult, who need a bedroom for their carer(s) to provide overnight care.
  • A disabled couple, who cannot reasonably share a bedroom as a result of a member of the couple’s disability, and that member is in receipt of a specified disability benefit. 
  • Tenants living in a houseboat, caravan/mobile home, if it is temporary accommodation provided by the council under homelessness legislation, or supported accommodation.

What can you do if you are affected?

We have produced a list of options for you to consider, have a read through our "What can you do?" page.

A Family's Journey Through the Benefit Changes

This play was performed at our Get Togethers back in January 2013 and shows one family's journey through the benefit changes under the Welfare Reform Act. 

Picture of a tenants reading about benefit changes in a Wolverhampton homes leaflet

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

  • Families will receive no more than £384 per week
  • Single people will receive no more than £258 per week

The government's idea behind the benefit cap is that people should be better off in work than on benefits. Some people in Wolverhampton will find that their current benefits are more than those sums and their benefits will be reduced.

Your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit may be cut to make sure the total amount of your benefit is not more than the cap level and you will be responsible for paying any shortfall in the rent, on time and keeping a clear rent account.

This calculator gives an estimate of how much your benefit might be capped:

Benefit cap calculator

If you need advice please contact us and ask for the Money Smart team.

Benefits have changed for working age people. The Government has created Universal Credit as a new type of benefit designed to support people who are on a low income or out of work. It will replace six existing benefits and is currently being rolled out across the UK. 

What is it?



It brings together the main out of work benefits:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Job Seekers Allowance
  • Income Related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit.

When is it coming?

For the majority, Universal Credit has been rolled out in Wolverhampton. 

When? Who? Where?
February 2016 Single people
- claiming for the first time.
All areas of Wolverhampton
December 2017 Couples and families
- claiming for the first time.
WV1, WV2, WV3, WV4, WV8, WV9, WV10 9, WV14. 
February 2018 Couples and families
- claiming for the first time.
WV6, WV10 0, WV10 6, WV10 7, WV10 8, WV11.
October 2018 Couples and families
- claiming for the first time.
WV12, WV13.
July 2019-2022 Existing claimants
- will be invited to transition to Universal Credit. You will need to apply, it won't be an automatic process.
All areas of Wolverhampton
March 2022 All claimants should be on Universal Credit. All areas of Wolverhampton

What do I need to do?

If you're already claiming any of the benefits in the list, you'll be contacted after September 2018 to transfer over to Universal Credit. You'll need to be ready, make sure you've done all of the things on this list before then.

  1. Email address: Make sure you've got an up to date email address as claims will be online.
  2. Mobile phone number: to receive texts about updating your  "Universal Credit online journal".
  3. Bank Account: Make sure you've got a bank or credit union account as your Universal Credit will be paid direct to you into an account.
  4. Start saving: Your Universal Credit will be paid monthly in arrears but you'll still need to pay your rent in advance. (Rent won't be paid direct to us, you'll need to pay it yourself.) Why not open a credit union account and save a little each week or month so that you'll have your first rent payment ready? (You'll get interest on your savings too.)
  5. Verify: Before you can make a claim for Universal Credit, you'll need to confirm your identity using Verify. Find out more on our Verify page.



Can I get an advance payment on Universal Credit?

You can ask for an advance payment of Universal Credit to help you get by while you're waiting for your first payment. This can be used to help pay your rent and other bills.

How do you get a Universal Credit advance?

Claimants can ask for an advance payment at their Universal Credit interview, which will be booked after the online application is completed. This will take place at a local Jobcentre. If the claimant has already had their interview, they should contact the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723 (textphone 0345 600 0743).

How can I pay my rent when I am on Universal Credit?

When you have got your first payment date, you can set up a Direct Debit to pay your rent as soon as your payment or salary (if you're working) comes into your bank account. You can set up your Direct Debit by clicking here.

There are also other payment methods available.

How can I get more information?

For more help and advice on Universal Credit, visit

What can you do?

You can take steps to protect your financial future. We will be contacting tenants who are most likely to be affected, but in the meantime here are some helpful tips you can follow:

Get Advice

Find out how you and your family will be affected, contact us and talk to our Money Smart Team.

Check your options

Make sure you are receiving the correct benefits and that your details are up to date. Contact Housing Benefits at Wolverhampton City Council. Investigate what options are open to you - for example, could you move to a smaller property to save money? Could you reduce your outgoings in any other way? Could you increase your income through work? Could a grown up child contribute more financially to the household?

Calculate your benefits

Wolverhampton City Council have a custom benefits calculator that gives you an estimate on the housing benefit you could expect to get. The estimates are based on the information you supply to give you an idea of your potential entitlements.

Directgov also offer a benefit calculator to help you to get an estimate of how much your Housing Benefit could be reduced by if you exceed the level of the benefit cap.

Reduce your outgoings

Make your home and appliances as energy efficient as possible. Visit our energy management webpages to learn more about how you can be more energy efficient and what we can do to help you.

Arrange Payments - Stay and Pay

You will need to arrange to pay your own rent. You can open a bank account and have your benefit paid into your account and your bills paid by Direct Debit.

Move to a Smaller Home  

We can help you do this. If you decide to move to a smaller home:

Savings and Payment Plan

You can start a savings account with the local Credit Union Wolverhampton City Credit Union to help you build up a cushion or you can start over-paying your rent so you build up credit little by little. You can even carry on paying rent over the rent free weeks that we have at Christmas and at the end of March to help build credit.

If you are already in arrears, even by a small amount, contact us straightaway to arrange a payment plan.

Avoiding Debt

Pay off (or reduce) all debt by the time the changes come in. Avoid taking on new debt.

Avoid Loan Sharks and Unauthorised Loans

Do not get tempted to use a loan shark or anyone who comes to your door to offer to lend you money. It might seem like the answer to your prayers at the time but it will get you into even more trouble in the future. Contact the Illegal Money Lending Team for advice about illegal money lenders and loan sharks and if you are thinking about a loan, speak to Wolverhampton City Credit Union.

Contact Us

We know these changes can seem complicated. We want to make sure you know all you need to know to make good decisions for your future. Please contact us to set up a meeting to discuss what you can do.

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