The Department for Work and Pensions has left it up to councils and housing associations to decide on what counts as a bedroom. This leaves open the possibility of landlords reclassifying properties as having fewer bedrooms so tenants avoid the charge.
Labour-led Leeds Council has confirmed it is looking at reclassifying 865 homes. These include 398 three-bedroom low rise flats which could be re-designated as two bedroom and 341 five bedroom houses with a downstairs bedroom which could be re-classified as having four bedrooms. There are also 126 two bedroom flats which the council believes could be classed as one bedroom.
Peter Gruen, executive board member for neighbourhoods, planning and support services at Leeds Council, said: ‘These properties are being looked at because they fall into the highest percentage of properties that are currently affected by under occupancy and fall into low demand when finding new tenants.
‘These properties also present a feasible option for re-designation due to the current layouts.
‘The council will benefit from this scheme through the savings that could have been associated with the additional resources such as legal costs and additional staff that come with chasing rent.’
Inside Housing revealed in May that Knowsley Housing Trust is reclassifying 566 properties as smaller homes.
However, a survey by Inside Housing last June revealed most landlords are not planning to reclassify. This is due to fears about the potential impact on rental income and property values, as well as restrictions in existing lending agreements.