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Housing Benefit in England, Scotland and Wales

Key information

Housing Benefit is money to help you with your housing costs if you are on a low income. It can help with rent and some service charges. 

Applies to: England, Scotland and Wales

If you live in Northern Ireland, see our Housing Benefit (Northern Ireland) sheet.

Age rules: There are no age rules that affect housing benefit entitlement

Type of benefit: Means-tested

Taxable: No

Administered by: Your local council

 

Index

You can read through this information sheet, or go directly to the sections you want to read by clicking on these links:

Who does it help?

Housing Benefit is money paid by your local council to help you with your housing costs, if you are on a low income. 

You have to be the person who is responsible for paying the rent to get Housing Benefit. It does not matter if your landlord is a private landlord or a social landlord eg a council or housing association. 

Housing Benefit does not cover a mortgage. See Homeowner housing costs help if you are a homeowner.

If you live with a partner, only one of you can claim Housing Benefit.

You do not qualify for Housing Benefit if you:

  • live in the home of a close relative
  • are a full-time student (unless you have a disability or have children). 

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What help does it provide?

It can help with rent and some service charges - although it does not necessarily cover all your rent or housing costs. 

If you are a council tenant, you will not be paid Housing Benefit directly. Instead it will be taken off the rent you have to pay so you pay less rent, or no rent yourself.

If you have a private landlord, you will be paid straight into your bank account.  Sometimes the council can pay your landlord directly.

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How much does it pay?

If you get benefits like Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or the guarantee part of Pension Credit, you will get your maximum amount of Housing Benefit, which could cover the whole of your rent.

Even if you are working, you might get some Housing Benefit to help towards your rent. This depends on your income and savings and on your personal circumstances.

Remember that even if you get your maximum amount of Housing Benefit, it will not necessarily cover all of your rent. See details for private tenants and social tenants below and about the benefit cap which may also affect the amount you can receive.

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Private tenants

If you are a private tenant and you have made a new claim or moved since 7 October 2008, how much rent can be paid by Housing Benefit will be restricted by the Local Housing Allowance (LHA).

There will be a LHA rate set based on rental prices in your area and the size of property you are entitled to. For example, if you are single, don't have any dependent children and are aged under 35, in most cases you can only get Housing Benefit based on one room in shared accommodation.

This might mean that not all of your rent can be paid by Housing Benefit because your home is larger than you need or too expensive.

If you are a private tenant visit the HB update website (link opens in new window) to find out what your Local Housing Allowance is.

The Turn2us Benefits Calculator can calculate how much Housing Benefit you may be entitled to.

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Social tenants

If you rent your home from a social housing landlord such as the council or a housing association, and you are of working age, your Housing Benefit may be reduced if it's considered you have more bedrooms than you actually need.

You are allowed one bedroom for each category shown below:

  • each adult couple
  • each person over 16
  • two children of the same sex under 16
  • two children under 10, regardless of their sex
  • any other child
  • an overnight carer you need but who doesn't normally live with you.

Some households are allowed an extra room under the size criteria rules:

  • Foster carers who have had a child placed with them, or have registered as a carer, in the last 12 months
  • Parents of armed forces personnel - while their child is away on duty their room won't be considered as 'spare' if they intend to return to it
  • Parents of a disabled child in receipt of middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance - if they are unable to share a room with a sibling but would be expected to under normal size criteria rules

When considering whether a child’s disability makes it unreasonable for them to share a bedroom, the factors a local authority should consider include -

  • whether the child is currently sharing a bedroom without difficulty;
  • whether the frequency and nature of any overnight care causes prolonged and/or repeated disruption to another child;
  • whether the nature of the disability increases the likelihood that the child may behave disruptively during the night;
  • whether sharing a bedroom poses a risk of physical harm to either child; and
  • how long the situation is likely to last - to qualify for an extra bedroom the inability to share would be expected to be long term.

If your home is considered to be too big for you, the rent amount used to calculate your Housing Benefit will be cut by:

  • 14% if you have one spare bedroom
  • 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms.

If you are over Pension Credit age this size criteria does not affect your claim for Housing Benefit.

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Benefit Cap

The Benefit Cap will apply to people of working age and it will put a limit on the total amount of benefit that you can receive. The limits will be £500 for a couple or lone parent and £350 for a single person. The cap will be applied as a reduction in the amount of Housing Benefit awarded.

For example, if you have two children and your weekly benefits covered by the cap (not including Housing Benefit) add up to £400, the maximum amount of Housing Benefit you can receive will be £100 so that you don't exceed the cap of £500. 

If your weekly benefits covered by the cap (not including Housing Benefit) already add up to the level of the benefit cap or more, you will receive only 50p a week Housing Benefit.

For a list of circumstances that will exempt you from the Benefit Cap, and for further information see the Turn2us benefit cap information sheet.

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How do I make a claim?

Online claim

You may be able to claim online if your local authority offers this facility.

Telephone claim

You may be able to claim by telephone if your local authority offers this facility.

Paper claim

Get a claim form by contacting your local authority Housing Benefit office.

If you are making a claim for Income Support, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or Pension Credit you can claim Housing Benefit at the same time, your details will be sent direct to your local authority.

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Rapid reclaims

To make a claim, you may be able to fill in a shortened form known as a 'rapid reclaim'. To fill in a rapid reclaim, you must have made a claim for Income Support, Incapacity Benefit or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance before, within the last 26 weeks. You must also be claiming this benefit again and your circumstances must not have changed since your last claim.

What documents will I need?

When you claim Housing Benefit, you must give your national insurance number and evidence of who you are, for example, a birth certificate or driving licence.  You also need to give evidence that you must pay the rent, for example, your rent book.  If you are not claiming benefits like Income Support, you must give evidence of your income and savings, for example, bank statements or pay slips.

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Can it be backdated?

Housing Benefit can be backdated for up to six months if you would have been entitled to it earlier. You have to show a good reason for not claiming sooner. Request this when claiming.

If you or your partner are over Pension Credit age and you are not getting Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, your claim can be backdated for up to three months. It does not matter why your claim is late. Request this when claiming.

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Challenging decisions

If you disagree with the decision made on your benefit claim you can ask for a written statement of reasons. If you still believe the decision is wrong, for example due to incorrect information being used, you can ask for it to be looked at again, and/or appeal.

The time limits are strict; you will usually be given one month to dispute a decision, so it is important to seek advice and act quickly.

Further information on Challenges and complaints

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Change of circumstance

You must report changes in your circumstances which might affect your entitlement to this benefit.

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Last updated: 28 March 2013

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