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Housing Benefit (England, Scotland and Wales)

Find out more about Housing Benefit (England, Scotland and Wales).

1. What is Housing Benefit?

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.

You could qualify for this help whether you are in or out of work.

The amount of Housing Benefit you get may be restricted by the Local Housing Allowance Rate in your area if you are a private tenant, and could be restricted by the  number of bedrooms you have 'Bedroom Tax'  if you are a social tenant.

A Benefit Cap may be applied to your Housing Benefit if the total amount of certain benefits that you get is more than a specified amount, your Housing Benefit could be reduced in this case.

You cannot get Housing Benefit to help with the costs of a mortgage or home loan. If you own the home you live in, you may be able to get a loan for mortgage interest if you are getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Pension Credit, or Universal Credit (if have no earnings). A leaseholder could also get help with eligible services and ground rent if entitled to these benefits.

 

Applies to: England, Scotland and Wales
If you live in Northern Ireland, see our Housing Benefit (Northern Ireland) guide.

Age rules: There are no specific age rules that affect Housing Benefit entitlement but you must be old enough to enter into a tenancy agreement.

Type of benefit: Means-tested

Taxable: No

Administered by: Your local council

 

2. Can I get Housing Benefit?

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 e.g. a council or housing association.

Housing Benefit does not help with a mortgage. See our Support for Mortgage Interest guide if you are a homeowner.

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

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)

3. How much Housing Benefit will I get?

It can be complicated to work out how much Housing Benefit you might get. You can use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator which will calculate how much Housing Benefit you may be entitled to.

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, but this will not necessarily cover all 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.

Bedroom entitlement

Part of the Housing Benefit calculation for private tenants and working-age social tenants is based on how many bedrooms you are thought to need for your household. 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.

Private tenants have an extra category meaning that most single people, under age 35, with no children are only allowed one bedroom in shared accommodation, rather than a one bedroom property to themselves.

Some households are allowed an extra bedroom 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.

Private tenants

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

Your Local Housing Allowance rate is based on rental prices in your area and the size of property you are entitled to. This might mean that not all of your rent can be paid by Housing Benefit because your home is larger than you need or your rent is considered to be too expensive.

If you are a private tenant you can visit the LHA Direct website to find out what your Local Housing Allowance is.

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

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 is not based on rental prices in your area but may be reduced if it's considered you have more bedrooms than you actually need. This rule is known as the 'Social Sector Size Criteria' and is also commonly referred to as the 'Bedroom Tax'

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.

Benefit Cap

Housing Benefit is included in the Benefit Cap which limits the total amount in some benefits that working-age people can receive. For those affected, the cap is applied by reducing the amount of Housing Benefit awarded.

See our Benefit Cap guide for more details.

How will I be paid Housing Benefit?

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, Building Society or Post Office account or by Simple Payment if you are unable to open or manage one of these or a similar account. Sometimes the council can pay your landlord directly.

Housing Benefit is usually paid in arrears every week, two weeks, four weeks or a month, depending on when  your rent is usually due.

Housing Benefit and other benefits

Housing Benefit counts in full as income when calculating your entitlement to other means-tested benefits.

 

Updated March 2018

4. How do I claim Housing Benefit?

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

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

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 directly to your local authority.

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 to claim Housing Benefit?

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 or tenancy agreement.

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.

When will my Housing Benefit claim begin?

Housing Benefit can be backdated for up to one month 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.

Change of circumstances

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

 

5. How do I challenge a Housing Benefit decision?

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