Help with rent & rent arrears

Struggling with the rent? Don't despair. From help paying rent with Universal Credit payments to rent deposit, bond and guarantee schemes, you don’t have to lose your home if you fall behind with housing costs. You just need a little help. The Mix explains how to sort all your rent troubles.

A young couple are sitting at a bus stop. They want help with rent. This is a wide-angle image.

How do you claim Universal Credit to help pay your rent?

Some people still receive housing benefits. But if you’re making a new claim with your local council, you’re likely to get help with rent in the form of Universal Credit. So what exactly does this mean? 

Well, your housing payment can help you pay:

  • Rent to a private landlord.
  • Rent and some service charges (if you rent from a housing association or local authority e.g. council house).
  • Interest payments on your mortgage and some service charges. This only applies if you or your partner own the property you live in.

You can also apply for Universal Credit if you live in supported, temporary or sheltered housing. Although it’s worth mentioning that the extent it can help with housing costs depends on your accommodation and how it supports you. 

So, if you live in supported or sheltered housing and you don’t get care, support or supervision through your housing then you should be able to apply for Universal Credit. 

However, won’t be eligible if:

  • You’re living in supported or sheltered housing (e.g. a hostel) which provides you with care, support or supervision.
  • The local council has arranged for you to live in temporary accommodation (e.g. a B&B). It’s worth noting that if you’re in this situation, you might be exempt from being registered for council tax in England and Wales.
  • You’re living in a refuge for survivors of domestic abuse.

In these cases, you might be able to apply for Housing Benefit instead. But, again, this depends on the rules of your local council. 

If you’re unsure about whether or not you’d be eligible, you can learn more about how universal credit works and how to claim it here.

After applying, you normally have to wait at least five weeks for your first payment. If that’s too long to wait, you can ask for a Universal Credit advance. Keep in mind that this is a loan that you’ll have to pay back, so only ask for the amount you need.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and help paying rent

If you pay rent to a private landlord, the amount of Universal Credit housing costs you receive will be decided based on the number of people who live in your home. Basically, the actual size of the property doesn’t matter. 

This means that if you have spare bedrooms you’ll only get housing costs to cover a smaller property. And the amount you get is set by the Local Housing Allowance rate in your area.

I’m under 18 – can I claim Universal Credit to help with rent?

Generally speaking, Universal Credit is aimed at people who are aged 18 or over. But there are, of course, some exceptions. For example, if you’re forced to live away from your parents you should be able to apply.

Regardless of your Universal Credit status, if you’re aged under 18 and homeless then your council has a legal duty to make sure you have a home.

What if my Universal Credit payments aren’t enough to pay my rent?

You can always appeal a Universal Credit decision if your housing benefit doesn’t cover your rent. All you have to do is get in touch with a Citizens Advice Bureau advisor if you need some help.

Unfortunately, crisis loans and community care grants have been scrapped. But local councils still run schemes to help people who are struggling. If that’s you, then you can find out more about emergency money here.

Plus, Shelter provides some great resources if you’re in need of emergency grants, loans or other financial assistance.

Help with rent arrears

Since there’s no such thing as a rent arrears loan, the first thing to do if you need help with rent arrears (the amount of rent that hasn’t been paid) is to talk to your landlord. Let them know that you’re getting advice and you’ll pay as soon as you can. And, whatever you do, don’t ignore their letters.

In the meantime, if you need help to pay your rent arrears, charities such as Step Change provide advice and schemes such as Debt Management Plans (DMP). And if you can’t afford to pay full rent, then make sure you agree to a repayment plan with your landlord. That way you should be able to avoid eviction. Remember, they’ll normally want the money you owe rather than to end your tenancy.

After all that, if you’re still really struggling, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). Essentially, this payment helps people who get Universal Credit, but are having trouble paying rent. It can be a weekly payment or a lump sum, and can also be backdated. But we have to flag that it’s only a short-term solution. 

Rent bond schemes

If you have to move house because of rising costs, you can get help through a rent bond scheme. What’s that? you ask.

Basically, a rent bond scheme can provide help with your deposit, rent in advance and a rent guarantee in place of a guarantor. Just remember you’ll probably need to pay back the money eventually. To get more info, check with your local council and find out what’s available.

I’m facing eviction – what can I do?

In serious situations where you face losing your home, you need to get advice from a housing adviser immediately. Don’t just ignore the problem cause it’ll only get worse. You should be aware that there are special procedures any landlord has to follow before they evict. So keep all your paperwork and records to prove your case.

Alternatively, a charity that can help with rent and rent arrears is Turn2Us. They help people find financial help. And you could also try calling Shelter’s free helpline on 0808 800 4444 if you’re having housing problems.

Can I get Universal Credit to help me pay rent if I’m a student?

Sadly, most full-time students can’t use Universal Credit to help them pay their rent. Check out our full article on Universal Credit to find out more.

Looking for more information about renting? Check out the rest of The Mix’s renting resources here.

Next Steps

  • Shelter's advice website for young people offers help with housing problems and a free helpline 0808 800 4444. If you're in Scotland, use http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/ instead.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Helen Clifton

Updated on 28-Apr-2022