It doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed or working, if you're renting and on a low income you may be able to claim Housing Benefit.
If you’re renting and on a low income or are unemployed you might be able to claim for help with your housing costs. It used to be the case that you could claim Housing Benefit, but for most people this has now been replaced with the ‘housing payment’ portion of Universal Credit.
Let’s take a look at how Housing Benefit works and who can claim it. If you’re not in supported, sheltered or temporary housing you can read more about how to claim Universal Credit here.
What is Housing Benefit?
Housing Benefit helps unemployed people and people with a low income to pay their rent. It’s paid by your local authority, and those who can get it can do so whether they are in or out of work. However, most people can no longer make a new claim for Housing Benefit.
Who can claim Housing Benefit?
Since the roll out of Universal Credit, you can only make a new claim for Housing Benefit if you’re:
- At State Pension age
- Living in supported, sheltered or temporary housing
How do I claim Housing Benefit?
If you’re in receipt of other benefits already and are eligible for Housing Benefit, you can make a claim through Jobcentre Plus. If you’re not claiming benefits already, you need to contact the Housing Benefit Department of your local authority and ask how to claim. Otherwise, if you need to claim Universal Credit instead, read this.
Housing benefit NI
The rules around Housing Benefit in Northern Ireland are the same as the rest of the UK, so unless you’re living in supported, sheltered or temporary housing or are above state pension age you’ll need to claim Universal Credit instead. If you’re eligible for Housing Benefit and live in Northern Ireland, you need to contact the Housing Executive for help making a claim.
My claim has been rejected, what now?
If your claim has been rejected you can ask for a written statement of reasons. If you think the decision is wrong, you can appeal. You have one month from the date of decision to appeal.
Find out more about appealing a benefits decision.
Do I qualify for Housing Benefit?
As mentioned, first of all you’ll need to be in supported, sheltered or temporary housing. Then, to qualify for Housing Benefit you need to be on a low income. If you receive means-tested benefits (such as income-based JSA) then you count as being on a low income.
You don’t have to receive other benefits to get Housing Benefit, but you’ll need to show your council that you have less to live off after paying rent than the government thinks you need.
If you’re working, you might still be able to claim Housing Benefit – lots of benefits go unclaimed every year so make sure you don’t lose out. It’s worth checking if you’re eligible by using this benefits calculator.
You also need to be able to prove that you pay rent. This can be to a private landlord, council or housing association, as well as hostels.
You can’t usually get Housing Benefit if:
- You have savings of £16,000 or more
- You live in the home of a close relative
- You’re a full-time student – though there are exemptions – see below
- You’re an asylum seeker or are sponsored to be in the UK
- You need to pay a mortgage rather than rent
If you live with a partner, only one of you can get Housing Benefit. Both of your incomes (and savings) will be taken into account when working out if you have a low income.
How much Housing Benefit will I get?
There’s no fixed amount of Housing Benefit. What you get depends on if you rent privately or from a council.
If your rent costs more, you’ll have to make up the difference.
If you live in social housing (council or housing association), then the maximum amount of Housing Benefit you can get will be the same as the rent that you pay. This would be reduced if you were considered to have more bedrooms than you need (see Bedroom Tax below).
If you receive income-based JSA, income-based ESA, or Income Support, you’ll be entitled to the maximum amount of Housing Benefit for the amount of rooms you’re entitled to and the area that you live in. If you don’t get these benefits, your level of income can reduce the amount of Housing Benefit you are entitled to.
What is the Bedroom Tax?
If you live in social housing and have more bedrooms than the Government says you need, then the amount of Housing Benefit that you can get will be reduced by:
14% of the ‘eligible rent’ for 1 spare bedroom
25% of the ‘eligible rent’ for 2 or more spare bedrooms
‘Eligible rent’ means your full rent amount plus any service charges like lift fees, but not household bills like heating etc. Bedsits and one-bed flats won’t be affected.
I have savings, can I get Housing Benefit?
If you have savings of £16,000 or more, you won’t get Housing Benefit.
If you have less than £6,000 this does not affect your entitlement or the amount of Housing Benefit you can get.
However, for every £250 of savings you have above £6,000, £1 of it will be counted as income, and will reduce the amount of Housing Benefit you’ll get.
I’m living with someone, can I get Housing Benefit?
If you have another adult living in your home who’s not your partner, or paying their own rent to the landlord, then they’re classed as a ‘non-dependant’. (This could be a friend or family member.) They would normally be expected to make a contribution to the rent, which may reduce the amount of Housing Benefit you’re entitled to.
Does Housing Benefit help with bills?
Housing Benefit doesn’t cover your utility bills (water, heating, lighting etc.) even if they’re included in your rent. However, it could cover charges for some services, such as lifts, communal laundry facilities or play areas.
Can students claim Housing Benefit?
If you study part-time you can claim Housing Benefit as long as you fulfil the other criteria. Full-time students can’t normally claim, but you might qualify if:
- You’re under 19 and in Further Education (not Higher Education)
- You get income-based JSA, income-based ESA or Income Support
- You’re disabled
- You’re a single parent
- You and your partner are both students with dependent children
- You’re fostering children
- You’ve taken a break from studying for illness, or to care for a sick or disabled person.
Plus of course you will need to be living in supported, sheltered or temporary housing. If you get a student loan or grant, this will usually affect how much Housing Benefit you get.
Will the benefit cap affect my Housing Benefit?
The benefit cap was brought in in 2013 to limit the maximum amount of benefits a household can receive per week. The current cap is set at:
- £486.98 per week for couples and lone parents in Greater London
- £423.46 per week for couples and lone parents outside Greater London
- £326.29 per week for single adults in Greater London
- £283.71 per week for single adults outside Greater London
There are some exemptions to the cap, such as people receiving Working Tax Credit, or certain sickness and disability benefits, such as Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Most benefits are included in the cap but some, such as Council Tax Support (Council Tax Benefit), aren’t.
Your Housing Benefit will be reduced if your total benefits go over the cap.
Does PIP affect Housing Benefit?
If you or your child claim PIP (Personal Independence Payment) it does not count as income towards Housing Benefit so should not affect any claim.
When will my Housing Benefit be paid?
Housing Benefit is paid in arrears, which can make things difficult if your landlord wants you to pay your rent in advance. If you’re having problems, talk to your local council office about their emergency support options – you may be able to get an advance loan.
I’ve started claiming, when will the money turn up?
Your local authority is meant to pay your Housing Benefit within 14 days, but it can take longer. Make sure you fill in all the relevant parts of your claim form, and bring all the documents they need. Take a copy of the form for your records, and make sure you get a receipt when you hand it in.
If you’re renting privately and it takes longer than two weeks, you should automatically get an interim payment to help pay your rent. If you don’t receive this, speak to someone at your local council’s housing department as soon as possible.
But I can’t pay the rent!
If you’re stuck and can prove you can’t manage the rent, you can ask for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from your local council. DHPs are paid for a limited time period (normally three or six months) to plug the gap if you can’t manage the rent.
You can get DHPs to cover you for changes in benefits, such as the bedroom tax and benefit cap, as well as if you need help with deposits, rent in advance or removal costs. Find out how to claim by going to your council’s website.
Where can I go for help with Housing Benefit?
Getting benefits is often a frustrating process. But there are lots of places you can go for help:
- Citizens Advice knows all about the benefits system and can help you understand your rights. You can visit your local bureau to get face-to-face advice and support. You must remember to bring along details of your benefits and general financial situation.
- Shelter has a comprehensive section on Housing Advice and offers free confidential advice through face-to-face local services.
- This benefits calculator from Turn2us shows you how much benefit you should be getting – many people don’t realise how much they’re entitled to.
- If you want to challenge a decision about your benefit, you can appeal.
Unfortunately we are unable to offer benefits advice at The Mix, but we can give emotional support and guide you to the best places for expert advice if you give us a call on 0808 808 4994.
Remember to tell your benefits advisor if your circumstances change – for example, if you get a pay rise, new job or get married. If you don’t you could face a £50 fine, as well as having to pay back any extra benefit. See GOV.UK for more information.
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By Holly Turner
Updated on 27-Oct-2023
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