Housing Benefit is for people on a low income to help them pay their rent. You cannot get Housing Benefit to help with the costs of a mortgage or home loan.
Please note this guide is not intended to be a complete or authoritative statement of the law and you should always seek professional guidance if you are in any doubt about your rights or responsibilities.
You can usually claim Housing Benefit if;
You pay rent for the home you live in.
You are resident in the UK.
Your income is below a certain level.
Your capital is less than £16,000.00
You may not be able to claim if;
You pay rent to a close relative who also lives in the home or to a former partner for the home where you used to live together.
You live in your home as a condition of your employment or your partner’s employment.
You or your partner used to own the home and your ownership ended within the last five years.
The local authority may also apply this rule if they think the rental arrangement has been set up only to get Housing Benefit
If you are aged 16 or 17 and you have been in local authority care, you are not able to get Housing Benefit. The local authority will have a duty to accommodate and support you.
If you are a student in full-time higher education (degree level or equivalent) you cannot usually claim Housing Benefit. You can claim it if;
You are studying part-time.
You are under 19 and on a course below degree level
You get Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you are a single parent or you are disabled, regardless of whether you are studying full-time, or what level of education you are in.
You are a member of a couple, you are both full-time students and you have dependent children.
If you are a full-time student but your partner is not, check if your partner could make the Housing Benefit claim instead of you.
How much can you get?
How much Housing Benefit you can get depends on how much rent you pay, what income you have coming in and where you live. Housing Benefit may not cover all of your rent or the housing costs which are included in your rent.
If you get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or the guarantee credit of Pension Credit (whether you get it on its own or with the savings credit), Housing Benefit will cover all of your eligible rent. But you need to remember that not all of your rent or housing costs may be covered.
If you are not getting the benefits listed above Housing Benefit may still cover all or part of your rent. The amount of Housing Benefit you get will depend on your income and capital (if you get the savings credit of Pension Credit, the local authority will use the same figures as the Pension Service to calculate your Housing Benefit).
Housing Benefit you can get may be reduced if another person lives with you who could be expected to pay towards their accommodation, even if they do not.
If your Housing Benefit does not cover all of your rent and you need more help, you may be able to get some additional money from the local authority called a discretionary housing payment.
Restrictions on how much rent Housing Benefit will cover.
Private Landlords and LHA.
If you are the tenant of a private landlord the local authority will normally calculate how much rent your Housing Benefit can cover using the Local Housing Allowance rules. Under the Local Housing Allowance rules, when the local authority calculates how much Housing Benefit to pay you, they will not usually look at the actual rent you pay. Instead, they will use a standard Local Housing Allowance figure which is based on the area you live in and the number of rooms needed for your household.
In some cases, it’s possible for your Housing Benefit entitlement to be more than your rent, although you can only be paid up to £15 a week more.
Other Housing Benefit restrictions
You can usually only get Housing Benefit for one home at a time. However, if you have to pay rent for two homes, you may be able to get Housing Benefit for both homes for a limited period. This might apply, for example, if you move home quickly and have to pay rent on your old home, if a new home is being adapted for a disabled person, or if you have to leave home because of domestic violence.
If you are temporarily away from home and still have to pay rent, you may be able to carry on getting Housing Benefit. This might apply, for example, if you are in hospital or if you are away from home because of a fear of violence. You can only get Housing Benefit for up to a set number of weeks while you are not living at home.
How to claim Housing Benefit
You should claim Housing Benefit direct from your local authority Housing Benefit office. You should use the claim form from the Housing Benefit office and ask the claim to be dated from the day you asked for it.
If you claim Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance at your local Jobcentre Plus, you are given a claim form for Housing Benefit at the same time.
If you are already getting Income Support, income-related ESA or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and you start paying rent contact the local council for a Housing Benefit claim form.
If you make a claim for Pension Credit by telephone, you can claim Housing Benefit at the same time. This means you do not have to make a written claim but you can still claim directly from your local authority if you want to.
Getting Housing Benefit backdated
You can get backdated Housing Benefit for six months if you can show you have a good reason for not claiming earlier, for example, you were given wrong advice. You will not usually get any backdated benefit just because you did not know that you could make a claim.
How is Housing Benefit paid?
Housing Benefit is paid by the council. Under the Local Housing Allowance Rules the council will normally pay Housing Benefit to you rather than to your landlord. They can decide to pay Benefit direct to your landlord instead of you if you’re unlikely to pay the rent or have difficulty managing money but you or your landlord must request this in writing. If Housing Benefit is paid directly to you, this will be straight into your bank or building society account and it is usually paid in arrears.
If your circumstances change
You should tell the local authority about any changes of circumstances which could affect your benefit, for example, a change in the people who live with you, or a change in your income or capital. If you move, you must report your new address and give information about the tenancy. If you move to a new local authority, you will have to make a new claim.
If you have been receiving Income support, Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based) Employment Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit for at least 26 weeks and you or your partner get a job or your hours or wages increase, you may be entitled to carry on getting Housing Benefit at the same rate for a further four weeks. This is called an extended payment.
If you get Pension Credit, you can report some changes in circumstances to the Pension Service, who will pass the information on to the local authority. This is because your Housing Benefit is based on the Pension Service figures for your income and capital. However, there are some changes which you must report directly to the local authority. These are changes to your tenancy, changes to the people who live with you, longer absences from home (if more than 13 weeks), changes involving children, changes to capital over £16,000, and any changes to income and capital of a partner who is not included in your Pension Credit claim.
If you are not sure whether to report a change, you should do so anyway. If you do not report a change, you may be paid less than you are entitled to, or be overpaid, or you may even be investigated for fraud.
Problems with Housing Benefit
If you are refused Housing Benefit and you think the decision is wrong, or you think the amount of Housing Benefit has been worked out wrongly, you can ask for the decision to be looked at again, or you can appeal. You should do this within one month of the decision about your Housing Benefit.
If you are not happy with the service you have received from the Housing Benefit department (for example, because of long delays or errors which are not sorted out), you can complain. You can do this whether or not you are also challenging a Housing Benefit decision.