Housing Benefit helps people pay their rent. All local councils, and the Housing Executive in Northern Ireland, run a Housing Benefit scheme.
For people under Pension Credit qualifying age, Housing Benefit is being phased out and replaced by a new benefit, Universal Credit. You can find out which benefit you can claim in your area using the postcode checker at universalcreditinfo.net
If you are already getting Housing Benefit, you will be moved, at some point, over to Universal Credit.
If you are over Pension Credit qualifying age and need help to pay your rent, you should continue to claim Housing Benefit.
Do I qualify for Housing Benefit?
To qualify, you need to be responsible for paying the rent on your home. If you live with a partner, only one of you can get Housing Benefit. You cannot usually get Housing Benefit if you live in a close relative’s household.
If you have savings of more than £16,000, you are not eligible for Housing Benefit unless you are getting the Guarantee Credit of Pension Credit.
You must also receive one of the following ‘passporting’ benefits: income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or the Guarantee Credit of Pension Credit, or you must have a fairly low income.
How do I claim Housing Benefit?
If you’re claiming a passporting benefit over the phone, you can claim Housing Benefit at the same time. Otherwise, you should apply for Housing Benefit using a claim form that you can get from your local council.
Check whether your local council accepts Housing Benefit applications by telephone or online. You may find it helpful to photocopy any completed claim form before you send it off. This might help to prevent any problems in the future.
What if I disagree with the decision?
Your local council (or the Housing Executive in Northern Ireland) will assess your claim for Housing Benefit and make a decision on whether you qualify or not. If you disagree with their decision, you should ask them to look at it again.
You might also be able to appeal their decision to an independent appeal tribunal. Your council will give you details about this.
How much is Housing Benefit?
Your Housing Benefit is based on your weekly ‘eligible rent’.
- If you live in a council or housing association property, your eligible rent is normally your actual rent, less any amounts that Housing Benefit cannot cover, such as charges for heating, water or meals. However, deductions may apply to working-age tenants who are considered to have one or more spare bedrooms – the so-called ‘bedroom tax’. To find out more, see the Disability Rights UK information on bedroom tax.
- If you have been living in privately rented accommodation since before April 2008, your eligible rent is your actual rent, less any amounts that Housing Benefit cannot cover (as above). The council will also look at whether the amount of rent you pay is reasonable for your particular home and the area you live in, and whether your home is a reasonable size for you and your family. There are special rules if you are single and aged under 25.
- If you have moved into, or claimed Housing Benefit for, private accommodation after April 2008, your eligible rent will not be based on your actual rent, but on a fixed amount called the Local Housing Allowance.
The Local Housing Allowance
The Local Housing Allowance is a flat-rate allowance and the amount set depends on the area you live in and who you live with. Allowance will be made if you have a carer who regularly provides overnight care for you, but does not normally live with you.
The amount of rent you pay doesn’t affect the level of Local Housing Allowance set for you (although the Local Housing Allowance cannot be more than your actual rent).
How is Housing Benefit calculated?
If you are on income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or the Guarantee Credit of Pension Credit, Housing Benefit will cover all your eligible rent. Deductions will only be made if there are ‘non-dependants’ living with you (see below).
Otherwise, the council will work out how much Housing Benefit you are entitled to by applying a means test. In this, they will look at factors such as your age, your family and the level of your disability.
The council will take into account any money you (and your partner, if you have one) have coming in, including earnings, some benefits and tax credits, and things like occupational pensions. Any savings (including your partner’s savings) over £6,000 will affect how much Housing Benefit you can get.
When this is all taken into account, the council will make deductions for any non-dependants living with you.
A non-dependant is someone who normally lives in your home on a non-commercial basis – usually an adult son, daughter, friend or relative – who would be expected to contribute towards your rent. The amount deducted from your Housing Benefit will depend on the non-dependant’s income.
Such a deduction will not be made if you (or your partner, if you have one) receive Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance care component or Personal Independence Payment daily living component.
The benefit cap
A ‘benefit cap’ limits the total amount of out-of-work and children’s benefits that you can get. If this cap applies to you, your Housing Benefit will be reduced to ensure that the total amount of benefit you receive is not more than the cap level. This varies according to your circumstances, and whether or not you live in Greater London.
- In Greater London, the cap is £296.35 a week for single people and £442.31 a week for single parents and couples (with or without children).
- Outside Greater London, the cap is £257.69 a week for single people and £384.62 a week for single parents and couples (with or without children).
You will be exempt from the cap if you or anyone in your household is getting certain disability or health-related benefits such as Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) with the support component.
How will I be paid Housing Benefit?
If you pay rent to your council, Housing Benefit is given as a rebate towards your rent account.
In any other case, Housing Benefit is normally paid straight into your bank account, but it can also be paid by cheque.
Sometimes it can be paid straight to your landlord. Ask your council about this.
What are Discretionary Housing Payments?
These are extra payments that are administered by the council but are not part of Housing Benefit. Discretionary Housing Payments can only be given to people who qualify for at least some Housing Benefit.
You can claim for these if there is a gap between the eligible rent you have to pay and the amount of benefit you get to cover it. The payments can help, for example, if your rent has been reduced because of Local Housing Allowance restrictions or if you are affected by the so-called ‘bedroom tax’.
Your council can give you a form to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment, or you can write a letter requesting it.
If you have a disability, this can be considered when a council decides whether you qualify for a Discretionary Housing Payment. So it’s important to give details of any disability needs you may have.
If you aren’t given Discretionary Housing Payments, there is no right to appeal, but you can ask a council to look at a decision again if you aren’t happy with it.
To find out more, read the Disability Rights UK information on Discretionary Housing Payments.
What if my circumstances change?
It's always important to provide full, accurate information to benefits offices, and to let them know if your circumstances change. If you don’t do this your benefits may be stopped, you may receive demands for repayment, or you may face prosecution.