Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit may help you to pay your rent if you are on a low income and in rented accommodation. It can pay for part or all of your rent. The amount of Housing Benefit you receive will depend on factors such as where you live, your age and how many bedrooms you have. You can usually only claim it if your savings are £16,000 or less.

Housing Benefit is managed by your local council if you live in England, Scotland or Wales. It is managed by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive if you live in Northern Ireland.

If your rent is higher than your Housing Benefit allowance, you will have to pay the difference. You may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment to help with this for a set period of time. If the council or Housing Executive decides that the house is too big for your needs, you may have your Housing Benefit reduced under the under-occupancy rule. Single people aged 25 to 34 are only entitled to Housing Benefit for shared accommodation.

In England, Scotland and Wales, this benefit is being gradually replaced by Universal Credit. To find out more, contact your local council. Universal Credit will be introduced in Northern Ireland during 2017.

What is housing benefit?

Housing Benefit helps with your rent payments if you have a low income. Your local council is in charge of Housing Benefit if you live in England, Scotland and Wales. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive is in charge of Housing Benefit if you live in Northern Ireland.

Housing Benefit is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit. The benefit you should apply for will depend on where you live and your situation. For more information, speak to a welfare rights adviser.

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Who can claim

You can claim Housing Benefit if you live in social housing or a property rented from a private landlord.

You must:

  • have a low income
  • have under £16,000 in savings (unless you get Pension Credit)
  • be responsible for the rent.

Most full-time students are not eligible for Housing Benefit, but there are exceptions.

If you live in an area where Universal Credit is available, you may be directed to apply for Universal Credit instead of Housing Benefit.


How much will you get

The amount of Housing Benefit you get will depend on:

  • where you live
  • your age
  • who lives with you
  • the number of bedrooms in your home
  • your savings and income
  • the savings and income of your partner if you have one
  • any other benefits you get
  • your rent.

If you are renting from a private landlord, the amount of Housing Benefit you get will be based on Local Housing Allowance rates. These are based on the cost of renting in your area. Contact your local council or Northern Ireland Housing Executive office for more information.

If your rent is higher than the Local Housing Allowance, you will need to pay the difference, but you may also be able to get help through a Discretionary Housing Payment. If your rent is lower than the Local Housing Allowance, you could receive the full amount of your rent, but nothing above that amount.

Limits for single people aged 25 to 34

Single people aged 25 to 34 who rent from a private landlord are only entitled to the Housing Benefit shared accommodation rate.

In this case, a single person means someone who:

  • is not living with someone as a couple
  • doesn’t have dependent children.

The shared accommodation rate is the amount of Housing Benefit you would get if you were renting a single room in a shared house. It is based on the level of local rents for shared properties. Even if you are not in a shared house and are renting somewhere on your own, you are still only entitled to the shared accommodation rate.

Under-occupancy rule (bedroom tax)

If the council decides that your home is too big for your needs, Housing Benefit may be paid at a reduced rate. This is sometimes called the under-occupancy rule or bedroom tax. This rule applies in England, Scotland and Wales. It is expected to be introduced in Northern Ireland during 2017.

You won’t be affected by this if you are getting State Pension or Pension Credit. A bedroom for an overnight carer may not count in some cases. Speak to a welfare rights adviser if you think this tax may affect you. You may be able to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment (see below) to cover bedroom tax costs.

The benefit cap

The benefit cap may also affect the total amount of benefits you get, including Housing Benefit.

For more information, call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 to speak to an experienced welfare rights adviser.

Discretionary Housing Payments

Housing Benefit may not cover all of your rent. If you are having problems paying the rest of your rent, you may be able to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment from: 

  • your local council if you live in England, Scotland or Wales
  • your local Northern Ireland Housing Executive office if you live in Northern Ireland.

Discretionary Housing Payments are awarded for a certain length of time. Your local council or Northern Ireland Housing Executive office should tell you how long you have been awarded the payment for and what to do if you need to claim again.


How to claim Housing Benefit

To find out more about Housing Benefit or to apply for it, contact your local council or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. If you are also applying for Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance, the application process for those benefits includes questions about claiming Housing Benefit.

You should be able to find your local council’s contact details in your phone book.

I contacted Macmillan and they helped me to get full Housing Benefit, which has really taken the pressure off my financial situation.

Dimitri


Help with mortgage interest

You  might be able to get extra help with your mortgage interest payments if you claim:

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit.

These benefits may also cover other housing costs, such as service charges and ground rent. If you have these costs, you should apply for help through your benefit.

Since April 2016, there is a waiting period of 39 weeks (around nine months) between first claiming the benefits above and being able to access the extra help with housing costs.

We have more information and tips about keeping up with your mortgage payments.

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About our cancer information videos

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David, a Macmillan Financial Guide, gives advice on keeping up with mortgage repayments while living with cancer and Alan shares his experience.

About our cancer information videos


Help with service charges

If you are a leaseholder, you may pay service charges on your property. These can include bills for minor repairs and maintenance. You might be able to get help with these charges if you claim:

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit.

Not all service charge types will be covered. It’s best to get advice about whether or not your services charges can be covered by a benefit payment, or if there are any other grants you could apply for. Call our support line on 0808 808 00 00 to speak to an experienced welfare rights adviser.

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