Bills and housing costs
You may be able to get help with bills and housing costs. This could include rent or mortgage payments, council tax and home adaptations.
On this page
Help with housing costs if you have cancer
Help with council tax or rates
If you have a mortgage
Managing your energy costs
Managing your phone bills
If you are a leaseholder
Grants for your home
If you are renting
Council and housing association housing
If you are worried about homelessness
About our information
How we can help
If you are living with cancer, you may be worried about paying your rent or other housing costs.
If you are having difficulty paying your rent, mortgage payments or leasehold service charges, there may be things you can do. These could include:
- claiming benefits to help with your housing costs
- making changes to your mortgage
- claiming on an insurance policy.
You may be able to get Housing Benefit or Universal Credit if:
- you are renting
- you have a low income.
The benefit you need to apply for mainly depends on your age. It may also depend on the type of housing you live in.
If you have a mortgage, you may be able to get a loan to help with the interest payments. To qualify for this type of loan, you must already be getting one of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Support
- Pension Credit.
You may also be able to get help with service charges. This could include extra charges to cover minor repairs or building maintenance if you are a leaseholder. You are a leaseholder if you own the property, but you do not own the land it is built on.
Booklets and resources
Check with your local council to find out if they can give any discounts or help with council tax or rates.
Council tax reduction in England, Scotland and Wales
If you are on a low income or claim benefits, local council tax reduction schemes can help towards the cost of your council tax. The way the scheme works is different across the UK.
You can apply if you:
- own your home
- rent your home
- are unemployed
- are working.
You may get a discount automatically. If you are not sure if you already have a discount or want to know if you are eligible, you should:
- check your bill
- contact your local council by visiting gov.uk/find-local-council
If you are a single person, have a second home or have adapted your home due to a disability, your council tax bill may be reduced.
Single person discount
You may get a 25% discount on your council tax if you are the only adult living in your home. Sometimes, you may live with other people who do not count towards your council tax. You can find out if you are eligible from your local council. There is more information on the Citizens Advice website.
- If you have a second home
If you have a second home you do not live in for certain reasons, you may get a discount on your council bill. This could include:
- an empty property that is unsafe to live in
- a holiday home that no one lives in permanently – you may be able to get a short-term discount under certain circumstances
- a home connected to your property that is used by a dependent family member or is empty.
- If you or someone you live with is disabled
The council may reduce your bill if you can show that a disabled person lives there and there are some adjustments to the home as a result.
Help with council tax rates in Northern Ireland
If you are claiming Universal Credit, you may be eligible for a Rate Rebate. You must be:
- living in a property you own
- renting from the Housing Executive or a housing association
- renting from a private landlord.
You are not eligible if you live in supported accommodation. You are also not eligible if you rent your home from a member of your or your partner’s family. Visit nidirect.gov.uk for more information on Rate Rebates.
How to apply
You can apply for a rebate online, by creating an account. You must then provide:
- your date of birth
- your postcode
- your National Insurance number
- information about your husband, wife or civil partner, if you have one
- information about other people living in the property, if they are joint owners
- information about who else lives at the property, if you rent
- your tenancy reference number, if you live in social housing
- your landlord’s information, if you rent.
Lone Pensioner Allowance
If you are aged over 70 and live alone, you may be eligible for Lone Pensioner Allowance. This gives a 20% discount on your rates.
Disabled Person’s Allowance
If you or someone in your household is disabled and adjustments have been made to your home as a result, you may be eligible for a rate discount. This gives a 25% discount on your rates.
Visit nidirect.gov.uk to learn more.
Some water providers also provide support called a social tariff. Social tariffs aim to reduce monthly bills for people on low incomes or who have health conditions that mean they use more water. For example, social tariffs may help people who need to wash their bedding more often.
Water companies are not allowed to disconnect your water supply if you have not paid your bills. Some water companies have schemes that may be able to help if you are having difficulty paying your water bill. You can ask your water supplier what support is available.
In Scotland and Northern Ireland, you pay your water rates as part of your council tax bill.
Booklets and resources
If you are worried about paying your mortgage payments, contact your lender as soon as possible. Lenders must look at ways to try and help you. They might allow you to:
- pay reduced mortgage payments
- stop mortgage payments for a set period – this is called a payment holiday
- only pay the interest on your mortgage for a set period
- extend the term (duration) of your mortgage
- review the interest rate you pay.
We have more information about managing your rent, mortgage or other housing costs. You can also call our financial guides for free on 0808 808 00 00 to discuss your options.
Claiming on an insurance policy
If you have a mortgage, you may have taken out insurance when you first bought your home. For example, you may have insurance that will pay your mortgage payments if you are off work. Or insurance that will pay off the loan if you are diagnosed with a life-threatening condition.
You may be able to claim on this insurance if you:
- have a cancer diagnosis
- are off work for treatment.
Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)
If you own your home, you may be able to get help from the government towards interest payments for your mortgage or loans you have to make improvements to your home. This help is a loan that you repay with interest. You usually need to be getting means-tested benefits to apply.
If you qualify, you can get help paying the interest on up to £200,000 of your loan or mortgage. This changes to £100,000 if you:
- are getting Pension Credit
- started claiming another qualifying benefit before January 2009, and you were below State Pension age then.
You must repay the loan with interest when you sell or transfer ownership of your home. Or you can move the loan to another property.
You can choose to start repaying the loan sooner. The minimum voluntary repayment is £100, if the balance is at least £100.
You should get independent financial advice about whether to proceed with a secured loan. You can speak to our welfare rights advisers or financial guides for more information. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.
If you are having difficulty paying your energy bills, contact your energy supplier as soon as possible. You can explain your situation and ask them how they can support you.
Energy suppliers and the government run schemes that can help if you are struggling to pay your energy bills. The schemes available depend on where you live.
Phone calls are a great way to stay in touch with your friends or family, or with work. Phone bills are essential costs when you are unable to go out due to illness or if you are in hospital.
There are ways you may be able to reduce the cost of your phone and broadband bills:
- Check that you are on the best deal for your home phone and mobile phone, if you have them. You may be able to get a better deal with a different provider.
- Check if you could save money on your broadband bill. Some providers offer bundles where you pay 1 price for broadband, home phone and TV channels. Compare these costs with the price of buying each separately.
- Most monthly mobile tariffs include a set number of minutes to UK landlines and mobiles. If you have a high number of mobile minutes to use, use your mobile phone instead of your landline for calls.
- If you have a monthly mobile contract, you could save money by switching to a pay-as-you-go deal. If you do this, you can set a limit for how much you spend in a week or month. Remember to check if there is any charge for cancelling your contract first.
- You can also save money by making phone calls and sending messages online. You will need to download a free app such as Skype or WhatsApp.
- The website saynoto0870.com can help you avoid phone numbers that can be more expensive to call – these often begin with 0870, 0845 or 0844. It helps you find cheaper alternatives for many well-known companies.
If you are a leaseholder, you may pay service charges on your property. These can include bills for repairs and maintenance. You may get help with these charges if you claim certain means-tested benefits.
To apply for help, you must contact your local benefits office. They will ask to see details about your service charges, such as your invoices. You may also need to provide information about your lease. The help available does not cover all types of service charges.
To find out if you qualify for help with paying your services charges, speak to our welfare rights advisers on 0808 808 00 00. They will tell you if you can apply for any other grants to help with the cost.
If you need to repair, improve or adapt your home for health reasons, you may be able to get financial help from your local council or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. This could help you:
- widen doors and install ramps
- improve access to rooms – for example, you may need to put in a stairlift or downstairs bathroom
- provide a heating system suitable for your needs
- adapt heating or lighting controls to make them easier to use.
To find more information about grants for home adaptations and how to apply:
- in England or Wales, contact your local council or visit gov.uk/disabled-facilities-grants
- In Scotland, contact your local council, call Care and Repair Scotland on 0141 221 9879 or visit mygov.scot/care-equipment-adaptations
- in Northern Ireland, contact your local health and social care trust or visit the Housing Executive website.
The council or Housing Executive usually sends a professional called an occupational therapist to visit you at home. They look at your situation and recommend what adaptations you need. You are also sent an application form.
The waiting list for a home assessment, and for help, can be long in some areas. You may not get a grant if you start work on the property before your application has been approved.
A grant for home adaptations does not affect any benefits you get.
You may be renting from:
- a private landlord
- your local council in England, Scotland or Wales
- the Housing Executive in Northern Ireland
- a housing association – this is a not-for-profit organisation that rents to people who have a low income or certain needs.
Who you rent from is called your landlord. If you may miss a rent payment, or have already missed one, speak to your landlord as soon as possible. You may be able to arrange to pay off what you owe in instalments. This means paying lots of smaller amounts over a period of time.
Make sure this arrangement is affordable, so you can keep managing your payments.
Explaining your situation can help your landlord understand. They may be less likely to take action, such as trying to evict you. Eviction means making you move out of the property. It is often in your landlord’s own interests to keep you renting. Finding someone new could take time and be expensive for them.
It is important that you and your landlord agree about how much you owe. You can ask your landlord for a statement of your rent. Their statement and your records should show the same thing.
You may be able to get benefits that help pay your rent, such as Universal Credit. You can speak to our welfare rights advisers or financial guides for more information. Call us free on 0800 808 0000. If you are eligible for benefits, you should apply as soon as possible. Universal Credit can only be backdated for up to 1 month, and you need good reason for not claiming earlier.
In England, your council must provide information about getting a council home and how long it may take. You can ask them for this information.
In Scotland, organisations decide who gets housing based on points or banding systems. You can ask your local council or a housing association how long it may take to get a council home.
In Wales, your council will have a policy about who gets priority in each area. You can get a leaflet with information about allocations from your council housing office, in some libraries and community centres, or on GOV.UK.
In Northern Ireland, landlords use a points system to allocate housing.
Priority groups and waiting lists
In some cases, you may move up a waiting list based on your situation. This may be called reasonable preference. Having reasonable preference, or going up in priority, will not guarantee you a place.
When you apply to change priority, you should give your local council as much information as possible. You will likely need to provide letters from your healthcare team or social workers. The council may contact your GP.
The council will then carry out an assessment of your needs. You may need to find another option while you wait.
The council may be able to reduce or take away your priority if you recover from an illness that gave you extra priority.
In England, each council will have a policy about who gets priority. One of the reasons for reasonable preference is if you need to move for health or welfare reasons. This could be if you or anyone in your household:
- needs adapted or accessible housing because of a physical disability
- needs to be close to a family member to give or get care
- has very urgent housing needs, such as a life-threatening illness.
If you think you should be in a priority group, you can email or write to your local council or housing association. It may take about 8 weeks for them to review your case. You may be offered a meeting. They will write to you with their decision.
In Scotland, after you submit an application, the landlords decide your priority based on a points or bands system. You may get reasonable preference if you are living in unsatisfactory conditions with unmet housing needs. There is no legal definition of this, but it may include unsuitability as a result of a medical condition or disability.
You may be given reasonable preference if you, or anyone in your household:
- have some health or welfare needs, such as mobility problems
- need access to specialist medical treatment
- need to be close to a family member to get care.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published the guide Your rights to accessible and adaptable housing in Wales that has tips on applying for accessible properties.
In Northern Ireland, your housing officer will decide how many points you have. The more points you have, the higher up the waiting list you will be. One of the points categories is health and well-being. You may get points if you, or someone in your household, has mobility problems or needs help with some tasks. Visit Housing Advice NI to get information on the points system.
If you miss payments (arrears)
In England, you may be moved to a lower priority on the waiting list if you have missed payments before. This is especially true if the missed payments (arrears) are with a council or housing association.
Sometimes you can get your priority increased if you make a repayment plan and adhere to it for a set period of time. Check your council’s policy.
Waiting a long time
Council housing can take a long time to get.
In Northern Ireland, to stay on the waiting list, you have to renew your application every year.
You may need to find another option while you wait if you are:
- already in housing, but it is no longer suitable since your cancer diagnosis
- on the housing waitlist.
Here are some things you may consider doing while you wait.
You may be able to find a landlord who accepts people currently getting benefits.
- Apply to more than 1 list
In England, you can apply to council housing in multiple areas at the same time. You can join more than 1 waiting list.
In Scotland, you can apply through a common housing register instead of filling in separate applications for each landlord.
- Apply to other registers or associations
Some housing associations have their own waiting list. You can search for these and apply online.
- Housing swaps or transfers
In some areas, you can find out if someone else is interested in swapping (exchanging) houses. Check with your council to see if they offer this service in your area. Some schemes can help you move to a council home in a different part of the UK.
- Apply for homelessness
If you are homeless or think you soon may be, you can apply to the local council or the Housing Executive for help. You may be given temporary housing.
Even if you are staying somewhere, you can still be homeless. You may be considered homeless if you are:
- staying with family or friends
- staying in a hostel, night shelter or bed and breakfast
- living in a place where you have no legal right to stay (squatting)
- at risk of violence or abuse in your home
- living in poor conditions that affect your health
- living in very overcrowded conditions
- living apart from your family because you do not have a place to live together.
If you have cancer and are worried about homelessness, you may feel vulnerable. Different types of support are available. It is important to get support as soon as you can.
Help from the government
Your local council or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive may have a duty to give you housing or advice. What help they offer depends on your situation.
If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland
In England and Wales, you can find your local council’s contact details online.
They must help you if you are homeless or may become homeless in the next 8 weeks. You must also qualify for help under immigration rules.
The council must give you a personal housing plan. This records the steps you and the council must take to stop you becoming homeless, or to find you somewhere else to live.
In Northern Ireland, you can call the Housing Executive on 03448 920 900. They must help you if you are homeless or may become homeless in the next 28 days. You must also qualify for help under immigration rules and not have been involved in anti-social (unacceptable) behaviour.
The council or Housing Executive must provide housing for people who have a priority need. In this case, you can request temporary accommodation. The council or Housing Executive then make further enquiries.
To get a permanent home, you must be homeless through no fault of your own and have a connection to the local area. For more information about this, visit the Citizens Advice website if you live in England or Wales, or nihe.gov.uk/housing-help if you live in Northern Ireland.
You can ask your doctor to write a letter to support your case. They should explain how it may affect your health if you do not have anywhere to stay.
If the council or Housing Executive decides you are not eligible for help with housing, or offers you unsuitable accommodation, you can ask for a review of their decision. You must ask for this within 21 days of getting the decision letter, or 28 days if you live in Northern Ireland.
If you live in Scotland
In Scotland, you can find your local council’s contact details online.
They must help you if you are homeless or may become homeless in the next 8 weeks. You must also qualify for help under immigration rules.
If you are homeless, the council should offer you temporary accommodation while they make further enquiries. If you are likely to become homeless in the next 8 weeks, the council must give you advice and try to help you keep your home.
To get a permanent home, you must be homeless through no fault of your own and have a connection to the local area.
If the council decides you are not eligible for help with housing, or offers you unsuitable accommodation, you can ask for a review of their decision. You must ask for this within 21 days of getting the decision letter.
Help from other organisations
There are organisations across the UK that can help if you are homeless or worried about becoming homeless:
- If you live in England, visit Shelter England or call free on 0808 800 4444.
- If you live in Scotland, visit Shelter Scotland or call free on 0808 800 4444 (select 2 for Scotland if you are calling from a mobile).
- If you live in Wales, Shelter Cymru or call on 0345 075 5005.
- If you live in Northern Ireland, visit Shelter NI or call on 028 9024 7752. Or you can call Housing Rights Northern Ireland on 028 9024 5640 or textphone 028 9073 1577.
Homeless Link has a website where you can search for support near you if you live in England. This includes advice and health services, day centres, night shelters and hostels for homeless people.
Other types of help
If you are homeless or worried about becoming homeless, you may be able to get other types of help.
If you are at risk of becoming homeless because you are struggling with mortgage payments, you should ask for support. Your lender must look at ways to try and help you. If you already get certain benefits, you may be able to apply for a loan from the government to help with the interest payments on your mortgage.
You may be able to get benefits to help pay your rent, such as Universal Credit, and council tax or rates. This could help stop you becoming homeless.If you are homeless, you still have the right to get benefits. Call our welfare rights advisers free on 0800 808 0000 to find out what you could get.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our finances information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at email@example.com
Energy savings trust. www.energysavingstrust.org.uk [accessed September 2022].
GOV.UK. Housing costs and Universal Credit. Available from www.gov.uk/housing-and-universal-credit/how-to-claim [accessed May 2022].
Gov.uk. www.gov.uk [accessed September 2022]
Gov.Scotland www.mygov.scot [accessed September 2022]
Gov.Wales. www.gov.wales [accessed September 2022]
nidirect.gov.uk www.nidirect.gov.uk [accessed September 2022].
Our financial information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by finance, housing and energy experts and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Amanda South, Macmillan Financial Guidance Service Manager.
Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.
How we can help
Chat online anonymously to others who understand what you are going through. Our community is available 24/7 and has dedicated forums where you can get advice and ask our experts.