Bills and housing costs
You may be able to get help with housing costs. This could include rent or mortgage payments, council tax and home adaptations.
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If you are living with cancer, you may be worried about paying your rent or other housing costs. You may be able to get financial support, including help with rent or mortgage payments, council tax or home adaptations.
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 are renting
- you have a low income.
The benefit you need to apply for depends on the type of housing you live in.
We have more information about other benefits and financial support available.
Local council tax reduction schemes can help towards the cost of your council tax if you are on a low income.
Council tax reduction schemes are different across the UK:
- In England and Wales, each local council has its own council tax reduction scheme. The support available depends on where you live.
- In Scotland, there are national council tax reduction schemes. The support available is the same across each area.
In some areas, councils have schemes where they can choose to offer extra support with council tax. These are sometimes called discretionary funds for council tax. In these areas, it may be possible to get an extra payment to help with your council tax. This is in addition to the normal council tax reduction scheme. The discretionary schemes have different names depending on where you live.
If you are a single person, or have adapted your home due to a disability, your council tax bill may be reduced.
If you live with another adult, such as an adult son or daughter, and they are on a low income, you can apply for a second adult rebate. This could reduce your council tax bill by up to 25%.
How to claim council tax reduction in England, Scotland and Wales
Contact your local council to find out what support they offer. You can find your local council’s contact details in your phone book, or by visiting GOV.UK.
Help with council tax rates in Northern Ireland
If you cannot afford to pay your rates bill, there are different options available to help. This includes Rate Rebate if you are claiming Universal Credit, or Housing Benefit and Rate Relief.
If you are aged over 70 and live alone, you may qualify for Lone Pensioner Allowance. This gives a 20% discount on your rates.
If certain adaptions have been made to your home for health reasons, you may be eligible for Disabled Persons Allowance. This gives a 25% discount on your rates.
To speak to someone about getting help with council tax:
- if you are a tenant, or a co-ownership tenant with a share in the property, call the Housing Executive on 03448 920 902, or use textphone 18001 03448 920 902
- if you are a homeowner, call the Land and Property Services on 0300 200 7801, or use textphone 18001 0300 200 7801.
Before calling, make a list of all the money you have coming in (your income). This should include any benefit payments. You should also make a list for anyone living with you.
Visit the nidirect website to find out more.
Making changes to your mortgage
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 or stop mortgage payments for a set period (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.
You can also call the Macmillan Support Line to speak to 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
If you own your home, you may be able to apply for a loan from the government to help towards interest payments on your mortgage or loans that you have taken out for certain repairs and improvements to your home.
To apply, you must qualify for one of the following benefits:
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit (if you do not have any earnings).
If you get Universal Credit (UC), Support for Mortgage Interest is part of your housing payment and not a separate benefit. Support for Mortgage Interest is normally paid direct to your lender.
If you get Pension Credit, the loan will help pay the interest on up to £100,000 of your loan or mortgage. If you are below State Pension age, the loan will help you pay the interest on up to £200,000 of your loan or mortgage.
Your payments can start:
- from the date you start getting Pension Credit
- after you have received 9 Universal Credit payments in a row
- after you have received any other qualifying benefit for 39 weeks in a row (around 9 months).
You must repay the loan with interest when you sell or transfer ownership of your home. You can choose to start repaying the loan sooner. The minimum voluntary repayment is £100.
If you are having cancer treatment, you may be at home more. You may need to turn up the heating to cope with side effects, such as weight loss, hair loss and tiredness. This means your energy bills can increase when you may be unable to work or have a reduced income.
If you are worried about paying your energy bills, you should tell your supplier that you have cancer and find out what help they can offer. They may be able to:
- offer a cheaper tariff
- put your name on a list of people who need extra support
- give you a grant to help with any money you owe
- arrange for you to make regular payments to spread your costs.
Other ways to help you manage your energy costs include:
- switching your supplier to find cheaper alternatives
- finding out about government schemes that could help you save money on your energy costs. Visit energysavingtrust.org.uk for more information about this, and other energy-saving tips.
- making changes around the house such as insulating your loft and walls or using energy-saving lightbulbs.
You can also call an energy adviser on the free Macmillan Support Line 0808 808 00 00.
We have tips to help you save money by being more energy efficient.
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 pay your water bill.
You can download a booklet called Help with water and energy bills at aurigaservices.co.uk. This shows all the current schemes from water companies.
You can also contact your water supplier to ask what support is available.
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Help with service charges
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:
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit.
Help with service charges is paid and claimed through your application for one of the above benefits. To apply for help, contact your local benefits office. They will ask to see details of 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.
If you live in Northern Ireland, contact the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for information about help with service charges.
To find out if you qualify for help with paying your services charges, speak to a welfare rights adviser. They will also tell you if you can apply for any other grants to help with the cost. Call us on 0808 808 00 00.
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. For example, this could help you to:
- 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.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, these grants are called Disabled Facilities Grants.
In Scotland, local councils may offer a grant to help cover the cost of adapting your home.
The amount you can get depends on your household income and savings. It also depends on the cost of the work to your property. Depending on your situation, you may be asked to contribute towards this cost.
A grant for home adaptations does not affect any benefits you get.
There are also other grants to help you improve the heating and insulation in your home. They are mainly for people who are disabled, on a low income or aged over 60. We have more information about:
How to claim
There is more information about grants for home adaptations and how to apply:
- In England or Wales, contact your local council or visit GOV.UK.
- In Scotland, contact your local council, call Care and Repair Scotland on 0141 221 9879 or visit mygov.scot.
- In Northern Ireland, contact your local health and social care trust or visit the Housing Executive (Touch) website.
The council or Housing Executive usually send a professional called an occupational therapist to visit you at home. They look at your circumstances and recommend what adaptations you need. You will also be 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.
You may be renting from:
- a private landlord
- your local council in England, Scotland or Wales
- the Housing Executive in Northern Ireland
- a not-for-profit organisation that rents to people who have a low income or certain needs (a housing association).
If you may miss a rent payment or have already missed one, speak to the person or organisation you rent from (your landlord) as soon as possible. You may be able to arrange to pay off what you owe in instalments (several smaller amounts over a period of time).
Make sure this arrangement is affordable, so you can keep managing your payments. If you explain your situation, this may delay or stop your landlord trying to remove you from the property (evict you). 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 a Macmillan welfare rights adviser on 0808 808 00 00 for support. If you are eligible for benefits, you should apply as soon as possible. Universal Credit can only be backdated for up to 1 month before you applied.
Phone calls are a great way to stay in touch with your family members or with work. They are essential costs when you are unable to go out due to illness or if you are in hospital. You may be able to reduce the cost of your phone and broadband bills. Here are some things you can do:
- 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 one price for broadband, home phone and TV channels. Compare these costs with the price of buying each one 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 strict 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, Zoom 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 to find cheaper alternatives for many well-known companies.
We have more information about managing your finances.
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, Scotland or Wales
If you 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.
There are organisations across the UK that can help if you are homeless or worried about becoming homeless:
- If you live in England, you can call Shelter’s free housing advice line on 0808 800 4444 or visit england.shelter.org.uk. You can also search Homeless Link for support near you. This includes advice and health services, day centres, night shelters and hostels for homeless people throughout England.
- If you live in Scotland, you can call Shelter’s free housing advice line on 0808 800 4444 (select 2 for Scotland if you are calling from a mobile) or visit scotland.shelter.org.uk.
- If you live in Wales, you can call Shelter Cymru’s housing advice line on 0345 075 5005 or visit sheltercymru.org.uk.
- If you live in Northern Ireland, you can call Shelter NI on 028 9024 7752 or visit shelterni.org. Or you can call Housing Rights Northern Ireland on 028 9024 5640 or textphone 028 9073 1577.
For more information, contact Citizens Advice.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our financial help and benefits information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at email@example.com
GOV.UK www.gov.uk (accessed January 2021).
Benefits and pension rates 2021 to 2022. www.gov.uk/government/publications/benefit-and-pension-rates-2021-to-2022/benefit-and-pension-rates-2021-to-2022 (accessed January 2021).
nidirect.gov.uk www.nidirect.gov.uk (accessed January 2021).
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by Macmillan professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Sean Conroy, Macmillan Welfare Rights and Energy Advice Team 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.