What help is available?

If you are living with cancer and are on a low income, you may be able to get help with your rent payments. You may be able to get one of the following:

  • Universal Credit housing payment
  • Housing Benefit

Universal Credit (UC) has replaced Housing Benefit in most circumstances.

What is Universal Credit housing payment?

UC has replaced Housing Benefit in most circumstances. If you currently get Housing Benefit, your claim may eventually move to UC. You may be able to get help with:

  • your rent
  • some service charges
  • interest payments on your mortgage, if you or your partner own the property you live in.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in England, Scotland and Wales, or the Department for Communities (DfC) in Northern Ireland, will contact you if you need to change your claim. You do not need to do anything until then.

Can I claim the Universal Credit housing payment?

If you rent your home, you must be responsible for paying the rent to get a housing payment. You do not usually qualify for a housing payment if you:

  • live in the home of a close family member
  • are a full-time student (unless exceptions apply).

You may get a housing payment if you live in a shared ownership property. This is where you buy a share of your home from a housing association and pay rent on the rest.

You cannot get UC to pay for temporary, emergency, supported or sheltered housing. In this case, you should apply for Housing Benefit instead. See below for more information about this.

How much Universal Credit housing payment could I get?

The amount of UC you can get depends on your situation.

If you rent from a private landlord

If you rent from a private landlord, your housing payment is worked out using Local Housing Allowance rates. These are based on the cost of renting in your area and how many rooms you need.

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can find out the rate in your area.

If you live in Northern Ireland, contact the Housing Executive.

If your home has more than one bedroom, there is a maximum amount you can get. This depends on:

  • where you live
  • your income
  • how many people live in your house.

If your rent is higher than Local Housing Allowance rates, you must pay the difference. You may be able to get help through a Discretionary Housing Payment.

If your rent is lower than Local Housing Allowance rates, you could get the full amount of your rent in housing payment. You cannot get more than this amount. The amount must not be higher than the benefit cap (if the cap applies to you).

Limits for single people under the age of 35

Single people under the age of 35 who rent from a private landlord can usually only get housing payment for one room in shared accommodation. This is called the Local Housing Allowance shared accommodation rate.

In this case, a single person means someone who:

  • is not living with someone as a couple
  • does not have dependent children.

This limit does not apply if you get a disability benefit.

If you rent from a housing authority

Your housing payment is based on a ‘reasonable rent’ if you rent from:

  • a local council
  • the Northern Ireland Housing Executive
  • a housing association.

Your payment can be lowered if you have more bedrooms than you need. This is sometimes called the bedroom tax or removal of the spare room subsidy. Your payment is reduced by:

  • 14% if you have one spare bedroom.
  • 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms.

You may get housing payment for an extra bedroom if you:

  • need an overnight carer
  • are a couple who cannot share a room because of a disability
  • have children who cannot share a room because of a disability.

Your housing payment can also help you pay for some service charges, including:

  • using shared facilities, such as rubbish collection or lifts
  • using essential items in your home, such as domestic appliances
  • window cleaning of upper floors.

You should make sure you get bills that show any service charges you are paying.

If your household includes someone aged 21 or older

Your housing payment for rent is usually less if you live with someone who is aged 21 or older, and is not your partner. They are expected to help with housing costs. This rule applies if you rent from:

  • a private landlord
  • local authority
  • the Housing Executive
  • a housing association.

Your housing payment is not reduced if you:

Also, your housing payment is not reduced if the person aged 21 or older:

If you pay rent on two homes

Your housing payment can cover rent on two homes at the same time if:

  • you rent from a housing authority and they have housed your family in two properties because your family is large
  • a family member has moved out because of fear of violence or abuse, is paying rent somewhere else, and intends to come back
  • you have started renting a new home with a disabled family member, but it has not been adapted to their needs yet.

The benefit cap

The benefit cap is a limit on how much you can get in benefits each week. This may affect the amount of your housing payment. We have more information about the benefit cap and when it applies..

For more information, call our welfare rights advisers on 0808 808 00 00.

Discretionary Housing Payments

Your housing payment may not cover all your rent. If you are having problems paying the rest of your rent, you may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment. This is extra help from your local council or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. 

You should be told:

  • how much you can get
  • how long you can get it for
  • what to do if you need to ask for help again.

You can find out how to apply on the GOV.UK website.

If you are a homeowner

If you live in a home that you own, you may be able to get Support for Mortgage Interest through your UC housing payment. This is a loan from the government that can help towards interest payments on:

  • your mortgage
  • loans that you have taken out for certain repairs and improvements to your home.

If you live in a shared ownership property, you may get help paying your rent and mortgage interest. You must pay the money you get to your housing association and mortgage company.

Leasehold properties

If your property is leasehold, you may get help with some service charges, including:

  • using shared facilities, such as rubbish collection or communal lifts
  • window cleaning of upper floors.

Not all service charges qualify, so it is important to check if you can get support. You should also make sure you get bills from your landlord or property management company showing any service charges you pay.

How is the Universal Credit housing payment paid?

A housing payment is paid as a loan. If you rent, your housing payment is paid as part of your UC payment. The rules depend on where you live.

If you live in England or Wales

  • If you are not behind on your rent, your housing payment is paid into your bank account. You can then pay your landlord.
  • If you are struggling with your rent, you can choose to have your housing payment sent straight to your landlord instead. This is called an alternative payment arrangement. You can apply for this through your local Jobcentre Plus. Your landlord can also apply.
  • UC, including housing payment, is paid once a month. It is important to think about this when organising your budget if your rent is due every week.

If you live in Scotland

  • You can choose whether to have your housing payment paid into your bank account or straight to your landlord. You can also decide whether to be paid every 2 weeks or monthly.

If you live in Northern Ireland

  • Your housing payment is paid straight to your landlord. You can ask for the housing payment to be put in your bank account if you are not behind with your rent or in debt.
  • UC, including housing payment, is usually paid every 2 weeks. But you can choose to get monthly payments instead.
  • If you are a homeowner, your Support for Mortgage Interest loan is paid straight to your lender.

Special circumstances

Special rules apply if a member of your family who was living with you dies. You are paid the same amount of housing payment for the rest of that month and, for the next 2 months.

How to claim the Universal Credit housing payment

If you already get UC, you can apply for a housing payment though your online account. If not, you can apply online at GOV.UK.

You can also apply by calling the Universal Credit helpline:

  • In England, Scotland and Wales, call 0800 328 5644, or use textphone 0800 328 1344.
  • In Northern Ireland, call 0800 012 1331 or use textphone 0800 012 1441.

It helps to have as much information as you can. This includes your tenancy agreement if you have one, and information about your landlord, rent, service charges or mortgage.

You usually have an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus or Jobs and Benefits office within 7 days of making your claim. If you cannot go because of your condition or treatment, you should tell them straight away. You may need to bring: 

  • your current tenancy agreement, rent statement or rent book
  • a signed letter from your landlord that says you live at the property, pay rent and live there legally
  • details of service charges you pay
  • a current mortgage agreement, mortgage statement or bank statement showing mortgage payments
  • details of any loan agreements secured on your property.

At the interview, you will complete a claimant commitment with your work coach. This is a record of the responsibilities you will have if you get UC.

If you rent from a housing authority, your landlord will complete a form to confirm your housing costs. This is called a housing costs verification form. The completed form is added to your online account.

You should be told when to expect your payment within 3 weeks of making a claim. You can check your online account for this information.

What is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit helps with your rent payments if you are unemployed, have a low income or are claiming benefits. Universal Credit (UC) has replaced Housing Benefit in most cases. You may need to apply for UC instead of Housing Benefit if you are:

  • making a new claim
  • there is a change in your circumstances. 

This depends on:

  • what benefits you get
  • whether you have reached State Pension age
  • the type of housing you live in.

We have more information about which benefit you might be able to get.

Who can claim Housing Benefit?

To claim Housing Benefit, you must:

  • have a low income
  • have under £16,000 in savings (unless you get the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit)
  • be responsible for paying the rent, or live with your partner who is responsible for the rent.

Most full-time students are not eligible for Housing Benefit.

From 15 May 2019, new rules apply if you are part of a couple. In this case, you can only start getting Housing Benefit if either of the following applies:

  • you and your partner have both reached State Pension age
  • one of you has reached State Pension age and started claiming Housing Benefit or Pension Credit (for you as a couple) before 15 May 2019.

How much Housing Benefit could I get?

The amount of Housing Benefit you get is worked out in a similar way to the housing payment of UC. It cannot be higher than the benefit cap, if this applies to you.

To find out the full rules, if you live in England, Scotland or Wales, visit GOV.UK. If you live in Northern Ireland, visit Northern Ireland Housing Executive. You can also call our welfare rights advisers on 0808 808 00 00.

How do I 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.

You may also be able to claim Housing Benefit as part of the application process if you are applying for:

About our information


  • Reviewers

    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.