Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit may help you to pay your rent if you are on a low income. If you live in England, Scotland or Wales it is paid by your local council. If you live in Northern Ireland, it is paid by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Universal Credit is replacing Housing Benefit. If you are making a new claim, or there is a change in your circumstances, you may need to apply for Universal Credit instead of Housing Benefit. This will depend on where you live.

You can claim Housing Benefit whether you live in social housing, a housing association property or privately rented housing.

The amount you get will depend on things such as:

  • where you live
  • your age
  • how many bedrooms you have
  • who lives with you
  • your savings
  • what benefits you get.

If your rent is higher than the amount of Housing Benefit you get, you will have to pay the difference. You may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment to help with this.

If the council or Housing Executive decides the house is too big for your needs, the benefit may be paid at a reduced rate (under-occupancy rule).

What is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit helps with your rent payments if you have a low income. If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, it is paid by your local council. If you live in Northern Ireland, it is paid by the Housing Executive.

Universal Credit is replacing Housing Benefit. If you are making a new claim, or there is a change in your circumstances, you may need to apply for Universal Credit instead of Housing Benefit. This will depend on where you live.

To find out if you need to apply for Universal Credit in your area visit gov.uk/guidance/jobcentres-where-you-can-claim-universal-credit

Managing your housing costs

Julian, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer talks about the financial problems he had and how Macmillan helped him.

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Managing your housing costs

Julian, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer talks about the financial problems he had and how Macmillan helped him.

About our cancer information videos


Who can claim?

You can claim Housing Benefit whether you live in social housing, a housing association property or privately rented housing. 

To claim Housing Benefit you must:

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

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


How much you could 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
  • the income of any other adults living with you
  • any other benefits you get
  • how much your rent is.

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.

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can find out the rate in your area at lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/search.aspx

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

If your rent is higher than Local Housing Allowance rates, you will need to pay the difference. But you may also be able to get help through a Discretionary Housing Payment. See below for more information about this.

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

There are different rules if you have been getting housing benefit regularly since 1996 or 2008. For more information, speak to a welfare rights adviser.

Limits for single people under the age of 35

Single people under the age of 35 who rent from a private landlord are only entitled to Housing Benefit for:

  • bed-sit accommodation
  • a single room in shared accommodation.

In this case, a single person means someone who:

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

This limit might not apply to you if you get the severe disability premium. This is an extra amount added to some benefits. You can find more information about this at gov.uk or by speaking to a welfare rights adviser.

Spare bedrooms (bedroom tax)

If you live in social housing and your council or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive decides that your home is too big for your needs, you may get a lower rate of Housing Benefit. This is sometimes called the under-occupancy rule or bedroom tax. It also applies to the housing element of Universal Credit.

You will not be affected by this if you are at the qualifying age (or above) for Pension Credit.

You may be allowed to get Housing Benefit for an extra bedroom if:

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

For more information about the bedroom tax, call our expert welfare rights advisers on 0808 800 00 00.

If you live in Northern Ireland and you are affected by the bedroom tax, you will get a welfare supplementary payment to cover the difference. You can find out more at nidirect.gov.uk

The benefit cap

The benefit cap is a limit on how much you can get in benefits each week. This may affect how much Housing Benefit you can get. We have more information about the benefit cap.

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

Discretionary Housing Payments

Housing Benefit may not cover all 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 or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Discretionary Housing Payments are awarded for a certain length of time. You should be told how long you have been awarded the payment for and what to do if you need to claim again.

Special circumstances

If you now have a spare room in your house because someone has died recently, your Housing Benefit will not be reduced until 12 months after the death.

If you have not had Housing Benefit in the past 12 months, but you now need support with your rent because your situation has changed, you will not be affected by the bedroom tax for up to 13 weeks.

You can speak to a welfare rights adviser for more information.


How to claim

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 applying for Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseeker’s Allowance, you might also be able to claim Housing Benefit as part of the application process.

You should be able to find your local council’s contact details in your phone book, or by visiting one of the following websites:

To contact the Northern Ireland Housing Executive call 0344 8920 902 or visit nihe.gov.uk

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