Help with your rent
Struggling to pay your rent or mortgage? Find out more with TheSite.
Not being able to pay your rent is a horrible experience. Take a look at your options and fight the fear.
The social fund is a system by which people on low incomes can receive payments and discretionary grants or loans for needs that cannot be met from their regular income. Payments are made by Jobcentre Plus. Social fund payments can be very hard to get, but it's still important to apply. If you are turned down you have a right to a review where the decision may be overturned.
If you're leaving residential or institutional accommodation, need help to stay in your own home, have had an unsettled way of life, or are facing exceptional pressure, you may be able to get a Community Care Grant.
While grants are available for help with furnishing accommodation, for help with rent or your mortgage payments you will need to apply for a Budgeting Loan or Crisis Loan. Remember that if you are offered a loan you will have to repay it from your weekly benefit. However, a Budgeting or Crisis Loan award does not count as income and will not affect other benefits you're getting.
You can apply for a Budgeting Loan if you are getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) on the day that you apply. You must have been on one of these benefits for at least 26 weeks.
You can apply for a Crisis Loan if you are 16 or over and do not have the resources to meet the immediate short-term needs of yourself and your family. You don't have to be on benefit, but you must not have any money available which you could use instead.
For further advice, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or housing advice centre.
Housing Benefit is money that enables people on low incomes to pay their rent. You can claim housing benefit if you are 16 or over, and whether or not you are working or claiming income support. It's not available to full-time students, unless they have children or a disability.
If your housing benefit doesn't cover all your rent, you can ask the local authority for a discretionary housing payment.
To get Housing Benefit you need to fill in an application form that you can get from your local council (or, in Northern Ireland, from the Housing Executive). The council has a duty to make a payment of Housing Benefit within 14 days provided they have received all the information and paperwork requested. They will need to see proof of all your income and savings, as well as a copy of your tenancy agreement.
Your age, the number of people in your household, the rent you pay and your income will also affect the amount of Housing Benefit you will receive. It will not cover charges in your rent for water rates, heating or hot water.
If the rent you pay is high then the Housing Benefit section of the council may restrict the amount of money you receive. Always ask the council to assess the maximum rent they will cover for a property (called eligible rent) in advance of signing an agreement.
The minimum amount of Housing Benefit that can be paid each week is 50p. If after your benefit is calculated you are entitled to less than 50p a week, you will not get any
If your housing benefit does not cover all of your rent and you need more help, as long as you are entitled to some Housing Benefit (or council tax benefit) you can ask the local authority for a discretionary housing payment. This is an extra payment (not Housing Benefit), which you can get if you need further financial assistance with your housing costs. It's up to the local authority whether to give you this help, so you should give them as much information as possible.
If you want more information about discretionary housing payments, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
Please note that there are some important changes to Housing Benefit due to take effect from 2011.
Help closer to home
If making your rent is more of a short-term problem - if for example, you've recently lost your job - it's always worth calling on parents to see if they can offer a loan to help you. However, while they are unlikely to charge you interest, be clear how and when the money will be paid back.
Of course, looking after yourself is always the best option, so when times are good consider saving up some money in a contingency fund to help pay the rent at a later, leaner stage.
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