What is housing benefit?
Housing benefit is paid by councils to help people who’re on benefits, or a low income, pay their rent. Because of high rent costs, many people rely on housing benefit even though they are working.
There’s no set amount – what you get depends on whether you rent from a landlord, council or housing association, what your income is and the area you live in.
How does it work?
To claim housing benefit, apply to your local council, or do it at the same time as you claim any other benefits.
Only one person per house can claim. Use this council finder to find out who to ask about housing benefit in your area.
The council will look at the amount of rent and service charges you pay, or if you have other adults living with you. They should make a decision within 14 days, but it can take longer. You may be able to get a payment in advance.
How do I claim if I’m renting privately?
If you pay rent to a private landlord, your housing benefit is called local housing allowance (LHA).
If you’re privately renting, are under 35, single and don’t have children, you’re only allowed to claim the cost of renting a room in a shared house – not your own flat or house.
The so-called ‘bedroom tax’ means you’re only allowed a certain number of bedrooms and may lose housing benefit for any ‘spare’ rooms.
Can I get housing benefit if I’m a student?
You can claim housing benefit if you’re studying for a part-time degree, if you’re under 19 and on a course below degree level, or if you have children. There’s more detail here.
I’m under 18 – can I claim housing benefit?
Yes. But if you’re renting privately and single, the amount you can get is limited. The only exception is if you’re a care leaver.
If you’re aged under 18 and homeless, your council have a legal duty to make sure you have a home.
What if my housing benefit isn’t enough?
Can I get a crisis loan to help with my rent?
Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)
If you’re really struggling, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). This payment helps people who get housing benefit, but are having trouble paying rent. It can be paid weekly or as a lump sum, and can also be backdated.
It is not a long-term answer, and the amount available is limited. But the Government has recently increased the amount of DHP you can apply for. Get in touch with your local council to apply.
What else can I do?
If you have to move house because of rising costs, you can get help with your deposit through a ‘rent bond scheme’.
Ask your family or friends for support – any help from loved ones won’t affect your benefits.
Try negotiating with your landlord to see if they will agree a cheaper rent or accept a delayed rent payment.
I’m facing eviction – what can I do?
It’s really important you get advice from a housing adviser immediately. Don’t just ignore the problem – it will only get worse.
There are special procedures any landlord has to follow before they evict. So keep all your paperwork and records to prove your case.
Contact your landlord. If you have a sound repayment plan, you’re far less likely to be evicted. Paying your rent back is a priority.
Charity Turn2Us offer help, or try calling Shelter’s free helpline on 0808 800 4444.
- Shelter's advice website for young people offers help with housing problems and a free helpline 0808 800 4444. If you're in Scotland, use http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/ instead.
- Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
- Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.
By Helen Clifton
Updated on 20-Oct-2015