What is Housing Benefit?
Housing Benefit helps people with a low income to pay their rent. It’s paid by your local authority, and you can get it whether you’re in or out of work.
How do I claim Housing Benefit?
If you’re applying for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance ESA or Income Support, you can make a claim for Housing Benefit through Jobcentre Plus. If you’re not claiming any of these benefits, you need to contact the Housing Benefit Department of your local authority and ask how to claim. If you’re in Northern Ireland, you need to contact the Housing Executive.
My claim’s been rejected, what now?
If your claim’s been rejected you can ask for a written statement of reasons; you can also ask them to reconsider your claim. If this doesn’t resolve the issue you can appeal.
Do I qualify for Housing Benefit?
To qualify for Housing Benefit you need to be on a low income. If you receive means-tested benefits (such as income-based JSA) then you’re by definition on a low income.
You don’t have to receive other benefits to get Housing Benefit, but you’ll need to show your council that you have less to live off after paying rent than the government thinks you need.
If you’re working, you might still be able to claim Housing Benefit – lots of benefits go unclaimed every year so make sure you don’t lose out. It’s worth checking if you’re eligible by using this benefits calculator.
You also need to be able to prove that you pay rent. This can be to a private landlord, council or housing association, as well as hostels.
You can’t usually get Housing Benefit if:
- You have savings of over £16,000
- You live in the home of a close relative
- You’re a full-time student – though there are exemptions (see below)
- You’re an asylum seeker or are sponsored to be in the UK
- You need to pay a mortgage rather than rent
If you live with a partner, only one of you can get Housing Benefit. Both of your incomes (and savings) will be taken into account when working out if you have a low income.
How much Housing Benefit will I get?
If you’re single and under 35 you can only get enough Housing Benefit to pay for one room in shared accommodation.
If your rent costs more you’ll have to make up the difference.
If you live in social housing (council or housing association), then the maximum amount of Housing Benefit you can get will be the same as the rent that you pay. This would be reduced if you were considered to have more bedrooms than you need (see bedroom tax below).
If you receive income-based JSA, income-based ESA, or Income Support, you’ll be entitled to the maximum amount of Housing Benefit for the amount of rooms you’re entitled to and the area that you live in.
What is the bedroom tax?
If you live in social housing and have more bedrooms than the Government says you need, then the amount of Housing Benefit that you can get will be reduced. If you’re worried, you can find more details and advice here.
Bedsits and one-bed flats won’t be affected.
I have savings, can I get Housing Benefit?
If you have savings over £6000 and/or some income, then these can reduce the amount of Housing Benefit you’ll get.
I’m living with someone, can I get Housing Benefit?
If you have another adult living in your home that’s not your partner, or paying their own rent to the landlord, then they’re classed as a ‘non-dependant’. (This could be a friend or family member.) They would normally be expected to make a contribution to the rent, which may reduce the amount of Housing Benefit you’re entitled to.
What about bills?
Housing Benefit doesn’t cover your utility bills (water, heating, lighting etc.) even if they’re included in your rent. However, it could cover charges for some services, such as lifts, communal laundry facilities or play areas.
I’m studying, can I get Housing Benefit?
If you study part-time you can claim Housing Benefit as long as you fulfil the other criteria. Full-time students can’t normally claim, but you might qualify if:
- You’re under 19 and in Further Education (not Higher Education)
- You get income-based JSA, income-based ESA or Income Support
- You’re disabled
- You’re a single parent
- You and your partner are both students with dependent children
- You’re fostering children
- You’ve taken a break from studying for illness, or to care for a sick or disabled person.
If you get a student loan or grant, this will usually affect how much Housing Benefit you get.
The rules about who can claim are complicated, but you can get more advice from a student welfare officer, your local council, or your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
Will the benefit cap affect my Housing Benefit?
The benefit cap was brought in in 2013 to limit the maximum amount of benefits a household can receive per week. Single people without children are capped at £350, couples and those with children at £500.
There are some exemptions to the cap, such as people receiving Working Tax Credit, or certain sickness and disability benefits, such as Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payments (PIPs). Most benefits are included in the cap but some, such as Council Tax Reduction (Council Tax Benefit), aren’t.
Your Housing Benefit will be reduced if your total benefits go over the cap.
When will my Housing Benefit be paid?
Housing Benefit is paid in arrears, which can make things difficult if your landlord wants you to pay your rent in advance. If you’re having problems, talk to your local council office.
I’ve started claiming, when will the money turn up?
Your local authority is meant to pay your Housing Benefit within 14 days, but it can take longer. Make sure you fill in all the relevant parts of your claim form, and bring all the documents they need. Take a copy of the form for your records, and make sure you get a receipt when you hand it in.
If you’re renting privately and it takes longer than two weeks, you should automatically get an interim payment to help pay your rent. If you don’t receive this, speak to someone at your local council’s Housing Benefit office as soon as possible.
But I can’t pay the rent!
If you’re stuck and can prove you can’t manage the rent, you can ask for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from your local council. DHPs are paid for a limited time period (normally three or six months) to plug the gap if you can’t manage the rent.
You can get DHPs to cover you for changes in benefits, such as the bedroom tax and benefit cap, as well as if you need help with deposits, rent in advance or removal costs. Find out how to claim by going to your council’s website.
Universal Credit and changes to Housing Benefit
In a few areas, Housing Benefit now comes under the new Universal Credit (UC) system. Your council can let you know if this is the case for you.
Under UC, various benefit payments will be rolled into one single payment. You should still receive support for paying your rent though – see here for more details.
Where can I go for help with Housing Benefit?
Getting benefits is often a frustrating process. But there are lots of places you can go for help:
- Citizen’s advice volunteers know all about the benefits system and can help you understand your rights. You can visit your local bureau to get face-to-face advice and support. You must remember to bring along details of your benefits and general financial situation.
- Shelter has a comprehensive section on Housing Benefit and offers free confidential advice through face-to-face local services.
- This benefits calculator from Turn2us shows you how much benefit you should be getting – many people don’t realise how much they’re entitled to.
- If you want to challenge a decision about your benefit, you can appeal.
Unfortunately we are unable to offer benefits advice here at TheSite.
Remember to tell your benefits advisor if your circumstances change – for example, if you get a pay rise, new job or get married. If you don’t you could face a £50 fine, as well as having to pay back any extra benefit. See GOV.UK for more information.
- The Citizens Advice Bureau has a great Advice4Me page, which explains legal rights specifically for under-25s.
- 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.
- Use the Turn2Us calculator to work out what benefits and grants you're entitled to, or call their helpline on 0808 802 2000
- 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 Danny Sherwood
Updated on 25-Apr-2014