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Housing Benefit

If you are on a low income, and living in rented accommodation, Housing Benefit can help with your rent.


This information applies to people living in England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland.


Housing Benefit is a means-tested benefit. The amount you can get depends on your (and any partner's) income and capital. You can get Housing Benefit if you are working, even if you are working full time. The amount you can get also depends on whether you are in privately rented housing or social housing, and on who lives with you.

You claim Housing Benefit from your local council benefits department (in England, Wales & Scotland) or the Housing Executive (in Northern Ireland). You should claim as soon as you think you may be eligible. It can sometimes be backdated but any delay could mean you lose out.

Note: In certain parts of the country working age people will have to claim Universal Credit instead of Housing Benefit, however most carers are not yet affected by this. For further information see the Universal Credit section of our website.


Who can claim Housing Benefit?

You may be able to claim Housing Benefit if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You must be liable for rent at the property where you normally live. It is often possible to continue to get Housing Benefit if you are temporarily absent.
  • You must not be in an ineligible group.
  • You (and any partner) must have income and capital below a certain amount.

Being temporarily absent

You can continue to get Housing Benefit if you are temporarily absent from your normal home for any reason (as long as you are still in Great Britain) for up to 13 weeks if you intend to return, if it has not been let or sub-let, and if your absence is unlikely to exceed 13 weeks. See note below for the rules if your absence is not within Great Britain.

You can continue to get Housing Benefit if you are temporarily absent from your normal home (as long as you are still in Great Britain) for up to 52 weeks if you intend to return, if it has not been let or sub-let, and if your absence is unlikely to exceed 52 weeks (or unlikely to substantially exceed 52 weeks in exceptional circumstances) in certain circumstances, including if you are providing medically approved care to anyone. See below for the rules if your absence is not within Great Britain.

If you are temporarily absent abroad then you can only continue to get Housing Benefit for up to four weeks (if you intend to return, if the property has not been let or sub-let, and if your absence is unlikely to exceed four weeks).Anywhere outside of England, Scotland and Wales counts as being abroad, including Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

These rules can be complicated so if you are (or are intending to be) temporarily absent contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

Being in an ineligible group

Ineligible groups include most students, most people who do not satisfy the residence and presence tests, most people who live with and pay rent to a close relative, and most people whose letting is not on a commercial basis. For further information on ineligible groups contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

 

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How much Housing Benefit can I get?

Housing Benefit is complicated to work out so contact the Carers UK Adviceline for a benefit check to work out how much Housing Benefit you are entitled to.

If you are claiming Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Guarantee Pension Credit, you should get all of your 'eligible rent' covered by Housing Benefit, less any deductions for non-dependants. See ‘Step 1: Work out your ‘eligible rent’ below for further information.

If you are not claiming one of these benefits then the local council will carry out a calculation to work out whether you are eligible for any Housing Benefit. If you (or any partner) have over £16,000 in capital then you will not be entitled to Housing Benefit (unless you are in receipt of Guarantee Pension Credit).

To work out whether you are eligible for any Housing Benefit, the local council will follow these steps:

  1. Work out your ‘eligible rent’
  2. Deduct any amounts for non-dependants
  3. Work out your ‘applicable amount’
  4. Work out your income
  5. Compare your income to your ‘applicable amount’

Step 1: Work out your 'eligible rent'

Your 'eligible rent' is the maximum amount of Housing Benefit which you could be entitled to. This depends on whether you are in privately rented housing or social housing, and on who lives with you.

If you are renting privately

If you are renting privately, then your 'eligible rent' depends on your ‘local housing allowance’ (LHA). Your LHA depends on how many rooms you are entitled to, and on where you live. Unless you are a single person under 35 years of age (without children), or a person in shared accommodation, you are allowed one bedroom (up to a maximum of four bedrooms) for:

  • a couple - however from 1st April 2017 if a couple is unable to share a bedroom due to health reasons then both members of the couple should be allowed their own bedroom - see below note
  • a person over 16
  • two children of the same sex under 16
  • two children who are under 10
  • any other child (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • a disabled child who is in receipt of the middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), where the local council decision maker is satisfied that the child cannot reasonably share a bedroom
  • a non-resident carer (or group of carers) providing overnight care to the tenant or their partner where this is considered to be required - from 1st April 2017 this also extends to a non-resident carer (or group of carers) providing overnight care to a child or non-dependent adult where this is considered to be required - see below note
  • an adult child who is in the Armed Forces, including the Reserve Forces, but who continues to live with parents (note: they are treated as continuing to live at home, even when deployed on operations)
  • approved foster carers (and formal kinship carers in Scotland) so long as they have fostered a child, or become an approved foster carer in the last 12 months

Note: The new rules from 1st April 2017 are the same as the new rules which apply to the 'bedroom tax'- for further information see the section on the 'bedroom tax' webpage called 'From 1st April 2017: When do the size criteria rules allow for an additional bedroom?'.

If you are a single person under 35 years of age (without children) your LHA will be that for one bedroom in shared accommodation, even if you don’t live in shared accommodation, although there are some exceptions to this. If you are a single claimant aged 35 or over or in a couple without children your LHA will only be that for one bedroom in shared accommodation if you actually live in shared accommodation.

If you live in England, Wales or Scotland you can find out the LHA rates in your area here. If you live in Northern Ireland you can find out the LHA rates in your area here.

If your LHA is more than your actual rent liability, then your 'eligible rent' is your actual rent figure. If your LHA is less than your actual rent liability, then your 'eligible rent' is your LHA figure.

If you are in social housing

If you are in social housing, then your 'eligible rent' is your actual rent figure. However, if you are considered to have any ‘spare rooms’, you could be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’. The amount of bedrooms you are allowed follows the same rules as those outlined above in the LHA section.

If you are considered to have one spare room then your 'eligible rent' is your actual rent figure minus 14%. If you are considered to have two or more spare rooms, then your 'eligible rent' is your actual rent figure minus 25%.

For further information you can view the ‘bedroom tax’ section of our website.

Note: The 'bedroom tax' has now been introduced in Northern Ireland. However, until around 2020 the money that you lose will be replaced from a separate fund. This means that most people in Northern Ireland will not lose out financially because of the changes.


Step 2: Deduct any amounts for non-dependants

If you have someone living with you who is not your partner or a dependent child, then you might have a ‘non-dependent deduction’ made from your Housing Benefit. You will have a ‘non-dependent deduction’ for each non-dependent who lives with you. This could include adult children, or other relatives or friends.

This means that a set amount will be deducted from your Housing Benefit per week (the amount depends on the circumstances of your non-dependent), as the local council will assume that this person will contribute something towards your rent, even if this is not actually the case.

However, there are some situations where no ‘non-dependent deduction’ can be made.

When can no ‘non-dependent deduction’ be made?

No ‘non-dependent deduction’ can be made if you (the Housing Benefit claimant) or your partner:

  • Receive the care component of DLA, the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP), Attendance Allowance (AA) or Constant Attendance Allowance; or
  • Are certified by a consultant ophthalmologist as severely sight impaired or blind, or have ceased to be so certified in the past 28 weeks.

No ‘non-dependant deduction’ can be made if your non-dependant:

  • Is under 18; or
  • Is under 25 and on Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance or assessment-phase income-related Employment and Support Allowance; or
  • Is under 25 and entitled to Universal Credit (unless they have any earnings); or
  • Is on Pension Credit; or
  • Gets a Work-Based Learning for Young People training allowance; or
  • Has been in an NHS hospital for over 52 weeks; or
  • Is detained in prison or a similar institution; or
  • Has their normal home elsewhere; or
  • Is not residing with you because they are a member of the armed forces away on operations; or
  • Is a full-time student.

If a ‘non-dependent deduction’ can be made, how much will it be?

If a ‘non-dependent deduction’ can be made then the amount will depend on your non-dependants circumstances.

If your non-dependent is on Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance including either the Work Related Activity component or the Support component, the amount is £14.80 per week.

If your non-dependent is not is employment (generally of over 16 or more hours per week) the amount is £14.80 per week.

If your non-dependent is in employment (generally of over 16 or more hours per week) the amount depends on their gross weekly income:

Gross weekly income      Amount per week

Under £136                          £14.80

£136 to £199.99                   £34.00

£200 to £258.00                   £46.65

£259 to £345.99                   £76.35

£346 to £429.99                   £86.95

£430 or more                        £95.45


Step 3: Work out your 'applicable amount'
Your ‘applicable amount’ is worked out by adding your personal allowance to any premiums you are entitled to.

Your personal allowance depends on your age and whether you are single or in a couple.

If you are single then your personal allowance is:

  • £73.10 if you are over 25 and under state pension credit age
  • £159.35 if you are over state pension credit age and under 65
  • £172.55 if you are 65+

If you are in a couple then your personal allowance is:

  • £114.85 if one member of the couple of over 18 and under state pension credit age
  • £243.25 if one member of the couple is over state pension credit age and under 65
  • £258.15 if one member of the couple is 65+

There are other personal allowance amounts if you do not fit into one of these categories. For further information contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

There are certain premiums that can be added onto your personal allowance, including:

  • The Disabled Child Premium which is £60.90 per week and can be included for each dependent child or ‘qualifying young person’ who receives DLA or PIP or who is certified by a consultant ophthalmologist as severely sight impaired or blind or has ceased to be so certified in the past 28 weeks.
  • The Carer Premium which is £34.95 per week and can be included if you or your partner are receiving Carer’s Allowance or the underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance.
  • The Disability Premium which is £32.55 per week for a single person and £46.40 per week for a couple and can be included if you or your partner are receiving DLA, PIP or Attendance Allowance. This cannot be included if the Housing Benefit claimant receives Employment and Support Allowance.
  • The Enhanced Disability Premium (sometimes called the disability income guarantee) which is £15.90 per week for a single person and £22.85 per week for a couple and can be included if you or your partner are receiving the higher rate of the care component of DLA, the enhanced rate of the daily living component of PIP or the higher rate of Attendance Allowance. There is also an
  • Enhanced Disability Premium for a child which is £24.78 per week and can be included for each dependent child or ‘qualifying young person’ who receives the higher rate of the care component of DLA or the enhanced rate of the daily living component of PIP
  • The Severe Disability Premium which is £62.45 per week for each person who qualifies and can be included if you (and your partner if you have one) receive a qualifying disability benefit (which includes the middle or the higher rate of the care component of DLA, either rate of the daily living component of PIP or either rate of Attendance Allowance); live alone (there are exceptions to this rule); and if no one is paid Carer’s Allowance or the carer element of Universal Credit for looking after you.
  • The Support Component is £36.55 per week and can be included if the Housing Benefit claimant is in the support group of Employment and Support Allowance.

For example, the ‘applicable amount’ for a 40 year old single person who also receives Carer’s Allowance would be: Personal Allowance (£73.10) + Carer Premium (£34.95) = £108.05 per week.

Note: The Family Premium which was is £17.45 per week and could be included if you have one or more dependent child or ‘qualifying young person’ can no longer be included for new claims for Housing Benefit and existing Housing Benefit claimants who had their first child on or after 1st May 2016 (England, Wales & Scotland) or on or after 5th September 2016 (Northern Ireland).

Note: The Work Related Activity Component of £29.05 per week will no longer be included if a new claim for ESA was made after the 3rd of April 2017. It can continue if you are already receiving ESA prior to the 3rd April 2017, or if you made your claim before this date, but it was awarded after this date


Note: ‘State pension credit’ age for a woman is the age they reach state pension age and for a man is the age they would reach state pension age if they were a woman. You can find out whether you are state pension credit age here.


Note: A dependent child or ‘qualifying young person’ is someone who you or your partner are getting (or entitled to get) Child Benefit for.


Step 4: Work out your income

Most income you receive is taken into account, such as earnings (although some of your earnings will be disregarded), other benefits (including Carer’s Allowance) and tax credits; personal pensions etc. However some income is disregarded including: DLA; PIP; Attendance Allowance; Child Benefit and any Child Maintenance you receive.

If you are of ‘working age’ (which means you have not yet reached state pension credit age) and have capital (not including the home you live in) of over £6,000, £1 per week is taken into account as income for every £250 (or part of £250) you have over £6,000. This is called ‘tariff income’. For example if you have £10,000 in capital your ‘tariff income’ would be £16 per week. If you have over £16,000 in capital then you will not be entitled to Housing Benefit.

If you are of ‘state pension credit’ age and have capital (not including the home you live in) of over £10,000, £1 per week is taken into account as income for every £500 (or part of £500) you have over £10,000. This is called ‘tariff income’. For example if you have £12,000 in capital your ‘tariff income’ would be £4 per week. If you have over £16,000 in capital then you will not be entitled to Housing Benefit (unless you are entitled to Guarantee Pension Credit).

For example the income of a working age person who receives Carer’s Allowance and has £10,000 in capital would be:

Carer’s Allowance (£62.70) + ‘tariff income’ (£16) = £78.70 per week.


Step 5: Compare your income to your 'applicable amount'

If your income is less than, or equal to, your ‘applicable amount’, you should get all of your 'eligible rent' covered by Housing Benefit, less any deductions for non-dependants.

If your income is more than your 'applicable amount' then the amount of your Housing Benefit would be your 'eligible rent', less any deductions for non-dependants, less 65% of the difference between your income and your ‘applicable amount’.


Example of a Housing Benefit calculation where your income is more than your ‘applicable amount’

Barry is a ‘working age’ carer who lives with his wife Ella and their 30 year old son Bruce who receives the higher rate care component of DLA and Employment and Support Allowance. Barry receives Carer’s Allowance of £62.70 and Ella works 20 hours per week earning £7.50 per hour (£150 per week). They live in social housing with no spare rooms and their rent liability is £100 per week.

Their 'eligible rent' would be £100 per week. They would have a non-dependant deduction of £14.80 per week because Bruce lives with them.

Their ‘applicable amount’ would be: Personal Allowance (£114.85) + Carer Premium (£34.95) = £149.80

Their income would be: Carer’s Allowance (£62.70) + Beatrice’s earnings (£150 less £10 earnings disregard = £140) = £202.70

As their income (£202.70 ) is more than their 'applicable amount' (£149.80) then the amount of their Housing Benefit would be:

'Eligible rent' (£100) less non-dependant deduction (£14.80) less 65% of the difference between their income and their ‘applicable amount’ (the difference between their income and their ‘applicable amount’ is £52.90 x 65% = £34.38) = £50.82 per week Housing Benefit.


Note: If you are affected by the benefit cap then this might reduce the amount of Housing Benefit you actually receive. For more information about the benefit cap, including which households will be exempt from the cap, please see the benefit cap section of our website.

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How do I claim Housing Benefit?

In England, Wales & Scotland you can get a claim form from the benefits department of your local council. To find the contact details of your local council you can click here.

In Northern Ireland you can get a claim from by calling the Housing Executive on 03448 920 902, you can download a claim form from the Housing Executive website, or you can or you can call in to any Housing Executive office and collect a claim form (you can find the contact details of your local Housing Executive office here).

If you are under state pension credit age you can ask for Housing Benefit to be backdated for up to one month if you have ‘good cause’ for the delay in claiming.

If you are state pension credit age, you can ask for Housing Benefit to be backdated for up to three months without having to show ‘good cause’.

Note: If there is a change in your circumstances you must notify the benefits department of your local council (in England, Wales & Scotland) or the Housing Executive (in Northern Ireland).

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What happens if I disagree with a decision?

If you disagree with a Housing Benefit decision you can challenge it. You have one month from the date on the decision letter to ask your council (in England, Wales & Scotland) or Housing Executive (in Northern Ireland) to review their decision. You should write a letter to the council/Housing Executive containing your full name, address, National Insurance number, reference number (this should be at the top of your decision letter) and the date of their decision. In your letter you should try to explain clearly why you think the decision is wrong and include any relevant evidence.

If you’re able to, you should hand the letter in to the council/Housing Executive offices and get a receipt that includes the date on which you handed over the letter. However, if you decide to post the letter, make sure you get a certificate of posting, use recorded delivery or keep a note of the date of posting, along with a photocopy.

If you are not happy with the council’s/Housing Executive's reviewed decision, then you can appeal this to an independent tribunal. You must ask for an appeal in writing within one month of the council’s/Housing Executive's decision.


Note: If you fall outside any of the time limits mentioned above, then it may still be possible to challenge the decision. For more information contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

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What are Discretionary Housing Payments?

If you have a shortfall in your rent, either because of the LHA, the bedroom tax, the benefit cap, 'non-dependent deductions', or simply the amount of Housing Benefit you can get because of your income and capital, then you can apply for Discretionary Housing Payments.

Discretionary Housing Payments are additional payments on top of Housing Benefit to help people who cannot afford their rent shortfall. In your application you will need to include details of your situation and why you cannot afford to make these payments.

Discretionary Housing Payments are funded by a limited sum of money and most councils will not award Discretionary Housing Payment on an ongoing basis. Therefore, these payments may only be a temporary help while you look to find another solution to the problem.

However the council must not have blanket policy about how and who it will award to and for how long. It should treat each case on case by case basis, but must act consistently. Government guidance has stated that Discretionary Housing Payments should be specifically aimed at some groups of people including:

  • ”disabled people living in significantly adapted accommodation, including any adaptations made for disabled children...” The guidance goes on to say that “it will sometimes be more cost-effective for them to remain in their current accommodation rather than moving them into smaller accommodation which needs to be adapted.”

The Guidance also gives some examples of groups of people that might benefit from staying in their home, and therefore receive a DHP to enable them to do so. Including:

  • "people with health or medical problems who need access to local medical services or support that might not be available elsewhere;
  • disabled people who receive informal care and support in their current neighbourhood from family and friends which would not be available in a new area. In this respect you may also consider families who have a child with an impairment who rely heavily on local support networks;
  • the elderly or frail who have lived in the area for a long time and would find it difficult to establish support networks in a new area;"

Completing the Discretionary Housing Payment Form

The Discretionary Housing Payment form will ask for reasons why you are unable to secure smaller/cheaper accommodation and will also ask for a breakdown of your finances in order to see if you can reasonably afford to pay the shortfall.

Give as much information as you can around why it is hard for you to move to a smaller/cheaper property and what you have done to try and find this accommodation. It might be that there are important services nearby that you or the person you care for need to be able to access.

Focus on why you are struggling to pay the rent shortfall, for example if the amount needed to make up your rent shortfall causes you and your family financial hardship. Explain if you have debts to pay and how you are trying to manage that. Have you looked at other ways to meet the shortfall, for example by cutting non-essential spending, making sure everyone in the household contribute if they can.

Evidence of illness or disability can be provided to help evidence the problems you may have in moving.

We understand that some local authorities are taking disability benefits such as Disability Living Allowance & Personal Independent Payment into account when assessing the ability to pay the shortfall in the rent that the Housing Benefit does not cover.  However local authorities need to take into account the purpose of that income and to assess this in a fair way when making their decision. Therefore it would be useful for you to set out any extra costs that are incurred because of the disability of the person in the household.

For example the disability benefit may help pay for extra heating or water costs, laundry and specialist washing powders, special dietary requirements or clothing and footwear, extra bedding, for example, because of incontinence, garden maintenance, private cleaning, or domestic help, if needed because of disability and not provided by social services, privately arranged care services, including respite care or the purchase, maintenance and repair of disability related equipment.

To apply for Discretionary Housing Payments in England, Wales & Scotland you can contact your local council. To find the contact details of your local council you can click here.

To apply for Discretionary Housing Payments in Northern Ireland you can contact your local Housing Executive office (you can find the contact details of your local Housing Executive office here) or you can download a claim form from the Housing Executive website.

Note: In Northern Ireland only Housing Benefit claimants who are renting privately can apply for Discretionary Housing Benefits.

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