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Housing Benefit

If you are on a low income and living in rented accommodation, you may be entitled to help with your rent


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


If you are a carer of working age and need to make a new claim for help with your rent, you may no longer be able to claim Housing Benefit and will need to claim Universal Credit (UC) instead.

However there are exceptions – you should still be able to make a new claim for Housing Benefit (and not UC) if:

  • You (and any partner) are state pension age.
  • You already get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (IB JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (IR ESA) or Housing Benefit and get the Severe Disability Premium in this benefit (or did within the last month and are still eligible for it).
  • You are in temporary accommodation, or sheltered or supported housing with special facilities such as alarms or wardens.

If you do not fall into one of the above categories of people who should be able to make a new claim for Housing Benefit, you will need to claim UC instead. If this is your situation, the below information will not be relevant for you, and so please see our UC page for further information.

Housing Benefit is a means-tested benefit. This means that 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 can claim Housing Benefit from your local council benefits department (in England, Wales and 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.


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 Helpline.

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 Helpline.

 

 

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How much Housing Benefit can I get?

Housing Benefit is complicated to work out so email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a benefits check to work out how much Housing Benefit you are entitled to.

If you are claiming Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's 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 that 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) if you are:

  • a couple – since 1 April 2017, it has been the case that if a couple is unable to share a bedroom due to health reasons, 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  since 1st April 2017 this has also extended 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 note below
  • 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 rules that were introduced on 1 April 2017 are the same as the rules that apply to the 'bedroom tax' – for further information see the 'bedroom tax' webpage.

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-dependant deduction’ made from your Housing Benefit. You will have a ‘non-dependant deduction’ for each non-dependant 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-dependant), 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-dependant deduction’ can be made.

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

No ‘non-dependant 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 Jobseeker's 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-dependant deduction’ can be made, how much will it be?

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

If your non-dependant is on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, the amount is £15.25 per week.

If your non-dependant is not in employment (generally of over 16 or more hours per week) the amount is £15.25 per week.

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

 


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 age
  • £181 if you are state pension age

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

  • £114.85 if at least one member of the couple is over 18 
  • £270.60 if at least one member of the couple is of pension age 

There are other personal allowance amounts if you do not fit into one of these categories. For further information email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

There are certain premiums that can be added onto your personal allowance, if you meet certain conditions. It is a good idea to get a benefits check to make sure all the right premiums are being included in your Housing Benefit calculation. For further guidance, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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 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 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).


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’.


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 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 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 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 and 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, it may still be possible to challenge the decision. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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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 a 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.

 

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