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Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit can help you pay your rent if you have a low income. How much you get depends on your income and how much rent you’re paying.

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About Housing Benefit

You may be able to get Housing Benefit if you live in council, housing association or private rented property. It’s means-tested, so the amount you get depends on how much money you have coming in. This means you may be able to get all of your rent paid or just part of it. You can be in or out of work and you don’t have to be getting other benefits to claim it.

Who is Housing Benefit for?

You can get this to help pay your rent if you and your husband, wife or civil partner (if you have one) are on a low income and have savings or capital below £16,000.

You don’t need to have worked in the past or be getting other benefits to get Housing Benefit and there are no age limits. You can’t usually get it if you live in a close relative’s household or if you’re a full-time student. There are also immigration or residence tests for people coming to the UK, which may exclude you from getting the benefit if they apply to you.

How much could you get?

The amount you can get depends on two things: the means test and whether all the rent that you pay is covered by the Housing Benefit rules. 

Housing Benefit means test

How much Housing Benefit you could you get depends on whether you have savings or capital £16,000 or below and on your income. The lower your income is, the more Housing Benefit you can get. If your income goes up, the amount of Housing Benefit you can get goes down.

As with other means tested benefits, some income is taken into account in full, some in part and some is ignored. While these rules are complex, a common rule is that your benefit can go up if you (or your husband, wife or civil partner or child) have a disability or are a carer. 

If you’re claiming another means tested benefit, such as income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support or Pension Credit, you may get Housing Benefit in full. This means without any reduction due to income. This means without any reduction due to income. Whether it covers all the rent that you pay depends on the rules outlined in the next section.

How much of your rent is covered?

This benefit can be restricted to less than you pay in rent depending on whether you live in council, housing association or private rented property. Other rules, like the bedroom tax and the benefit cap have to be considered too.

If you live in private-rented accommodation

Here, your Housing Benefit depends on the local housing rules, which normally restrict it based on:

  • a level of rent that is below the local average
  • the size of the accommodation that the rules say you need rather than what you live in.

You can look up your Local Housing Allowance   and find out the size of the accommodation that the rules say that you and your family need, and the standard amount that applies in your area.

If you’re single and aged under 35

There are special rules if you’re single, under 35 and in private-rented accommodation. These rules generally mean you get less because you’re only covered for the cost of a single bedroom in shared accommodation.

If your rent includes service charges

If your rent includes service charges, water rates or other items that aren’t covered by Housing Benefit, these charges must first be deducted in the calculation of your benefit entitlement.

Bedroom tax if you rent from a council or housing association

If you rent your home from a council or housing association, the amount you can claim may be reduced if you’re of working age and are considered to have one or more spare bedrooms. This is what people are calling the bedroom tax.

See GOV.uk   for an explanation of what counts as a spare room and what this would mean in terms of the amount of money you can claim. You may be able to get Discretionary Housing Payments if your Housing Benefit is restricted due to the bedroom tax.

The benefit cap

There is a cap on the total amount you can receive from the main out-of-work benefits and children’s benefits. If they add up to more than your cap level, your Housing Benefit will be reduced. This is a complex area because not all benefits are taken into account and some people are exempt so the cap doesn’t apply to them. 

If you have other adults living with you

If you have any other adults living with you, like an adult son or daughter, they’re known as non-dependants and you may get a reduced amount of Housing Benefit. This is because they’re expected to pay towards the cost of living in your home, instead of the taxpayer.

How to claim

If you’re claiming means-tested benefits such as income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support or Pension Credit, you’ll normally be able to claim Housing Benefit at the same time. Otherwise, ask your council for a claim form or download one   and send it to your council.

If you’re claiming Universal Credit, you can get help paying for housing with your Universal Credit payment instead of getting Housing Benefit. For more information see our information about Universal Credit.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you’ll need to claim through the Northern Ireland Housing Executive  .

If you qualify

If you rent from a council your Housing Benefit will be paid into your rent account. If you rent from a housing association, the rent will usually be paid directly. 

If your claim is rejected

If you’re refused or you disagree with the council’s written decision, you have one month to appeal.

What else do you need to know?

This benefit is slowly being replaced by Universal Credit.

Useful links

  • GOV.uk – Housing Benefit in England, Scotland and Wales 
  • Housing Advice NI – housing benefits in Northern Ireland

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