Help paying your rent – Housing Benefit
If you claim Universal Credit
If you claim Universal Credit any help you are eligible for towards your rent costs will have already been paid within your Universal Credit payments. Therefore you do not normally need to make a separate claim for Housing Benefit. However there are some exceptions to this and if you are in supported accommodation you may continue to have Housing Benefit paid instead.
Universal Credit is slowly being made available to working age couples and families - it depends on your postcode if you will be able to claim Universal Credit. Check your postcode to see if you can apply for Universal Credit (complete the online form which will tell you if can or cannot apply for Universal Credit). If you cannot claim Universal Credit yet you should apply for Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance.
If in doubt please do not hesitate to contact us.
Help to pay your rent
If you do not receive help towards your rent within a Universal Credit claim there are 2 other ways that you can get help if you are on a low income :
- Housing Benefit – This is for people that rent from a housing association, rent a caravan or houseboat, or have a tenancy which began before 1989
- Local Housing Allowance (Housing Benefit) – for people that are renting from a private landlord
Whilst you are receiving Housing Benefit you must tell us about any changes in your circumstances which may affect your claim.
Housing Benefit is available if you:
- Pay rent to a housing association or local authority
- Live in a hostel, caravan, mobile home or houseboat
- Pay a rent that has been registered as a 'fair rent'
- Have a tenancy that began before 1989
- Live in accommodation where a large part of the rent is for board and attendance
You may be able to claim for Housing Benefit if you:
- Are on a low income
- Are working full or part time and earning a low wage
- Have savings under £16,000 (if you are in receipt of pension credit guarantee this limit does not apply)
- Are receiving state benefits
If you rent from a private landlord and make a new claim for housing benefit, have a break in your existing housing benefit claim, or move to privately rented accommodation your claim will be assessed under the rules for Local Housing Allowance.
Housing Benefit cannot normally be paid if you:
- Live with and pay rent to a close relative
- Used to live with your landlord as a member of their family
- Are renting a home that you used to share with your ex-partner
- Are responsible for your landlord’s child
- Used to own the property you now rent
- Live in the home as part of your job
- Live in a care home
- Are a full time student
Changes to Housing Benefit for social housing tenants from April 2018
After 1 April 2018 the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates will be applied to social housing as well as private sector properties.
This will mean that the lower of either the rent charged or the Local Housing Allowance rate will be used to calculate Housing Benefit entitlement.
If you are single and under 35 years of age your claim for Housing Benefit may only be based on the Local Housing Allowance shared room rate.
This will apply to single tenants under the age of 35 who, after 1 April 2016, have signed either a new tenancy or mutual exchange tenancy.
This change in regulation could have a serious impact on your budget and your ability to pay the rent.
Example of how the change could affect payments
The following example is based on current Local Housing Allowance rates for Market Harborough area, assuming maximum benefit is paid :
- rent for 1 bedroom property is £92.77 per week
- less Local Housing Allowance shared room rate £59 per week
- shortfall to pay £33.77 per week (if receiving maximum housing benefit)
Backdating Housing Benefit
We cannot usually start your claim before the date that we receive it just because you did not know or did not think you were entitled to benefit.
If you can show good cause for not making an application earlier we will consider backdating your benefit payments.
We can only backdate your claim for a maximum period of 1 month for working age customers or 3 months for pensioners.
How much Housing Benefit
If you (and your partner, if you are a couple) are on a low income, you can get up to the full amount of your rent. However it could be reduced if:
- You are under pension age, live in a council or housing association home and have one or more 'spare' bedrooms - this is called under occupancy
- Your rent includes a service charge, such as money for things like heating or meals
- The Rent Officer decides that your rent is above the typical rent for suitably sized accommodation in the area - details about how the Rent Officer makes these decisions can be found on the Valuation Office Agency website
- You have other adults in your household, for example grown up children, other relatives or friends - these are known as non-dependants
- Your income is more than the rules say you need to live on
Receiving your Housing Benefit
Housing Benefit is usually paid from the Monday following the date your claim is received by our benefits team.
Housing Benefit payments will be made directly into your bank account.
If you wish you can have payments made directly to your Landlord.
If you do not already have a bank account please make arrangements to open one. If you are unable to open a current account due to your credit history you can open a basic bank account.
We cannot pay into Post Office accounts, and some Building Society accounts do not accept payments – we will contact you to ask for an alternative account if needed.
When payments are made
Payments are made directly to tenants every 2 weeks in arrears, and to Landlords every 4 weeks in arrears.
Payments to tenants by cheque are paid every 4 weeks in arrears.
Housing Benefit for 2 properties
Housing Benefit is normally only paid for the rent you pay on one home at a time. There are a few exceptions to this and you may be able to get extra help if:
- You have moved into other rented accommodation due to fear of violence, you are a student or trainee or one of a couple and have to live in separate rented accommodation from your partner
- You have a large family and the council has housed you in 2 properties
- You have moved to a new home which you pay rent on and still have to pay rent on your old home
Fear of violence
You may get Housing Benefit if you have left your former home and are staying away because of violence or fear of violence. This can be either in your home by another person, or outside your home by a former member of your family. We always have to consider if it is reasonable to pay Housing Benefit and we may pay for up to 52 weeks. For Housing Benefit to be paid you must intend to return and live in the home you left.
Students or trainees (couples that live in separate properties)
Couples who are living in separate rented properties may get Housing Benefit for both properties. We must agree that you cannot avoid living in separate accommodation and that it is reasonable to pay benefit on both homes. There is no time limit on these payments.
If you have a large family and we have housed you in 2 separate homes because your household is too large to be placed in 1 home, we can pay Housing Benefit for both properties. Both properties must be public housing (whether or not provided directly by the council) and should be next to each other or within a few streets of each other. There is no time limit on these payments.
New home but still paying rent on old home
If you have moved to a new home, which you rent, and still have to pay rent on your old home you may be able to get some help. The situation has to be unavoidable, for example if you were offered a new home to rent but were unable to give your old landlord the notice they needed. Housing Benefit may be paid for up to 4 weeks on your old home. For this to be considered you must have moved to your new home.
If you are temporarily absent from home - temporary absence rule
Normally Housing Benefit can only be paid if you are actually living in the property you are claiming benefit for.
However there are situations where we may still pay Housing Benefit if you are temporarily away from your home for up to 4, 13 or 52 weeks, depending on your circumstances.
To keep receiving Housing Benefit when not living at your property all the following must apply:
- You must intend to come back to live in the property
- The part of the property you normally live in must not have been re-let or sub-let to someone else
- You must not be likely to be away for more than 4 weeks (13 or 52 weeks in special circumstances)
If you are paid housing benefit under the temporary absence rule and there is a change in your circumstances that means you no longer intend to return to the property you are claiming for, we will stop paying benefit from the date of change.
Also if it comes to light whilst you are away that you will be away for longer than initially thought you should contact us straight away as we may have to stop paying benefit.
Whilst you are away you should still notify us of any changes to your circumstances so as we can ensure your benefit is paid correctly.
If you are going abroad
The government has made a change to the rules on claiming housing benefit when your absence is outside of Great Britain.
From 28 July 2016 you can usually only get housing benefit for up to 4 weeks if your absence is outside of Great Britain.
Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales
It does not include Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Isles
*If your absence commenced before 28 July 2016 please contact us for further advice as the rules will be different.
In certain circumstances you can get housing benefit when you are abroad for a longer period, for example up to:
- 8 weeks where your absence is connected to the death of a close relative
- 26 weeks when you are getting medical treatment
- 26 weeks where you are working on a ship or you're a member of the armed forces on operations abroad
- 26 weeks if you are fleeing domestic violence
When you can be away for up to 13 weeks
Examples of when you can get housing benefit for up to13 weeks include if you are:
- staying in a relative's home to look after them while they are ill
- move into a care home on a trial basis to see if it meets your needs
- on holiday
When you can be away for up to 52 weeks
Examples of when you can get housing benefit for up to 52 weeks if you're away include because you're:
- fleeing home due to violence or a fear of violence
- a patient in hospital
- on a government-approved training course
- receiving care in a residential home
- providing care for a child whose parent or guardian is away from home receiving medical treatment
If you are in prison or on remand
You can get housing benefit for up to 52 weeks if you are on bail or in prison on remand.
If you have been sentenced and are in prison, you can only get housing benefit for up to 13 weeks.
If you are absent from home again
If you return to your home for at least 24 hours, your period of absence away from your home starts again.
For example, you were in hospital for six months and were discharged, but after a week you had to go back into hospital. You can then get housing benefit for up to another 52 weeks.
This does not apply to if you are a convicted prisoner allowed home on temporary release