Housing Benefit is a central government benefit that helps people on a low income pay their rent. Housing Benefit is administered by local councils.
Housing Benefit is no longer available to everyone, because of the introduction of Universal Credit. Universal Credit is a newer central government benefit that includes an element for rent known as Housing costs. It is administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Whether you should claim Housing Benefit or whether you need to apply for Universal Credit depends on your circumstances and where you live.
Who can claim Housing Benefit
To be eligible for Housing Benefit all the following must apply:
- you pay rent and have a formal tenancy agreement
- you are on a low income
- you have less than £16,000 in savings, unless you get Guarantee Pension Credit
- you are not a sponsored immigrant getting financial support from a UK resident
You should claim Housing Benefit or will remain on Housing Benefit rather than Universal Credit if any of the following also apply:
- you are Pension Credit age
This is state pension age for women. For men it is the state pension age of a woman with the same date of birth as you. You can check your Pension Credit age at GOV.UK.
- you live in supported exempt accommodation – supported exempt accommodation includes hostels, refuges, and homes for people with disabilities
- you have more than 2 children until 30.1.2019 (after this date you will have to claim Universal Credit)
- from 16 January 2019 if you have a Severe Disability Premium (including those who have had a break in claim but have been entitled within the last month) in any of the following benefits; Housing Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance (Income Based), Employment & Support Allowance (Income Related), or Income Support and you are in receipt of one of the following disability benefits, live alone (or be classed as living alone) and no one must be in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or the Universal Credit Carer Element for caring for you:
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA) care component at the middle or higher rate
- Personal Independence Payment PIP) daily living component at the standard or enhance rate
- Attendance Allowance or Constant Attendance Allowance
- Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP)
If none of these apply, then check Universal Credit eligibility to find out which benefit to apply for. If you find you can’t claim Housing Benefit but can claim Universal Credit, apply straightaway using the GOV.UK online Universal Credit application form – Universal Credit can’t usually be backdated.
Single people aged 18 to 21 who can claim Housing Benefit can get help with rent. But if they can’t claim Housing Benefit, they may not be able to get help through Universal Credit. See housing costs for 18 to 21 year olds.
Couples and Housing Benefit
Only one person in a couple can claim Housing Benefit. We still need to know information about both of you.
Joint tenants and Housing Benefit
Individuals sharing a home as joint tenants can make separate Housing Benefit claims for their share of the rent.
Full-time students and Housing Benefit
If you are a full-time student, you can only get Housing Benefit if any of the following apply:
- you get Income Support or income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance or income related Employment Support Allowance
- you are 21 or under and in normal education (up to A level)
- you or your partner are 60 or over
- you are responsible for a child or for a foster child placed by the local authority or voluntary organisation
- you meet conditions for a disability premium
- you have limited capacity for work for Employment Support Allowance purposes for at least 28 weeks
- you get a grant that includes an amount for deafness
Renting from a close relative
If your landlord is a close relative, you can only get Housing Benefit if you do not live with them and the tenancy is on a commercial basis.
You can tell us how your tenancy has been set up by filling in our customer questionnaire if you rent from a relative. You can send us these when you apply for Housing Benefit to avoid delay or you can wait to find out if we need them.
Tell us about your tenancy if renting from a relative
As a landlord renting a property to a relative you will need to fill in the landlord questionnaire at the same time.
Tell us about your tenancy as a landlord renting to a relative
How to apply for Housing Benefit
We find that most people check if they are entitled to any help before they actually apply for Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support. For more information about this see GOV.UK calculators.
To apply for Housing Benefit, see claiming Housing Benefit online
You still need to use our form even if you have already answered questions about claiming Housing Benefit at your local Job Centre. This is so we have full information and can make sure you get all the benefit you are entitled to.
You might also be able to claim Council Tax Support if you are on a low income. The same form covers both Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support, so you can apply for both at the same time.
What happens after you apply for Housing Benefit
We normally make decisions and start making payments within 10 working days of getting all the information we need. You will be able to see our decision letter as soon as we issue it if you have an online account – you can register for an account now if you haven’t done so already. We will post the letter if you don’t have an online account. We may also phone you.
We usually award Housing Benefit from the Monday after we get the form, unless we agree to backdate the claim. For more information about payments, see housing benefit payments.
You must tell us about any changes that might affect your claim.
There is a process you can follow if you disagree with our decision.
If someone is helping you with your Housing Benefit claim
If someone is helping with your Housing Benefit claim and you want us to share information with them, you need to let us know that you are happy for us to do so. See authority to discuss.
Where people are unable to manage their own financial affairs, an appointee can handle their benefits claims for them.
Foreign nationals and returning UK nationals
Foreign nationals and UK nationals returning to the UK after living in another country may need to give us extra information so we can check eligibility for Housing Benefit. To find out how to send us the completed forms, see supporting evidence.
European Economic Area nationals
If you are a European Economic Area (EEA) national, we may need you to fill in a person from abroad (PFA) form, a habitual residency form or both. You can send us these when you apply to avoid delay, or you can wait to find out if we need them.
Returning UK and Irish nationals
If you are a UK or Irish national returning to the UK after living in another country, we might ask you to fill in a habitual residency form . You can send us this when you apply to avoid delay, or you can wait to find out if we need it.
People from the rest of the world
If you are not a UK, Irish or EEA national, you need to give us copies of letters from the UK Visas and Immigration Agency, the UK Border Agency or the Home Office showing us how you are able to live and work in the UK. We will need this before we can consider your claim.
How much Housing Benefit you might get
You can get an estimate of how much Housing Benefit you might get by using the entitled to benefits calculator (link opens in a new window) or the Turn2us benefits calculator (link opens in a new window).
The amount you can get depends on your circumstances. To find out more about how different circumstances affect benefit claims, see working out Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.
Housing Benefit is based on ‘eligible rent’. Where rent includes services, some services will count towards eligible rent and some will be ‘ineligible’. Eligible services include communal services such as caretakers and shared area heating and lighting. Ineligible services include things like water, heating, and payments for food.
If you are a social housing tenant, your Housing Benefit won’t cover what you pay for ineligible services. If you are a private tenant, Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules mean you can include both eligible and ineligible services up to the LHA limit.
There is a bedroom limitation for social housing tenants - see Under-occupancy rules ('bedroom tax')
Backdating Housing Benefit claims
The arrangements for backdating Housing Benefit claims are different for working age people and people of Pension Credit age.
Backdating Housing Benefit for working age people
Housing Benefit can be backdated for working age people for up to a month from the date we get a written request to backdate, where there is a good reason for not claiming earlier. You will need to tell us why you have been unable to make a claim earlier. You can do this when you apply for Housing Benefit or put the detail on the contact us about benefits form.
Backdating Housing Benefit for people of Pension Credit age
If you are Pension Credit age, we will automatically look at your circumstances for the 3 months before the date you apply for Housing Benefit. We will then backdate your claim for up to 3 months if you meet the qualifying criteria. This is called ‘take up’.
Extended Housing Benefit payments
If you are starting a job or have increased your earnings, you might still be able to get Housing Benefit at the same rate as before for 4 weeks. See extended benefit payments.
Temporary absence and Housing Benefit
In some situations, you can keep claiming the same amount of Housing Benefit even if you or other people have to live away from home for a while. See temporary absence.
Housing Benefit prior to occupation
You might be able to get Housing Benefit to cover up to 4 weeks rent if you had to pay rent before you were able to move in. This type of Housing Benefit is called ‘benefit prior to occupation’. You can ask for benefit prior to occupation in any of the following circumstances:
- you could not move in because you were waiting for Emergency Assistance support to meet a need related to moving in to the property, and you have a child aged 5 or under, and you were not paying rent at another address
- you could not move in because you were waiting for Emergency Assistance support to meet a need related to moving in to the property, and you are of Pension Credit age, and you were not paying rent at another address
- you could not move in because you were waiting for Emergency Assistance support to meet a need related to moving in to the property, and your Housing Benefit calculation includes disabled or disabled child premium, and you were not paying rent at another address
- you could not move in because you were in a hospital or in a nursing or residential home, and you were not paying rent at another address
- you could not move in because you were waiting for work to be done in the property to meet the needs of a disabled household member
You can apply online for benefit prior to occupation. You need to apply for Housing Benefit before you move, but you can only apply for benefit prior to occupation after you have moved in.
Sharing information with landlords
It can help us deal with your claim or changes to your claim faster if we can talk to your landlord. There is space on the application form for you to say whether you are happy for us to do this or not. If you want to give permission and are already getting benefit, you can use our online authority to discuss form.
If you give us authority, we still don’t give landlords any information about your personal, household or financial circumstances. We will only tell them whether:
- you have claimed Housing Benefit
- we have made a decision on your claim
- we need more information to make a decision on your claim
- your Housing Benefit is in payment and how much you are getting
If you don’t want us to be able to talk to your landlord any more, you can contact us about benefits.
For details of organisations who can give you advice about money matters and help you apply for benefits, see Live Well money matters.