If you have rent arrears because of problems with your housing benefit claim, you may be able to take action to stop the situation getting worse.
Give information for your housing benefit claim
When you make a claim for housing benefit, provide all the information the council asks for.
Sign and date all your forms and return them as soon as possible. Return the forms no later than four weeks after the council asks for them.
Your housing benefit claim might be delayed if you don't provide all the information the council asks for.
Get advice about claiming housing benefit. An adviser can help you if you have any questions or are having problems completing the form.
Use Shelter's directory to find details of local advice centres.
Keep a copy of your claim form
You may have problems with housing benefit payments if the council loses your application form.
Try to keep a photocopy of your form and any other information you give the council.
If you take your form to the housing benefit office in person, ask for a receipt. This helps you prove that you handed the form in on a particular day.
If you send the form by post, ask for written confirmation that it has been received. For extra security, you can also send the form by recorded delivery.
Get a payment on account after 14 days
If you rent from a private landlord or a housing association, once you have made a claim, the council normally has to make an interim payment of housing benefit within 14 days.
This is sometimes called a payment on account.
This payment allows you to pay off some of the arrears and may stop your landlord from trying to evict you.
Payment can be delayed beyond 14 days if the delay is caused because you did not provide the council with the information it asked for.
Contact your council if you don't get this payment after 14 days and get advice if the council doesn't help you.
Use Shelter's directory to find details of advice centres in your local area.
Get advice if housing benefit doesn't cover all the rent
Your housing benefit might not cover all your rent if the council decides your rent is unreasonably high or the property is too large for your household.
You may be able to appeal the council's decision.
If you do this, your claim is reassessed and the amount you get may change.
Get advice to make sure the council has calculated your claim correctly and if you can appeal. Act quickly as there are time limits for asking for an appeal.
You may have been affected by changes to housing benefit and local housing allowance. These changes can mean it's difficult to pay your rent. Check any new calculation of benefit is correct. You can appeal but an appeal can't usually change decisions made because of housing benefit changes.
Apply for a discretionary housing payment
Apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) if you can't afford to pay the difference between your rent and your housing benefit.
The council decides if you should get a DHP based on your particular circumstances.
Check your housing benefit claim is up to date
The council usually sends you a renewal form at regular intervals if you already claim housing benefit.
You must complete the renewal form and send it back in time. Include all the information the council asks for.
If you don't do this, your housing benefit could stop and you could be at risk of eviction due to rent arrears.
Report changes in circumstances
You must tell the council about any change of circumstances in your situation, such as a change in your income or someone moving in with you.
If you don't update your claim, you could miss out on the extra housing benefit you might be entitled to or could get paid too much. You would have to pay back any housing benefit overpayment.
Eviction because of housing benefit problems
Contact an advice centre as soon as possible if your landlord is taking you to court because of arrears caused by housing benefit problems.
An adviser may be able to persuade the council to sort out your claim so you can pay off some or all of your arrears before the court hearing.
Use Shelter's directory to find a face-to-face advice centre in your local area.
If you have arrears caused by housing benefit, whether the judge decides to evict you may depend on the type of tenancy you have and whether your landlord is using any other legal reasons (or grounds) to evict you.
Eviction if you're an assured shorthold tenant
Most private tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy.
If you have an assured shorthold tenancy, your landlord can try to evict you because of rent arrears or because your tenancy has come to an end. The rules are different depending on what grounds are being used so it's very important to get advice.
Eviction from an introductory tenancy
If you are an introductory tenant, the judge has no choice but to evict you if the case goes to court. You must sort out any problems with your housing benefit claim before the hearing or you will lose your home.
Eviction from a secure tenancy
If you're a secure tenant, the judge may decide that it is not reasonable to evict you if housing benefit delays caused your arrears. But it's still important to get advice, especially if the council is also using any other grounds.
Eviction from an assured tenancy
Most housing association tenants are assured tenants. if you have rent arrears, the judge usually has to evict you if you owe eight weeks' rent or more.
If you can get a housing benefit payment to reduce your arrears to less than eight weeks' rent, you can probably keep your home.
Find a local advice centre
Whatever type of tenancy you have, contact your nearest Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice.
An adviser can help you negotiate with your landlord and the housing benefit department at the council. They may also be able to represent you if your case goes to court.
Use Shelter's directory to find a face-to-face advice centre near you.