This content applies to England only.
Housing laws vary between England and Scotland. Get advice relating to Scotland
Housing benefit is a regular payment made by councils to help people pay their rent. You can apply for it if you live in social housing or if you rent privately.
You may be able to get housing benefit if you have a low income, or are receiving welfare benefits. Your income and savings have to be under certain limits for you to qualify.
What can housing benefit be used to pay for?
Housing benefit can cover:
- some service charges, such as paying towards the upkeep of communal areas, or for a caretaker
You can’t use it for:
- charges for heating, hot water, lighting or cooking
- payments for any food or meals provided
- charges for care and support.
Find out about other help with housing costs.
Housing benefit is only for people who rent their home, or lease it under a shared ownership agreement. You can’t use it to help pay your mortgage. If you need help paying your mortgage, see our page on support for mortgage interest payments.
You can usually only get housing benefit for one home. However, if you're moving home and have to pay rent on both properties for a short time, you may be able to claim housing benefit for two homes.
Who can get housing benefit?
You may get housing benefit if you’re a tenant, or your partner is. You can also claim it if you live in a HomeBuy shared ownership property.
To be eligible, you must be on a low income or claiming other state benefits. Any savings you have must be below a certain level – currently £16,000.
Only one person per household can claim housing benefit. It’s sometimes possible to get housing benefit if someone who should pay the rent isn’t doing so – for example, a former partner or a partner who is away in hospital or prison.
You probably won’t be able to get housing benefit if you’re someone who is ’subject to immigration control’ – for example, you need official permission to enter or stay in the UK but haven't got it yet. You should get advice before claiming.
Special rules apply to some groups, including:
How to claim housing benefit
Apply to your council if you want to get housing benefit. You can do this:
- in writing – using a claim form or sending a letter
- by phone if your council has a special number for housing benefit claims
- online or by email, if your council allows it.
Find your local council on the GOV.UK website.
You can apply for housing benefit at the same time as claiming other state benefits, such as income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment support allowance, incapacity benefit or pension credit.
Our page on claiming housing benefit explains what happens when you make an application, and what information you'll need to provide.
When you should claim housing benefit
If you think that you might be entitled to housing benefit, you should claim as soon as possible.
Housing benefit can only be paid from the Monday after the date you tell the housing benefit department that you wish to make a claim.
You may be able to get your benefit backdated if you think that you might have been entitled for a past period and you have a good reason for not having claimed earlier (eg because you were ill). Time limits apply, so don’t delay looking into this.
How often is housing benefit paid?
This will depend on how often you have to pay your rent. That means the council may pay your housing benefit every week, every two weeks, every four weeks or every month.
If the housing benefit you get works out at £2 a week or more, you have the right to get it paid every two weeks.
Housing benefit is paid in arrears - that is, after your rent becomes due.
Who will the housing benefit be paid to?
This depends on whether you rent your home from a social landlord – such as the council or a housing association – or from a private landlord.
If you rent from a social landlord
Housing benefit is paid directly to the council or housing association you rent your home from.
If you rent from a private landlord
Your housing benefit will usually be paid to you – not to your landlord. You can ask to have housing benefit paid directly to your landlord, or the council can sometimes decide to pay your landlord directly if it thinks this is in the best interests of you and your family.
The council can pay housing benefit directly to your landlord if:
- you have more than eight weeks of rent arrears, or
- your landlord already receives payments for rent arrears paid direct from another of your benefits (income support, jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance or pension credit).
Will housing benefit cover all your rent?
Even if the council agrees you’re eligible for housing benefit, you still might not get enough to cover your full rent.
How much housing benefit you get depends on your income, the size of your home and your circumstances.
Generally, if you live in social housing and are getting income support and/or jobseeker’s allowance, your housing benefit will cover the full rent – unless the bedroom tax or benefit cap applies to you. But if you’re in work, it’s unlikely that the housing benefit you get will cover all your rent.
There are different ways of calculating your housing benefit entitlement, depending on whether you rent from a social landlord or a private one.
If you live in a council or housing association home, see our page on how housing benefit is calculated.
See our page on local housing allowance (LHA) to find out how much housing benefit you could get if you rent from private landlord.
If it isn't enough
If your housing benefit isn’t enough to pay all of your rent, you’ll need to find ways of making up their shortfall. Otherwise, you could get into rent arrears and run the risk of being evicted.
Find out how you can deal with a housing benefit shortfall.
How changes in circumstances can affect your housing benefit
Remember that if your circumstances change, the amount of housing benefit you get may go up or down.
There are certain changes you must tell the council about. You can be fined if you don’t let them know and get too much housing benefit as a result.