Dealing with the benefit cap

The benefit cap limits the amount of benefit that many working age people can claim. It can make it difficult for you to pay rent or meet other living costs

Who is affected by the benefit cap

The benefit cap applies if you (and your partner if you live together):

  • are of working age
  • don't qualify for an exemption
  • have a total income from benefits which would be above the cap

You're exempt if you or your partner have reached pension age:

Check when you're pension age on the GOV.UK calculator

Most people affected by the benefit cap are families with children. Some single people are also affected if living in areas with high private rents.

Find out which benefits are included in the cap on GOV.UK

Benefit cap amounts

The cap cuts your housing benefit or universal credit until your overall benefit entitlement is within the cap.

The cap is set at different levels depending on if you live in a London borough or not.

The maximum amount of benefit you can get is:

 Weekly amountMonthly amount
Families with children and couples - in London £442.31 £1916.67
Families with children and couples - outside London £384.62 £1666.67
Single people - in London £296.35 £1284.17
Single people - outside London £257.69 £1116.67

When the benefit cap takes effect 

The benefit cap is usually applied as soon as your total income from benefits would go above the cap.

But there's a 9 month 'grace period' before the cap applies if you meet the following conditions.

If you get housing benefit: The conditions are that you or your partner:

  • have stopped work
  • worked for at least a year before this
  • weren't entitled to jobseekers allowance, employment and support allowance or income support during this time

If you get universal credit: The condition is that you (or your partner if you're joint claimants) have earned at least £542 a month after tax for the last year.

After 9 months the cap will apply unless you qualify for an exemption because you're working or getting certain disability or carer benefits.

Exemption if you're working

If you get housing benefit: The cap won't apply if you work enough hours to qualify for working tax credit.

This usually means you must work at least:

  • 16 hours a week for a single parent or disabled person
  • 24 hours a week for a couple with children (1 of you must work at least 16 hours)
  • 30 hours a week if you're aged 25-59 and don't have dependent children

Find out more about working tax credit on GOV.UK

If you get universal credit: The cap won't apply if you earn at least £542 a month after tax.

Exemption if you claim disability or carer benefits

The cap won't apply if you, your partner or children who live with you get any of the following:

  • attendance allowance
  • disability living allowance (DLA)
  • personal independence payment (PIP)
  • carer's allowance or guardian's allowance
  • employment and support allowance (ESA) - support component 
  • universal credit - carer element or limited capability for work-related activity element

Make sure you're claiming everything you're entitled to:

Use the entitledto benefits calculator

Help from the council if you can't pay the rent

You can apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) if you're claiming housing benefit or the universal credit housing element.

This is an extra payment from your council that could help if you're struggling to pay rent because of the benefit cap.

If you're facing eviction or homelessness

You can ask the council for homeless help if, for example, your: 

  • home is unaffordable because of the benefit cap
  • landlord gives you a section 21 notice or threatens to evict you

How much help you get depends on your circumstances - you may get housing or personal advice to help you keep your home or find something more affordable.

Still need help?

For advice on rent arrears, eviction or homelessness:

Contact a Shelter adviser online, by phone or in person

For benefits advice if you're a single parent: 

Contact the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline on 0808 802 0925

Last updated 11 Dec 2018 | © Shelter

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