Rent and rent increases in social housing

Your council or housing association landlord sets your rent and any rent increases you must pay.

What is included in your rent

Rent is a regular amount you pay to pay to live in your home.

Your tenancy agreement should set out what's included in your rent and how often it has to be paid.

Sometimes rent includes service charges, for example, for water, fuel or an emergency alarm system.

Rent levels 

Most rents charged by councils or housing associations are called social rents. Social rents are usually lower than rents for similar private rented properties.

Council and housing association landlords can also charge up to 80% of market rents on some of their homes, usually new-build properties. This is called affordable rent.

Help with paying your rent

You can usually claim one of the following benefits to help with rent if you have a low income:

If you're a council tenant who gets housing benefit, payments are credited directly to your rent account.

Your benefit is usually paid directly to you if you're a housing association tenant or get universal credit. You have to pay your landlord.

Benefits may not cover your full rent. You must pay any rent shortfall which is not covered by these benefits from other income.

How and when to pay your rent

Most councils and housing associations will accept rent payments:

  • online
  • by phone
  • through bank transfer or direct debit

You can usually also get an electronic card so you can pay your rent at a post office or in certain shops.

Your tenancy agreement sets out when you should pay your rent. Most tenancy agreements state that you should pay your rent in advance.

If you don't pay your rent by the due date, your rent account goes into rent arrears and you are in breach of your tenancy agreement.

Housing benefit and universal credit are paid in arrears - not in advance. This means that your rent account might be in arrears even if regular rent payments are being made. 

Rent increases

Council and housing association rents usually go up every April.

From April 2016, most council and housing association rents will go down by 1% each year until 2020.

Your landlord usually has to give you at least four weeks' notice in writing before a rent increase. They don't have to consult you about proposed increases.

Check your tenancy agreement to see what it says about how the rent can be increased.

Still need help?

Rent should be a top priority. You could lose your home if you fall into arrears. If you're struggling to pay rent:

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone


Last updated 10 Dec 2018 | © Shelter

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help

Get help

Was this advice helpful?

Email a link to this article

Thank you - your message has been sent.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.

Was this advice helpful?

Thank you - your feedback has been submitted to the team.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.