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Claiming housing benefit

You can claim housing benefit to help pay your rent if you have a low income. You can claim if you are in work or not working. You can claim direct from the council or when making a new claim for other benefits.

Who can claim housing benefit?

You or your partner can make a claim for housing benefit. It doesn't matter which of you is named on the tenancy agreement as long as at least one of you is liable to pay rent.

You can only claim for a home which you normally live in although some temporary absences are allowed.

Housing benefit is a means-tested benefit which means that the council will look at your household income when deciding whether you are entitled to receive help.

You must have less than £16,000 in savings unless you are getting pension credit guarantee as well.

Who can't claim housing benefit?

You can't normally claim housing benefit if you are:

Find out more about claiming housing benefit if you are from abroad on the Housing Rights Information website.

How to claim direct from the council

You can ask your council for a claim form by phone, in person or online.

Or you can complete the HCTB1 claim form online, print it off and return it to your council.

Download the HCTB1 claim form from

How to claim via Jobcentre Plus

You can put in a claim for housing benefit when you make a new claim for:

  • employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • income support
  • jobseeker's allowance (JSA)

Jobcentre Plus will normally forward your housing benefit claim to your council. The council may ask you for further information to help it process the claim.

Contact Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 to make a claim

How to claim via the Pension Service

You can claim housing benefit at the same time as claiming pension credit.

Your claim can be backdated for up to three months.

The Pension Service will normally forward your housing benefit claim to your council. The council may ask you for further information to help it process the claim.

Contact the Pension Service on 0800 99 1234 to make a claim

How to complete a housing benefit form

Read the form including any instructions carefully.

The HCTB1 housing benefit claim form is long but you will only have to fill in the sections relevant to you.

You can ask someone else to complete the form for you but you must still sign it. If someone else fills in the form for you they must also sign.

Be honest when you complete your form. If you withhold information or give information that is incorrect you could be paid too much housing benefit and have to repay it. You could also be prosecuted.

Read Shelter's checklist: Dos and don'ts of applying for benefits

Evidence to support your claim

The claim form lists the evidence that you must provide to support your claim. You need to provide original documents, not copies.

You must submit all supporting evidence within one month.

Return your completed claim form even if you don't yet have all the documents you need. The council can start to process your claim but you will not receive any housing benefit until you have provided all the supporting evidence.

Tell the council if you have problems getting any of the documents together.

Where to take or send the form

The claim form should be returned to your local council's housing benefit office.

Check the address of your housing benefit office on your council's website.

Return the form in person if you can and get a receipt. You can ask the housing benefit office to copy your important documents so they can be returned to you immediately.

If you claim online you should get an email acknowledgement to say your form has been received.

If you have to post your completed claim form it's best to:

If you claimed other benefits at the same time, JobCentre Plus or the Pension Service will send your housing benefit claim to your council. You should check that the council has received it to avoid delays.

The date you are paid from

Make your claim as soon as you think you might be entitled to housing benefit.

If your tenancy starts in the week you make your claim, you can normally get housing benefit from the tenancy start date as long as you return the completed form and supporting evidence within a month.

In all other cases, housing benefit is usually paid from the Monday following your date of claim.

Your date of claim is usually the earliest of the following:

  • the date you tell the council, Jobcentre Plus or the Pension Service that you want to claim, providing a completed claim form and supporting evidence is returned within a month
  • the date your completed claim form and supporting evidence is received by the council

You can ask for your date of claim to be backdated in some circumstances.

Claims if you are away from home

You can usually claim housing benefit when away from home for up to:

  • 4 weeks if you go abroad
  • 13 weeks for any reason
  • 52 weeks, for example if you are fleeing domestic violence

Reclaim after a 6-month break

You have to start a new claim from the beginning and fill in a new claim form if it is more than 6 months since you last claimed housing benefit.

You must tell the council about any important changes in your circumstances.

Still need help?

Get advice if you need help with filling in the form or more information about claiming.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local benefits adviser

Sonia's Story: Keeping on top of things will help your claim

After getting divorced, Sonia had to sell her house which made no profit. In order to meet the cost of renting, Sonia had to apply for housing benefit. Read Sonia's full story.

Last updated 25 Apr 2016 | © Shelter

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