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Housing benefit while away from home

Housing benefit can be paid if you are away from home, usually for up to 4, 13 or 52 weeks, depending on your circumstances.

When you can get housing benefit if you're away

In some circumstances you can continue to get housing benefit if you're temporarily away from home.

To keep getting housing benefit when you're temporarily away, you must:

  • usually live in that home
  • intend to return to your home
  • not rent out your home while you're away

How long you can be away from home

Depending on the reason why you're away from home, you can continue to get housing benefit for up to 4, 13 or 52 weeks.

You must expect to return within the time allowed. Your housing benefit will stop as soon as you go away if you know you will be away longer than the rules allow.

You don't have to tell the council every time you are away from home for a short period.

You must tell the housing benefit office if you know your stay away will last more than the rules allow you. If you don't tell them you could be overpaid housing benefit and have to pay money back.

When you can be away for up to 13 weeks

Examples of when you can get housing benefit for up to 13 weeks include if you are:

  • on holiday
  • staying in a relative's home to look after them while they are ill
  • move into a care home on a trial basis to see if it meets your needs

You must be staying in England, Scotland or Wales.

When you can be away for up to 52 weeks

Examples of when you can get housing benefit for up to 52 weeks if you're away include because you're:

  • fleeing home due to violence or a fear of violence
  • a patient in hospital
  • on a government-approved training course
  • receiving care in a residential home
  • providing care for a child whose parent or guardian is away from home receiving medical treatment

You must be staying in England, Scotland or Wales.

When you are going abroad

The government has made a change to the rules on claiming housing benefit when you are going abroad. From 28 July 2016 you can usually only get housing benefit for up to 4 weeks if you are abroad.

It counts as going abroad if you go anywhere outside England, Scotland and Wales. Staying in Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man counts as going abroad.

In certain circumstances you can get housing benefit when you are abroad for a longer period, for example up to:

  • 8 weeks where your absence is connected to the death of a close relative
  • 26 weeks when you are getting medical treatment
  • 26 weeks when you are working on a ship or you're a member of the armed forces on operations abroad
  • 26 weeks if you are fleeing domestic violence

If you are in prison or on remand

You can get housing benefit for up to 52 weeks if you are on bail or in prison on remand.

If you have been sentenced and are in prison, you can only get housing benefit for up to 13 weeks.

If you are in prison outside England, Scotland or Wales, you can only get housing benefit for up to 4 weeks.

If you are absent from home again

If you return to your home for at least 24 hours, your period of absence away from your home starts again.

For example, you were in hospital for six months and were discharged, but after a week you had to go back into hospital. You can then get housing benefit for up to another 52 weeks.

This does not apply if you are a convicted prisoner allowed home on temporary release.

Where to get help and advice

Contact your local housing benefit department or speak to an adviser if you're going to be away from home and you're not sure if your housing benefit will stop or not.

Get advice from a Shelter advice centre, Citizens Advice, your local council or another advice centre.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local benefits adviser


Last updated 14 Jul 2016 | © Shelter

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