How housing benefit is calculated

The amount of housing benefit you get depends on your income and circumstances.

What the council looks at

When you claim housing benefit the council will work out your entitlement.

The council takes into account your rent, income, any savings you may have, how much you need to live on, the number of people in your house and their ages, if anyone is sick or disabled or if anyone is a full-time carer.

The council works out how much you need to live on using standard figures set by the government.

Another calculation also applies if you rent from a private landlord. Local housing allowance rates are used to work out housing benefit for most tenants who rent privately.

Savings and investments

You are not entitled to any housing benefit if you and your partner have savings of £16,000 or more unless you receive pension credit guarantee.

The amount of housing benefit you get is reduced if you have savings or investments above:

  • £6,000 if you are of working age
  • £10,000 if you are of pension age or living in a care home

Savings or investments of less than £6,000 are ignored when calculating housing benefit entitlement.

If you claim benefits

If you are a council or housing association tenant, housing benefit might cover your full rent if you get any of the following benefits:

  • income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
  • income support
  • pension credit guarantee

Your full rent won't be covered if:

  • your rent includes ineligible service charges
  • you have more bedrooms than you are allowed under the rules
  • non-dependents live with you and are expected to contribute to the rent
  • the benefit cap applies

If you rent privately then your housing benefit is calculated using the local housing allowance (LHA) rules. If you get means-tested benefits, you will usually get the maximum LHA rate for your household unless you are subject to non-dependant deductions or the benefit cap applies.

Use Directgov's LHA rate search to check how much you get if renting privately

If you're working

If you are working, your housing benefit award is reduced by 65 pence for every pound of your income above the amount the government decides you need to live on.

When your partner lives with you, their income is also taken into account.

Income taken into account includes:

  • wages
  • benefits and tax credits
  • pensions
  • child support or maintenance payments
  • grants, bursaries and student loans

Some income is ignored, for example, child benefit.

Eligible rent

Eligible rent is the maximum amount of rent your housing benefit can cover. This can be less than your actual rent.

Your eligible rent is reduced if:

  • your rent includes certain service charges
  • your home has more bedrooms than you are entitled to under the rules
  • you have non-dependant adults living with you who could contribute to the rent

Service charges

Some service charges can be covered by housing benefit but others can't.

Housing benefit will cover charges for:

  • fuel for communal areas
  • communal facilities
  • lifts and entry phones

Housing benefit will not cover 'ineligible charges'. These include charges for:

  • meals
  • personal alarm system
  • personal care and support
  • water charges
  • most fuel charges

Home size and 'bedroom tax'

If you are a council or housing association tenant of working age you will be subject to the bedroom tax if you have more bedrooms than you are allowed under the rules.

If you rent privately, your bedroom entitlement is calculated using the local housing allowance (LHA) rules.

Non-dependant deductions

Your housing benefit may be reduced if an adult family member lives with you, for example an elderly relative or an adult son or daughter.

It's assumed that most adults living with you should contribute towards the rent and a non-dependant deduction is made from your housing benefit whether they contribute or not. There are some exceptions.

Change of circumstances

Your housing benefit claim may be recalculated if your circumstances change.

You must report changes in circumstances to your council's housing benefit department.

Online benefit calculators

Calculating how much housing benefit you can get is tricky.

You can use an online calculator to help you work out what you might receive but be aware that an online calculator may not help if you are subject to special rules, for example because you are a student, a prisoner or from outside the UK.

Check your benefit entitlement using the Turn2Us Benefits Calculator

Decisions and reviews

Check your housing benefit decision letter carefully. It sets out how your benefit is calculated.

You can ask the council to review a housing benefit calculation you don't agree with.

You might need help from a benefits adviser.

Search for your nearest Citizens Advice service

Last updated 25 Apr 2016 | © Shelter

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