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Help with paying for accommodation

This content applies to England

Sources of financial help to pay rent, rent in advance and deposits

Housing benefit - help with rent

Housing benefit is a means-tested state benefit that enables people who are liable for rent payments to receive money to pay for them. Anyone who pays rent is eligible to apply, irrespective of the type of tenancy they have.

Housing benefit is administered by local authorities. Each local authority has a duty to make payment on a claim once all the relevant information has been received, within fourteen days or as soon as possible after that.[1] They also have a duty to make a first payment of housing benefit if they have failed to assess a claim within 14 days.[2] Some local authorities are reluctant to make these 'payments on account' but private tenants have a right to some housing benefit and those faced with harassment from their landlords should seek advice to enforce that right.

Help with rent in advance

Much of the discretionary social fund was abolished on 1 April 2013.[3] Community care grants and crisis loans are no longer available to new applicants after that date and have been replaced by a system of locally administered assistance, budgeting loans and budgeting advances.

Locally administered assistance

Each local authority devises its own scheme for helping meet hardship that cannot be met from regular income. Applications for assistance are made to the local authority. Government funding is provided to local authorities for these schemes, however there is no statutory requirement on a local authority to provide a scheme for locally administered assistance. If they do have such a scheme it is for the local authority to determine who to help and how and when to help them.

Information on local welfare assistance schemes can be found using the Child Poverty Action Group online postcode search tool.

Budgeting loans and budgeting advances

A budgeting loan is an interest-free loan to help benefit-claimants spread the cost of items that they cannot afford on their current income. The Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP) Budgeting Loan Guide contains directions and guidance concerning eligibility for budgeting loans.[4] A claimant must have been on income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance, pension credit or income-related employment and support allowance for at least 26 weeks to qualify. Breaks of 28 days or less in the 26-week period will be ignored.

A claimant who has been in receipt of universal credit for 26 weeks will also qualify for a budgeting loan as long as, at the date of determining eligibility, s/he is receiving state pension credit.[5] Other universal credit claimants may claim a budgeting advance - ie an advance payment of universal credit.

Loans and advances are repaid by deductions from the claimant's benefit.

Budgeting loans can be awarded for expenses under a number of defined categories, which include:[6]

  • rent in advance and/or removal expenses for fresh accommodation, and
  • furniture and household equipment.

Applications are made using claim form SF500.

Rent deposit/guarantee schemes - help with deposits

Neither housing benefit nor the social fund will provide money for deposits, but there are rent deposit/guarantee schemes in some areas.

These schemes operate according to different models. Some will pay a deposit in cash to the landlord. Others may provide a 'bond' to the landlord, which means that the scheme will then recompense the landlord, up to an agreed limit, in the event of the landlord suffering loss due to property damage or non-payment of rent. When a local authority is involved, the scheme may ensure that housing benefit claims are fast tracked. Some schemes will have a list of approved landlords who can offer accommodation. Schemes will have different eligibility criteria, for example some will have age restrictions and others may only accept people who are on benefits or low income.

Local authorities should be able to provide information about deposit schemes in their area.

[1] reg 91(3) Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 SI 2006/213.

[2] reg 93 Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 SI 2006/213.

[3] s.70 Welfare Reform Act 2012; Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Commencement No.6 and Savings Provisions) Order 2012 SI 2012/3090.

[4] Budgeting Loan Guide, DWP, May 2013.

[5] Direction 8 Budgeting Loan Directions (set out in the Budgeting Loans Guide, DWP, May 2013) as amended by Social Fund (Budgeting Loan) Amendment Direction 2017.

[6] Direction 2 Budgeting Loan Directions (set out in the Budgeting Loans Guide, DWP, May 2013).

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