This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at www.shelter.org.uk

Paying for accommodation

This content applies to England

Options available to help young people pay for and access accommodation.

Housing benefit and universal credit

Housing benefit is a means-tested benefit paid to help meet the cost of renting accommodation.

Universal credit is a means-tested benefit that is in the process of replacing a number of pre-existing benefits, including housing benefit. It includes a housing costs element to help pay the rent (or mortgage interest payments).

Age restrictions

There is no age limit for claiming housing benefit.

Normally, a claimant must be aged 18 or over to claim universal credit – there are limited exceptions.[1]

There are significant restrictions for young people claiming either benefit on the amount they can get to help pay the rent.

For most claimants renting from a private landlord, who are single and under the age of 35 , the maximum amount of housing benefit or the housing costs element of universal credit payable is restricted to the:

Young people affected by restrictions can apply for a discretionary housing payment from the local authority to help meet a shortfall from their rent. There is no legal entitlement to this payment. For more information see Discretionary housing payments.

Care leavers and young people in care

Young people under 18 years old who have left care and are 'relevant children' under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 normally cannot claim housing benefit or universal credit.  Social services has a duty to pay for and/or provide them with accommodation.

Young people who have been accommodated under section 20 are exempt from the single room rent or shared accommodation rate restrictions until they reach the age of 22.

Students

Most full-time students cannot claim housing benefit or the housing costs element of universal credit. There are exceptions, which are not exactly the same for both benefits but both include students who:

  • has a dependent child
  • is a foster parent.

For more information see:

Help with rent in advance

The discretionary Social Fund was abolished in 2013, and community care grants and crisis loans were replaced by a system of locally administered assistance. However, budgeting loans and budgeting advances are available.

Locally administered assistance

Under the system of locally administered assistance, each local authority devises its own scheme for helping meet hardship that cannot be met from regular income. Applications for assistance is made to the local authority. There is no statutory requirement on a local authority to provide a scheme for locally administered assistance.

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

Budgeting loans/advances

A budgeting loan or budgeting advance (for claimants on universal credit) is an interest-free loan to help claimants spread the cost of items that they cannot afford on their current income.[2] A claimant must have been on specified benefits for at least 26 weeks. Loans and advances are repaid by deductions from the claimant's benefit. They could be awarded for:

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

Claimants should contact their local Jobcentre Plus to apply. Applications for a budgeting loan is made on claim form SF500.

Children Act payments

Social services has duties and powers under the Children Act 1989 to help children in need and care leavers to pay for accommodation.

16- or 17-year-olds

Payment can be made under section 17 of the Children Act to help a child in need (see the page Social services duties to children in need) to secure accommodation in the private sector by paying a deposit and rent in advance, or to enable her/him to meet any rent shortfall after housing benefit.

Care leavers

Social services has duties and powers to provide financial support to care leavers up to the age of 21. This can continue until the young person is 25 if they are pursuing education or training. For information see Leaving care provisions.

Rent deposit/guarantee schemes

A significant problem faced by young people trying to secure accommodation in the private rented sector is the difficulty in raising a deposit, however 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. In other areas, young people have to find a landlord themselves. 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.

For more information see Help with paying a deposit.

A local authority can award a discretionary housing payment for a rent deposit (or rent in advance) for a property that the claimant has not yet moved into but only if s/he is already entitled to housing benefit or the housing costs element of universal credit for their present home.[3] For more information see Discretionary housing payments.

Wales

The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] reg 8 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

[2] Budgeting Loan Guide, DWP, May 2013; regs 11-18 Social Security (Payments on Account of Benefit) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/383.

[3] paras 2.3-2.15, Discretionary Housing Payments Guidance Manual, DWP, March 2018.

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