Claiming benefits if you rent from family

Find out when you can get housing related benefits if you pay rent to a family member or former partner.

Benefits that help with rent

Most renters on a low income can get some help with rent through either:

  • universal credit housing element - if you're working age

  • housing benefit - if you're pension age or already receiving it

You may be able to claim one of these benefits if you pay rent to a relative or former partner but there are some situations where you can't get help.

Renting on a commercial basis

You must be renting on a commercial basis to get housing related benefits.

This usually means you have a legally binding tenancy agreement.

Your family member doesn't have to make a profit from renting to you. It can still be a commercial letting even if you're charged below the usual market rent. But your relative should intend to take on the rights and responsibilities of a landlord.

Benefit decision makers will consider whether your relative would enforce the agreement. For example, by serving notice to end the tenancy if you don't pay rent.

They may also check that the tenancy hasn't been set up just so you can claim benefits.

Informal family arrangements

Informal arrangements don't count as renting on a commercial basis. For example, if you stay in a relative's home and only contribute towards food or bills.

Renting from a close relative who you live with

If you live in the same home, you cannot get housing related benefits to pay rent to your partner or any of the following close family members:

  • parents - including step parents

  • children - including stepchildren

  • brothers and sisters - including half siblings but not step siblings

  • partners of any of these close relatives

You may be able to get housing related benefits if you pay rent to a close relative not on this list. For example, a grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin.

You may need to show that you have a lodger's agreement, and that you're not living with them under a more informal arrangement.

Your relative should check how any of their own benefits may be affected if you live with them and pay rent.

Renting from a former partner

Under universal credit rules, there's no restriction on renting from a former partner as long as it's a genuine commercial agreement.

Under housing benefit rules, you can't claim in either of the following situations:

  • you used to live in the home as a couple

  • you have a child together who is under 16 and lives with you

Renting a home you used to own

Under universal credit rules, there's no restriction on renting a home you used to own as long as it's a genuine commercial agreement.

You can't usually get housing benefit if you owned the property within the last 5 years unless you had to give up ownership so you could continue to live there. 

Example: A relative buys your home because you can't afford the mortgage payments. You continue to live there and pay them rent. To get housing benefit you would need to show that you're renting on a commercial basis and you had to sell your home to avoid mortgage repossession.

If you disagree with a benefits decision

You should ask for a review within 1 month of the decision if you think it's wrong.

For example, you're refused benefits when you think you qualify under the rules.

A review of a universal credit decision is called a 'mandatory reconsideration'.

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Last updated: 28 January 2021

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