Claiming benefits if you rent from family

Most renters on a low income can get 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

But sometimes you cannot get housing related benefits if you pay rent to a close family member or former partner.

Legally binding tenancy agreement

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

Your agreement can be legally binding even if you pay less than market rent.

Your family member:

  • does not have to make a profit from renting to you

  • should take on the rights and responsibilities of a landlord

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

They also check that the tenancy has not been set up just so you can claim benefits.

Informal family arrangements

You cannot get housing related benefits if you have an informal arrangement. For example, if you stay in a family member'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 a close family member.

Close family members are:

  • 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

  • are not renting 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

You can get universal credit to help with renting from a former partner as long as it's a genuine agreement.

You cannot claim housing benefit to pay a former partner if either:

  • you used to live as a couple in the home you now rent

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

Renting a home you used to own

You can get universal credit to help with renting a home you used to own as long as it's a genuine commercial agreement.

You cannot 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 cannot 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.

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

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Last updated: 19 June 2023

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