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Housing benefit in refuges, hostels, temporary and supported housing

You can get housing benefit if you live in:

  • a homeless hostel or refuge

  • some types of supported housing

  • emergency or temporary housing from the council

You get housing benefit for your rent in these types of housing even if you get universal credit for your other living costs.

You can stay in a refuge because of domestic abuse even if you cannot get benefits for immigration reasons.

Housing benefit in a homeless hostel

You can usually claim housing benefit if you get support from staff in the hostel.

Support can be things like:

  • sorting out debts or benefits

  • help to find somewhere to live

  • drug, alcohol or mental health support

You cannot get housing benefit for a backpackers' hostel or other hostels with no support.

Housing benefit in supported housing

Supported housing might be:

  • a place you rent on your own

  • a room in a shared house

You need to get staff support while you live there to get housing benefit.

Your landlord must be a housing association, charity, voluntary organisation or county council.

Some housing associations and other organisations lease properties from private landlords to use as supported housing.

You cannot usually claim housing benefit if you have carers or support workers that are not part of your supported housing.

For example, if you have a private tenancy and social services get a carer to visit you to help you with dressing or meals.

Housing benefit in temporary housing

You can get housing benefit if you are in temporary or emergency homeless housing and you pay rent to the council or a housing association.

Some councils and housing associations lease properties from private landlords for temporary housing. You can get housing benefit for this.

If you pay rent straight to a private landlord in temporary housing, you usually get the universal credit housing element. This amount is set by local housing allowance rates.

Housing benefit for other tenancies

You cannot make a new claim for housing benefit if you're working age unless you live in a hostel, refuge, supported or temporary housing.

If you already get housing benefit, this keeps going unless a change in your situation means you're better off on universal credit or you have to move to universal credit.

You can make a new claim for housing benefit if you are pension age.

How to apply for housing benefit

Start by speaking to your council. They give you a form to fill in.

They also tell you what evidence and information you need to show.

Examples of evidence can be:

  • ID like a passport or driver's licence

  • proof of your income or savings

  • your tenancy or licence agreement

Other ID could include your birth certificate, marriage certificate, recent utility bills or letters from the DWP, HMRC or the Home Office.

You may need to show original documents. Some councils let you upload documents online.

When the council has all your information they should:

  • put your housing benefit claim through

  • pay the rent to your hostel, refuge or housing provider

Support staff or a homeless officer can help you with the housing benefit form.

Tell them if you find it hard to get the supporting evidence.

Does housing benefit cover the full rent?

If you're not working, housing benefit pays for most of your housing costs in a hostel, refuge, supported or temporary housing.

If you are working, your housing benefit goes down. You have to pay more of the rent yourself.

Ask support staff how much to pay if you're not sure.

Service charges

You may have to pay a service charge in some places.

Services charges can be for things like:

  • staff support

  • meals if they are part of your housing

  • water and heating in your room

Housing benefit does not pay for most service charges. You need to budget for your service charges from your other income.

Your agreement should say how much the service charge is and when to pay it. Ask your support staff if you do not understand the service charge.

Housing benefit pays for heating and lighting of shared areas.

Tell support staff if you find it hard to pay your rent or service charge.

You could be asked to leave if you do not pay, so ask if you can get help.

Leaving your home because of domestic abuse

You could get help with rent for up to a year on both:

  • the home you have left

  • a refuge or temporary housing

You must plan to return to your old home within a year.

You do not have to make a decision immediately.

If you get universal credit

The housing element helps with rent for the home you've left.

Report your temporary change of address and situation to universal credit.

If you get housing benefit for the home you have left

Let the council know that you're away from home temporarily.

If you decide not to return to your home

You need to take steps to end your tenancy and let the council or DWP know.

More about help if you're homeless because of domestic abuse.

Last updated: 17 April 2024

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