Claiming housing benefit if you're away from home

You usually have to live in your home to get housing benefit.

Sometimes you can continue to claim if you're away from home temporarily.

You can continue to get housing benefit if you:

  • plan to return within the time allowed for your situation

  • do not rent out your home to anyone else while you're away

How long you can claim for depends on the reasons you're away and if you travel outside of England, Scotland or Wales.

The rules are different if you get the universal credit housing element.

Tell the council

Tell the housing benefit office:

  • why you're going away

  • when you'll return

You can continue to get housing benefit while you're away if it's within the rules.

Let them know if your plans change while you're away.  For example, if you'll be away for longer or you decide not to return.

If you don't report a change in your situation, you may get an overpayment which you'll have to pay back.

If your housing benefit stops

The council might suspend your housing benefit while they look into a change in circumstances.

Your payments should restart and be backdated if you can show you still qualify.

The council will stop your housing benefit if you are going to be away for longer than the rules allow. You still need to pay your rent.

When you can claim for up to 13 weeks

You can continue to get housing benefit for up to 13 weeks if you're staying elsewhere in England, Scotland or Wales.   

You can be away for any reason but you must intend to return during this time.

Sentenced prisoners

The housing benefit office looks at your earliest release date to decide if you're likely to return home within 13 weeks.

In practice, you can usually get housing benefit if your sentence is less than 6 months, or less than 10 months if you could be released early on an electronic tag.

When you can claim for up to 52 weeks

You can continue to get housing benefit for up to a year in certain situations. 

Examples of when you can claim for this longer period include if you're:

  • in hospital or residential care

  • bailed to stay at a different address

  • a remand prisoner who has not been convicted or sentenced

  • living away from home because of domestic abuse or fear of violence

  • providing care for someone or looking after a child whose parent is in hospital

You must intend to return home within the year and stay in England, Scotland or Wales.

If you go abroad

In most cases, you can only get housing benefit for up to 4 weeks if you go abroad. In certain situations you can get housing benefit for longer. 

It counts as going abroad if you go anywhere outside England, Scotland or Wales. Travel to Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man counts as going abroad.

Death of a close relative

You can get housing benefit for up to 8 weeks if you have to go abroad because a close relative has died. Close relatives include your:

  • partner

  • children including step children and in laws

  • parents including step parents and in laws

  • brothers and sisters including in laws

The housing benefit office must consider it reasonable for you to be away for more than 4 weeks so you should contact them before you go.

Longer absences abroad

You can get housing benefit for up to 26 weeks whilst abroad if you're:

  • getting medical treatment

  • away from home because of a fear of violence

In all cases, your absence from home must be unlikely to be longer then the rules allow. If you don't expect to return home within the time limit you won't be entitled to housing benefit whilst away.

If household members are away temporarily

The people who live in your household affect the size of property you can claim for.

You can usually claim for a partner or dependent child who is away temporarily in England, Scotland or Wales if they intend to return to the family home within 52 weeks.   

You can claim for a child or step child indefinitely if they're away with the armed forces and intend to return home when not on operations.  

You can usually claim for an adult household member who is away for a short absence. The council will look at the reason they are away and when they intend to return.

Working out how long you'll be away

A period of temporary absence starts on the day you leave your home and ends when you return.

Returning for at least 24 hours can be enough to end the temporary absence. 

If you leave your home temporarily again after returning, it counts as a new period of temporary absence.

Example: You have to stay in hospital for 6 months and get housing benefit whilst away. You're discharged but after a week you have to go back into hospital. You can continue to get housing benefit for a further 52 weeks if you need to stay in hospital, as long as you plan to return home within this time.

Last updated: 8 March 2022

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