Housing benefit: hostels, refuges, supported and temporary housing

You can get housing benefit if you're living in:

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 get housing benefit if you get support from staff in the hostel.

Support can include:

  • sorting out debts or benefits

  • help with finding somewhere to live

  • drug, alcohol or mental health support

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

You can only get universal credit housing element in these hostels if it's your home.

Housing benefit in supported housing

Supported housing might be:

  • a self contained property

  • a room in a shared house

You need to get staff support while you live there.

The 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.

It won't usually count as supported housing for benefit purposes if you get home visits from paid carers or support workers. This is not connected to the housing you live in.

For example, if you have a private tenancy but social services carers visit to help with dressing or meals.

Housing benefit in temporary housing

You can get housing benefit for emergency or temporary housing after a homeless application if you have to pay rent to a council or housing association.

Some councils and housing associations lease properties from private landlords to use as temporary housing. You can get housing benefit in this situation.

If you pay rent direct to a private landlord in temporary housing, you usually get the universal credit housing element. This is calculated using local housing allowance rates.

Housing benefit for other types of tenancy

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 continues unless a change means you're better off on universal credit or have to move to universal credit.

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

How to apply for housing benefit

You need to:

  • return a housing benefit form to the council

  • provide supporting information within 1 month

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

Examples of supporting information:

  • some ID

  • proof of any income or savings

  • your occupancy or licence agreement

ID could include: driving licence, passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, recent utility bills or letters from DWP, HMRC or the Home Office.

Once the council has the information they should:

  • process your housing benefit claim

  • pay the rent direct 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.

Will housing benefit cover the full rent?

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

You may still have to pay a service charge.

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

Ask support staff how much to pay if you're unsure.

Paying the service charge

Housing benefit does not cover service charges for things like:

  • staff support

  • meals if they are provided

  • water and heating in your room

Your agreement should tell you how much the service charge is and when to pay it.

Ask support staff if you don't understand the service charge.

You need to budget for your service charge from your other income.

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 it.

Contact a Shelter adviser if you're asked to leave.

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: 13 March 2022

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