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Rent in social housing

Rent is money you pay your council or housing association to live in your home.

Your tenancy agreement should tell you:

  • how often you must pay your rent

  • how it can be increased

  • what any service charges are for

Council and housing association rents usually go up every April.

From April 2024 the maximum rent increase is 7.7%.

Service charges are not covered by this cap. But housing associations and councils are encouraged to limit service charge increases to 7.7% too.

Service charges

You may have to pay a service charge for things like:

  • cleaning, lighting and maintenance of internal communal areas

  • gardening and maintenance of outside space

  • entry systems, lifts and rubbish chutes

  • caretakers, wardens or emergency alarm systems

  • buildings insurance and management fees

Service charges are much more common in flats than houses.

Find out more about service charges for council and housing association tenants.

Benefits that help with rent

If you have a low income you could get:

Benefits may not cover your full rent.

You could apply for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) if you still need help.

Housing benefit for council tenants is paid direct to your landlord.

Your benefits are usually paid to you if you get universal credit or rent from a housing association . You have to pass on the rent to your landlord.

How to pay your rent

Most councils and housing associations will accept rent payments:

  • online

  • by phone

  • by bank transfer or direct debit

Your landlord might give you an electronic rent payment card to use at a post office or in certain shops.

When to pay your rent

Check your tenancy agreement to see what it says.

Most agreements say that you must pay your rent in advance.

Some agreements allow for some rent free weeks, for example, at Christmas.

If you do not pay on time, you are in breaking your agreement.

Universal credit and housing benefit are both paid in arrears.

You should still pay your rent if you can while you're waiting for your benefits.

Speak to your housing association or council if you cannot do this.

Rent increases

Secure council tenants must get at least 4 weeks' written notice of a rent increase.

Most housing associations will also give you at least 4 weeks' notice.

Social rents and affordable rents

Councils and housing associations can charge either social rent or affordable rent.

Social rent is more common. It is less than you'd pay a private landlord for a similar property.

Affordable rent can be up to 80% of what a private landlord normally charges. It's more common in new build properties.

Last updated: 11 January 2024

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