Rent arrears due to a housing benefit claim

Delays or problems with housing benefit can lead to rent arrears. Find out how to speed things up or stop the situation getting worse.

Check the council has received your claim

If you claim housing benefit online, you usually get an email acknowledgement.

Return paper forms to the council in person. Keep a copy and get a receipt.

Use Royal Mail's Signed For service if you need to post your form.     

Claims made via Jobcentre Plus or the Pension Service

Jobcentre Plus or the Pension Service should send your claim to your local council. Check the council has received it to avoid delays.

Provide evidence to support your claim

You must provide all the information and documents the council asks for to support your claim. Return them with your claim form if you can.

Your payments will be delayed if you don't provide these within 1 month of your claim. 

Get a payment on account after 14 days

A payment on account is an estimated award of housing benefit.

The council should make a payment on account if you're a housing association or private tenant and:

  • you've made a housing benefit claim and provided all supporting evidence
  • the council hasn't fully processed your claim within 14 days

Contact your housing benefit department and ask for a payment on account if you don't receive one after 14 days.

Council tenants don't get payments on account.

How housing benefit is paid

Housing benefit is always paid in arrears unless you're a council tenant. This means you get your payment at the end of a rental period, not the start. 

Many tenancy agreements require rent to be paid at the start of a rental period. If you've already paid your rent in advance then you won't be in arrears. 

Some landlords won't consider you to be in arrears if they know the rent will be covered by housing benefit once your claim is processed. 

If housing benefit doesn't cover the rent

Housing benefit won't usually cover your full rent if you're working or live with other adults who are expected to contribute

Additionally, it won't cover your full rent if:

You must pay any rent shortfall from other income to avoid arrears.

Speak to a benefits adviser if you think the council has miscalculated your housing benefit. Sometimes you can challenge a housing benefit decision.

Apply for a discretionary housing payment

Apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) if you can't afford to pay the difference between your rent and your housing benefit.

The council decides if you get a DHP. 

Report changes in circumstances

You must tell the council about any change in circumstances, such as a fall or rise in income, having a baby or someone moving in with you.

If you don't report changes, you might miss out on extra housing benefit you're entitled to or get paid too much. You'd have to repay any overpayments.

Eviction due to housing benefit problems

Eviction is a legal process. It takes time and many landlords only use it as a last resort.

Council and housing association landlords should help you claim housing benefit and sort out any delays before they take any steps to evict you.  

Private landlords may be willing to wait if they know you're trying to sort the problem. Make sure you keep them informed.   

Find out more about eviction for rent arrears

Still need help?

Speak to a housing or benefits adviser if you're in rent arrears because of housing benefit delays or problems.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre

Last updated 01 Aug 2017 | © Shelter

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