Housing benefit can help pay your rent if you're on a low income. Find out who can claim and how to apply.
Who can claim housing benefit
You or your partner can make a claim for housing benefit.
It doesn't matter which of you is named on the tenancy agreement as long as at least one of you has to pay rent.
You can only claim for a home which you normally live in although some temporary absences are allowed.
Income and savings rules
Housing benefit is a means-tested benefit. This means that the council will look at your household income when deciding if you're entitled to help.
You must have less than £16,000 in savings unless you're getting pension credit guarantee as well.
Who doesn't qualify
You can't usually claim housing benefit if you're:
- a full-time student
- 16 or 17 and have been in care
- an EU or EEA national who has never worked in the UK
- subject to immigration control unless you have full recourse to public funds
You can't usually claim housing benefit if you're claiming universal credit. You might get a housing costs element as part of your universal credit award instead.
If your landlord says you can't claim
You don't need your landlord permission to claim housing benefit but there could be problems if they don't want to rent to someone claiming benefits.
Written tenancy agreement
Your tenancy agreement should state your rent. You can use it as supporting evidence to prove you have a tenancy and have to pay rent.
You could be in breach of contract if your tenancy agreement says you can't claim housing benefit. Your landlord might take steps to evict you.
The council won't usually inform your landlord about your claim unless you ask for housing benefit to be paid direct to your landlord.
No written agreement
You need to provide proof of your tenancy to support your claim. If your landlord is unwilling to confirm that you have a tenancy your claim might be refused.
How to claim direct from the council
Your housing benefit claim is processed by your local council.
Claim direct from the council if you're only applying for housing benefit.
Many councils allow phone or online applications. Some will send you a paper form to complete.
How to claim via Jobcentre Plus
You can apply for housing benefit via Jobcentre Plus when you make a new claim for:
- jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
- employment and support allowance (ESA)
- income support
Jobcentre Plus should forward your housing benefit claim to your council.
You can make a 'rapid reclaim' if you've claimed housing benefit and another benefit within the last 26 weeks (or 12 weeks for ESA) and your circumstances are the same.
If you make a pension credit claim
You can apply for housing benefit when you make a new claim for pension credit.
Your claim can be backdated for up to three months.
The Pension Service will usually forward your housing benefit claim to your council.
Information you must provide
Whether you apply online, by phone or on a paper form, you'll be asked about:
- your partner and other household members
- income, savings and property
- your tenancy and how much rent you pay
Be honest when you make your claim. If you give inaccurate information you could be paid too much housing benefit and have to repay it. You could be prosecuted or fined if you deliberately withhold information.
Evidence to support your claim
You usually need the following original documents to support your claim:
- ID and national insurance number
- tenancy agreement, rent book or letter from your landlord
- bank statements for last 3 months
- 5 payslips (if paid weekly) or 2 payslips (if paid monthly)
- other benefit award letters
The council or Jobcentre Plus can check your documents at a face-to-face interview. Tell them if you have problems getting any of the documents together.
You must submit all supporting evidence within 1 month of your claim. You won't usually get any payments until you've done this.
Returning a paper form
The claim form should be returned to your council's housing benefit office.
Return the form in person if you can and get a receipt. Ask the housing benefit office to copy important documents so they can be returned to you immediately.
If you claim via Jobcentre Plus or the Pension Service
JobCentre Plus or the Pension Service will usually send your housing benefit claim to your council. You should check that the council has received it to avoid delays.
Still need help?
Get advice if you need help with your application or more information about claiming.
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After getting divorced, Sonia had to sell her house which made no profit. In order to meet the cost of renting, Sonia had to apply for housing benefit. Read Sonia's full story.
Last updated 12 Jul 2017 | © Shelter
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