Housing benefit while away from home

Find out when you can get housing benefit if you're away from home.

Housing benefit if you're away

In certain circumstances, you can get housing benefit if you're away from home temporarily.

To qualify you must:

  • expect to return home within the time allowed for your situation 
  • not rent out your home while you're away

The length of time you can get housing benefit for depends on the reasons you're away and whether you travel abroad. 

Tell the council

Tell the housing benefit office that you're going away, the reasons for your absence and when you'll return. 

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

If you know you'll be away for longer than the rules allow, you won't be entitled to housing benefit whilst away. You still need to pay your rent. 

You must tell the housing benefit office if your plans change while you're away to avoid an overpayment. For example, if you decide not to return or you're likely to be away for longer than the rules allow. 

Find your local housing benefit office on Gov.uk

When temporary absence starts and ends

Any temporary absence starts when you leave your home and ends when you return. 

Returning for at least 24 hours can be enough to end the temporary absence. This doesn't apply to sentenced prisoners on temporary release.

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

For example, you 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 get housing benefit for up to another 52 weeks whilst in hospital.

When you can be away for up to 13 weeks

Examples of when you can get housing benefit for up to 13 weeks include if you:

  • go on holiday
  • stay with friends or family
  • are in prison serving a sentence  
  • move into a care home on a trial basis to see if it meets your needs

You must be staying in England, Scotland or Wales.

Sentenced prisoners

The housing benefit office looks at your earliest date of release when deciding if you'll 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'll be eligible for release on an electronic tag.  

When you can be away for up to 52 weeks

Examples of when you can get housing benefit for up to 52 weeks include if you're:

  • in hospital
  • in prison on remand
  • on bail at a different address
  • receiving care in a residential home
  • providing care to someone or looking after a child whose parent is in hospital

You must be staying in England, Scotland or Wales.

If you go abroad

You can only usually get housing benefit for up to 4 weeks if you go abroad. In a few situations you can get housing benefit for longer than this.

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.

Still need help?

Get advice from Shelter or Citizens Advice:

Contact a Shelter adviser online, by phone or in person

Search for your nearest Citizens Advice service


Last updated 30 Aug 2018 | © Shelter

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