What is housing benefit?

Housing benefit is a regular council payment to help pay your rent. You may be eligible for housing benefit if you are on a low income or claiming benefits.

What housing benefit pays for

Housing benefit helps pay for rent and some types of service charges.

It doesn't help with water charges, care or support costs or most heating charges.

Housing benefit doesn't cover mortgage payments.

Who can claim housing benefit

Housing benefit is for people who rent their homes or who part-rent through shared ownership.

You must be on a low income or claiming benefits. Your savings must be below £16,000, unless you are getting pension credit (guarantee credit part).

You or your partner can claim housing benefit. It doesn't matter which of you is named on the tenancy agreement.

You may not be able to claim if you pay rent to a family member.

How to apply for housing benefit

You can claim housing benefit from your local council. You can usually do this by phone, in writing or online.

Make your claim as soon as you can. You have to complete a form and provide evidence. Provide as much information as possible.

You can also claim housing benefit via:

  • Jobcentre Plus if you are making a claim for employment and support allowance, jobseeker's allowance or income support
  • the Pension Service if you are making a claim for pension credit

If you apply via Jobcentre Plus or the Pension Service they will forward your claim to your council. It's a good idea to check the council has received your claim.

You can check the contact details of your housing benefit office on your council's website.

Find your council's website on Gov.uk

How housing benefit is calculated

Find out how housing benefit is calculated if you rent from a council or housing association or pay rent as part of a shared ownership home.

If you rent privately your housing benefit is calculated in a different way using local housing allowance (LHA) rules.

Housing benefit does not always cover your full rent. You might be able to get discretionary housing payments (DHPs) if you are struggling to make up the shortfall.

When a claim can start

Housing benefit is usually paid from the Monday after the date you tell the housing benefit office that you want to claim.

Sometimes you can get your housing benefit backdated.

Who housing benefit is paid to

If you rent from a council, your housing benefit is paid directly into your rent account.

If you rent from a housing association or private landlord, your housing benefit is paid directly to you so you can use it to pay your rent.

You can ask to have your housing benefit paid directly to your landlord or to an appointee if you are concerned about managing your money.

Find out more from Gov.uk about appointees for people claiming benefits

How often housing benefit is paid

Housing benefit is paid at the end of a rent period, not the start.

The council pays your housing benefit every two or four weeks or calendar monthly depending on how frequently your rent is due.

You can ask the council to pay it weekly if you have difficulty budgeting.

How long you can claim for

You get housing benefit for as long as you need it, unless your situation changes and you no longer qualify.

Tell the council about any change in your circumstances as this can affect how much benefit you are entitled to.

When special housing benefit rules apply

Find out about housing benefit rules for:

Still need help?

Search for your nearest Citizens Advice service

Contact a Shelter adviser online, by phone or in person

Last updated 25 Apr 2016 | © Shelter

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