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Services charges under housing benefit

This content applies to England

Which service charges can be covered by housing benefit. 

Overriding rule 

A service charge can only be covered by housing benefit if: 

  • its payment is a condition of occupying the property[1], and
  • it is not one of the charges that are listed as ineligible.

Ineligible service charges

Charges that relate to a claimant's daily living expenses are not eligible for housing benefit (although if the provision of the service relates to communal areas it may be eligible - see below). This includes charges for:[2]

  • fuel 
  • water 
  • meals 
  • personal care and support. 

Normally, the amount specified in a claimant's tenancy agreement, or other document, will be the sum that is treated as ineligible for housing benefit. When the amount charged cannot be identified, or is unrealistically low, the local authority will decide the reasonable amount for that service.[3]

There are different rules for meal and fuel charges:[4]

  • meals – a flat rate is used regardless of the amount charged to the claimant
  • fuel – where there is no evidence of the amount charged a flat rate is used. 

For details of the flat rates see the page on deductions under the relevant benefit year.

Eligible service charges

Service charges which are eligible for housing benefit include:[5]

  • service charges relating to the cleaning and maintenance of, and fuel supplied to communal areas, ie:
    • areas of common access (such as halls and stairwells in a block of flats) 
    • common rooms (such as a dining room) in sheltered accommodation. Sheltered accommodation is not defined in the regulations and can include housing schemes for people with disabilities and older people and supported housing schemes for young people[6]
  • water charges for communal areas[7]
  • charges for certain communal facilities, including:[8]
    • TV aerial and relay 
    • communal laundry facilities.

The amount of the eligible service charge must be reasonable. If it is not, only a reasonable amount for the service charge will be covered by housing benefit. [9]

Rent and service charges

Service charges in tenancy/licence agreements can be shown as so much per week/month and:

  • included in the total rental figure, or 
  • added as a separate charge to the rental figure. 

How a service charge is expressed in an agreement is not relevant for determining whether it is eligible or ineligible.

[1] reg.12(1)(e) Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 SI 2006/213.

[2] reg.12B(2) and Sch.1 Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 SI 2006/213.

[3] reg.12B(2) and para 3 Sch.1 Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 SI 2006/213.

[4] paras 1 and 5 Sch.1 Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 SI 2006/213.

[5] para 2 Part 1 and Part 2 Sch.1 Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 SI 2006/213.

[6] Oxford CC v Basey [2012] EWCA Civ 115; Liverpool CC v (1) NM (2) WD (HB) [2015] UKUT 0532 (AAC).

[7] Liverpool CC v (1) NM (2) WD (HB) [2015] UKUT 0532 (AAC).

[8] para 1(a) Sch.1 Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 SI 2006/213.

[9] reg.12B(6) Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 SI 2006/213.

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