Service charges covered by housing benefit

Service charges, except daily living expenses such as fuel, water and meals, are covered by housing benefit if their payment is a condition of occupying the home.

This content applies to England

Overriding rule

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

  • its payment is a condition of occupying the property[1]

  • 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). This includes charges for:[2]

  • fuel

  • water

  • meals

  • personal care and support

These exclusions may also apply to accommodation which is subject to pre-January 1996 rules.[3]

Usually, the amount specified in a claimant's tenancy agreement, or other document, is the sum that is treated as ineligible for housing benefit. When the amount charged cannot be identified, or is unrealistically low, the local authority decides the reasonable amount for that service.[4]

There are different rules for meal and fuel charges:[5]

  • 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

Eligible service charges

Service charges which are eligible for housing benefit include:[6]

  • water charges for communal areas[7]

  • charges for certain communal facilities, including[8] TV aerial and relay, and communal laundry facilities

  • 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 blocks 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[9]

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. [10]

Rent and service charges

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

  • included in the total rental figure

  • 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.

Last updated: 12 March 2021

Footnotes

  • [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]

    Allerdale BC v JD and others (by their respective appointees) (HB [2019] UKUT 304 (AAC).

  • [4]

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

  • [5]

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

  • [6]

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

  • [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]

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

  • [10]

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