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Housing benefit if you rent from a family member

You may not be able to claim housing benefit if you pay rent to a family member or partner.

Housing benefit and living with family members

If you live with a close relative, you won't be able to get housing benefit, even if you are paying them rent.

A close relative is a:

  • husband or wife
  • civil partner
  • partner
  • parent or stepparent
  • father-in-law or mother-in-law
  • child or step-child
  • son-in-law or daughter-in-law
  • brother or sister
  • brother-in-law or sister-in-law
  • partner of any of the above

In addition, you won't be able to get housing benefit if you or your partner are responsible for a child and your landlord is a parent of that child.

Claiming housing benefit if you rent a property owned by a family member

If you live in a property owned by a family member and pay them rent, you may be entitled to housing benefit. However, there are a couple of things the housing benefit department will want to check whether:

  • the tenancy is a 'commercial arrangement' - they'll want to be satisfied that you're paying rent on a commercial basis. In other words, they'll want to know that it's a proper tenancy, not just an informal arrangement between family members. Remember, if you rent from your partner you won't be able to claim housing benefit, even if your tenancy is set up on a commercial basis.
  • you are taking advantage of the housing benefit system - has the tenancy been set up to take advantage of the housing benefit system? This is called a 'contrived tenancy'. For example, if your landlord only asks you to pay rent when you are not working (and so eligible for housing benefit) but not when you are working (and earning too much to claim housing benefit), this would be a contrived tenancy.

Housing benefit for disabled people renting from a family member 

Housing Options Scotland has produced a useful guide to claiming housing benefit if you're disabled and you want to rent from a family member.

What if my housing benefit application is turned down?

If there are any problems with your application you have the right to appeal the housing benefit decision. Talk to an adviser at an advice agency near you if you're in this position.

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Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444*
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

*Our advice line is free to call from landlines and all six of the main UK mobile networks, Virgin, Orange, 3, T-mobile, Vodafone and O2, but charges may apply from any other network


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