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How housing benefit is calculated

Housing benefit is paid by the council to help people pay their rent. Housing benefit is calculated by looking at how much you can afford to pay towards your rent. The amount of housing benefit you will get will be the maximum rent that can be paid for your home minus the amount that you can afford to pay.

This page covers council and housing association tenants, if you rent privately see local housing allowance for benefits to help you pay your rent.

How much your household needs

The council will start by looking at how much money your household needs to live on each week, taking into account:

  • the number of people in your house and their ages
  • if anyone in the house is sick or disabled
  • if anyone is a full-time carer.

The amounts they use in the calculations are set by the Government.

Your income

The council will then look at how much money you have coming in. This can include:

  • wages
  • benefits and tax credits
  • pensions
  • maintenance payments
  • grants, bursaries and student loans.

Some parts of your income is ignored or 'disregarded' - there are special rules about this.

You'll be entitled to full housing benefit if you are getting income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or the guarantee credit of pension credit.

If you don't get one of these benefits your housing benefit will be reduced by 65 pence for every pound of income (apart from disregarded income) you have above the level the council say you need to live on.

Your savings and investments

If you have savings of £16,000 or more you won't be entitled to housing benefit, unless you are of pension age and receive the guarantee credit of pension credit.

Savings or investments over a certain level are treated as though they give you an income and will affect your housing benefit:

  • capital of more than £6,000 - if you are of working age
  • capital of more than £10,000 - if you are of pension age.

The website has more information on how your income and savings affect your housing benefit claim.

Your rent

Your housing benefit calculation is based on the rent and other charges you pay to your landlord. Not all charges are taken into account and some are limited.

The council will look at how much rent you pay, but it is reduced where:

  • service charges are included in your rent
  • you have other adults living with you who could help pay the rent, also known as 'non-dependents'
  • your home is considered too large for your needs.

Once this is worked out you'll be left with what's known as your 'eligible rent', which is the amount you'll get housing benefit for.

Service charges

There are some service charges that may be included in your rent that cannot be paid by housing benefit. Service charges that cannot be paid by housing benefit include:

  • provision of meals
  • personal laundry service
  • personal alarm system
  • personal support and care.

Housing benefit can help with the cost of some services, for example:

  • fuel charges for communal areas
  • charges for communal laundry areas
  • charges for lifts, entry phones, gardens and children's play areas.

The size of your house

If your home is larger than your household needs, the housing benefit department may not be willing to use the rent charge as the maximum rent and a deduction may be applied to your eligible rent for housing benefit. It depends on the number of rooms there are in the property and the number of people who live there.

One bedroom is allowed for:

  • a couple
  • a person over 16
  • two children under 16 of the same sex
  • two children under 10
  • one child if they are an only child
  • a carer if you are disabled and in need of overnight care

Living rooms are also allowed:

  • one for less than four people
  • two for four to six people
  • three for seven or more people.

If your home is considered too large for your needs, the housing benefit department can decide what the maximum rent they could pay for accommodation of the appropriate size for your household is.

Deductions for extra bedrooms

If you are deemed to be renting a property that's bigger than you need, based on the bedroom allowance above, then a deduction will be applied to your eligibile rent for housing benefit. This is commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'.

  • 14% will be taken off for one extra bedroom
  • 25% will be taken off for two or more extra bedrooms.

If you are having  difficulty making up the difference between your rent and the housing benefit you receive, apply for a discretionary housing payment. See our page on the 'bedroom tax' for more information.

Deductions for living with non-dependents

Your housing benefit may be reduced if you have someone living in your house who is:

  • not your husband, wife, civil partner or partner (including same-sex partners)
  • someone you do not claim child benefit for
  • over the age of 18.

The housing benefit department assumes that these people pay something towards your rent, even if they don't.

No deduction will be made if:

  • you are registered blind, or
  • you receive attendance allowance, or
  • you receive personal independence payments (the daily living component), or 
  • you receive disability living allowance (the care component), or
  • the person living with you is a full-time student (unless they have full-time work during the holidays), or
  • the person living with you is under 25 and receiving jobseeker's allowance, income support, income related employment and support allowance (first 13 weeks), or
  • the person living with you is receiving pension credit.

The amount your housing benefit will be reduced by depends on the other person's income. If they are not willing to give their income details to you, ask them to contact the housing benefit department directly.

Former non-dependants

If you previously lived in a property as a non-dependant and then become responsible for paying rent at the same property, e.g. you become a joint tenant, then the council will have to look into whether this arrangement was set up to take advantage of the housing benefit scheme before deciding if you are eligible for housing benefit.  

Help and advice

If you do not know how much housing benefit you will get, or you are already claiming housing benefit and are not sure if you are getting the right amount, speak to an adviser. They should be able to give you more information on how housing benefit works.

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This content applies to Scotland only.
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