Getting benefits if you rent from a family member
If you rent your home from a family member, you can sometimes get benefits to pay your rent. You'll need to prove that you have a tenancy and that your family member is your landlord.
If you live with a family member and pay rent to them, you may not be eligible.
Proving that you have a tenancy
Before you can get benefits to pay your rent, you'll be asked for proof that you have a tenancy. This is sometimes called proof of a commercial arrangement, or renting on a commercial basis.
You'll need to give evidence that your family member is genuinely your landlord. This could mean:
if you stop getting benefits, you still owe them rent
if you stopped paying rent, they would give you an eviction notice
It helps to have a written tenancy agreement. This can prove that you have a tenancy and that your family member is your landlord.
If you do not have a written agreement, you could show:
bank statements showing that you regularly pay rent
a letter from your family member saying there’s an agreement for you to live there and pay them rent
Check if you could get benefits to pay your rent
If you’re on a low income, you could get help to pay your rent through Universal Credit. You can only get Housing Benefit if you’re already getting it, or if you’re pension age.
If you live with the family member you rent from
Usually you cannot get benefits to pay your rent if you live with and pay rent to a close relative. A close relative means a:
parent, including a stepparent
child, including a stepchild
brother or sister, including a half sibling but not a step sibling
partner of any of these people
You could get benefits to pay rent if you live with and pay rent to:
an aunt or uncle
You’ll need to show evidence that you have a tenancy. If you live with the person you rent from, this can be a lodger's agreement.
Check your rights and download a template lodger’s agreement if you live with your landlord.
If you do not live with the family member you rent from
You could get benefits to pay your rent. You’ll need to show evidence that you have a tenancy.
If you pay rent to a former partner
You could get Universal Credit to pay rent to a former partner.
You might not get Housing Benefit if:
you used to live in the home as a couple
you have a child who is under 16 and lives with you
Problems getting benefits
If you have an informal agreement
You may not be able to get benefits to pay your rent. This could be when:
you do not pay rent, but pay money towards food and bills
you only pay rent occasionally or when you can
If your tenancy is set up to take advantage of the benefit system
This is sometimes called a contrived tenancy. It could be when you have an agreement to only pay rent when you can get benefits for it.
If the council or the Department for Work and Pensions think you have a contrived tenancy, they could decide you’re not eligible.
If you need help proving you have a tenancy
If you’re told your tenancy is informal or contrived, speak to an adviser at Shelter Scotland.
They can help you work out if you have a tenancy, and how to get the right agreement from your landlord. This will help you apply for benefits to pay your rent.
Challenging a benefits decision
Check Citizens Advice for guidance on:
If you need help challenging a benefits decision, get a benefits advisor to help you. Speak to an advisor at your local Citizens advice.
Last updated: 4 October 2022