Help to pay rent while you are away from home

You might get Universal Credit or Housing Benefit if you are away from home, but only under certain conditions. Check if you're eligible and how long you might be able to claim for.

The rules are slightly different depending on which benefit you are getting.

  • The information for Housing Benefit claims is further down the page.

If you get Universal Credit

In some circumstances your housing cost element will continue to be paid on a temporary basis.

Going away for up to 6 months

You can get the housing element for up to 6 months while away from home if you:

  • expect to return within this time

  • stay within England, Scotland or Wales

You can usually be away for any reason.

You can't get the housing element if you know you'll be away for longer than 6 months. But you won't usually have to repay benefit if you expected to return within the time limit.

Away from home due to fear of violence

You can get the housing element for up to 12 months if you're away because of a reasonable fear of violence in your home or from an ex-partner. 

Threats or violence could be directed at you, your partner or any dependent children.

You must:

  • expect to return within 12 months

  • stay within England, Scotland or Wales

You might also qualify for help with housing costs at your temporary address. See the page Housing costs for two homes for more information.

If you're sent to prison

You don't usually qualify for any Universal Credit if you're in prison awaiting trial or serving a sentence. But if you got the housing element as a single person immediately before going to prison, you can continue to get it for up to 6 months if you've either: 

  • not been sentenced yet

  • been sentenced but expect to return home within 6 months

You should qualify if your sentence is less than 12 months (this may be longer if you're likely to be released early on a tag). The Prison Service can confirm your earliest release date.

Moving out because of essential repairs

You can usually get the housing element for your normal home if you have to stay elsewhere because of essential repair work.

If you don't have to pay rent at your normal home during the repairs, you can get the housing element to help with rent at your temporary address if you need to. 

There's no time limit on how long you can be away for. But you must intend to return once the work is complete.

Going abroad

In most cases you can only get the housing element for up to 1 month when abroad. You must expect to return within the time limit. 

Going abroad means leaving England, Scotland and Wales. Travel to Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or Isle of Man counts as going abroad. 

Death of a close relative

You may be able to get the housing element for up to 2 months if you're abroad because of the death of your: 

  • partner

  • children or step children

  • parents, step parents or in laws

  • brothers, sisters or their partners

You will only get the housing element for up to 2 months if it's unreasonable to expect you to return home within a month. Discuss this with your work coach before you go. 

Medical treatment abroad

You can get the housing element for up to 6 months if the only reason you're abroad is so that you, your partner or child can receive medical treatment or care. 

You must expect to return home within the time limit.

If household members are away temporarily

The number, age and sex of the people who live in your household affects the number of bedrooms you can claim for.

You can usually claim for household members who are away temporarily if they're expected to return within:

  • 6 months if they're in England, Scotland or Wales

  • 1 month if they go abroad (including Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

You can claim for a child or step child indefinitely if they're away with the armed forces and they intend to return home when not on operations. 

You can claim for a household member who goes to prison, or for a child taken into care even if you don't expect them to return. After 6 months, your housing element is recalculated if they don't return to the family home. 

Counting the length of a temporary absence 

An absence starts on the day you leave your home and usually ends if you return home for at least 24 hours. 

If you go away again, it's usually treated as a new temporary absence. 

Example: You leave a violent relationship and get the housing element for 3 months while away. You return home when your former partner moves out. Within a few days you receive further threats so you leave again. You can get the housing element on your normal home for a further 12 months if you intend to return within this time.

If you get Housing Benefit

In some circumstances your Housing Benefit can continue to be paid on a temporary basis.

If you have not moved into a new home

Housing benefit is normally only paid from the date that you actually move into your home. If your tenancy agreement starts before you move in, you will have to pay the rent yourself for the period in between, unless there were exceptional circumstances that prevented you from moving in earlier. For example, you accepted a new tenancy but were then taken into hospital.

Prisoners on remand

If you are being held in custody pending your trial or sentencing, or have to stay somewhere that is not your home as a condition of bail, you can continue to get Housing Benefit for up to 52 weeks. If you are sentenced for more than 13 weeks, you will no longer receive housing benefit.

If you are sentenced, any other benefits you receive will also be affected.

Mental Health Reasons

The above rules do not apply if you are detained under the Mental Health Act. In this case, you'll count as a hospital patient (see below). The below points also apply if you are admitted to hospital or are receiving care for mental health reasons.

Hospital patients or receiving medically approved care

You can have Housing Benefit paid for up to 52 weeks if you are away from home because:

  • you are a hospital inpatient

  • you are receiving care approved by a doctor or health professional.

Staying in a care home

If you are away from home staying in a care home you may be able to get Housing Benefit for your own home for up to 52 weeks while you are away, so long as you intend to return home.

However, if you are in a care home on a trial basis, you can only get Housing Benefit for 13 weeks.

If or when you decide you will not be going home, your Housing Benefit will stop immediately.

Caring for others

You can get Housing Benefit for up to 52 weeks if you are away from home because you are:

  • providing someone with care that has been approved by a doctor or health practitioner

  • looking after a child because their parent or guardian is receiving care that has been approved by a doctor or health practitioner

  • receiving care that has been approved by a doctor or health practitioner.

Absent due to fear of violence

You can get Housing Benefit for up to 52 weeks if you are absent from your home because of:

  • fear of violence in that home

  • fear of violence from a former family member.

You may also be able to claim Housing Benefit for the accommodation you are staying in while you are away from home. Find out about claiming housing benefit for two homes.

Absent students

If you are a student who gets housing benefit and you need to be away from your home, you may be able to get Housing Benefit for that home for up to 52 weeks.

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help. Get Help

Last updated: 10 January 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England