Help to pay your rent if you rent from the council or a housing association

If you rent from the council or a housing association and you are on a low income you might be entitled to help towards paying your rent through Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. Find out how the amount you can get is calculated.

Only some people can make a new claim for Housing Benefit. It is being gradually phased out and replaced with Universal Credit. If you are thinking about making a new claim, check first to see if this is the right benefit for you by looking at our page Housing Benefit.

Housing costs under Universal Credit and Housing Benefit are calculated by looking at how much you can afford to pay towards your rent. The amount 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 from a private landlord see the page Help to pay your rent if you're a private renter.

How much your household needs

A calculation is made to work out 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 used 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 are ignored or 'disregarded' - there are special rules about this.

Your 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 any help to pay your rent, 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 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 or you live permanently in a care home.

Your rent

Your 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:

  • some service charges are included in your rent

  • if you have other adults living with you who could help pay the rent this may affect how much you'll get, this is called a 'non-dependent deduction'

  • your benefit may be reduced if 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 benefit for.

Service charges

There are some service charges that may be included in your rent that aren't considered as 'housing costs', so you won't get help towards paying these. Service charges that cannot be paid include:

  • provision of meals

  • personal laundry service

  • personal alarm system

  • personal support and care.

But you might get 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, a deduction may be applied to your 'eligible rent'. This is often known as the 'bedroom tax'. 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

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 an amount will be deducted:

  • 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.

If you live with other adults

Your 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 benefit system 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 Payment (the daily living component), or 

  • you receive Disability Living Allowance (the care component),

If you are claiming Housing Benefit no deduction will be made if the person living with you is:

  • under 18

  • a full-time student (except when they are working full time during the holidays), or

  • under 25 and receiving Universal Credit (with no earned income), Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, or income related Employment and Support Allowance (first 13 weeks), or

  • is receiving Pension Credit.

If you are claiming Universal Credit no deduction will be made if the person who lives with you is:

  • aged under 21

  • in receipt of Pension Credit

  • in receipt of the care component of disability living allowance (middle or highest rate), attendance allowance, the daily living component of personal independence payment

  • in receipt of carer's allowance

  • a prisoner

  • a carer of a child aged under 5

  • a child (or step-child) in the Armed Forces who

The amount your 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 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 benefit department are likely to look into whether this arrangement was set up to take advantage of the benefit scheme before deciding if you are eligible.  

Find out more

Find out more including how to apply see the page Universal Credit and help to pay rent.

If you are in receipt of state pension age or you receive Severe Disability payment or you are living in temporary or supported housing see the page Housing Benefit.

Help and advice

If you do not know how much benefit you will get, or you are already claiming but are not sure if you are getting the right amount, speak to an adviser.

How to check if you're entitled to benefits

Turn to Us has an online benefit calculator. You can use this to check if you are entitled to any extra money. It can be useful to have information with you about any money you have coming into your household already and what your monthly rent payments are before you use this tool.

Citizens Advice Scotland and Money Advice Scotland can provide money advice and welfare benefit checks and other financial support information.

Scotland’s Financial Health Service Advice offers lots of useful information about money and finances and has helpful links to services by council area.

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

Last updated: 12 January 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England