Help to pay rent if you're a private renter

If you rent from a private landlord 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.

This page covers information for people who rent from a private landlord. If you rent from a council or housing association see the page Help to pay rent if you rent from the council or a housing association.

Your household

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

When you rent from a private landlord the maximum amount of help you can get towards your rent is based on the number of bedrooms the government says you are entitled to to and the Local Housing Allowance rates. These rates are set each year and are connected to average rents in your local areas.

Local Housing Allowance rates

There are 5 local housing allowance (LHA) rates:

  • shared accommodation rate

  • 1 bed rate

  • 2 bed rate

  • 3 bed rate

  • 4 bed rate

Your LHA rate is based on the number of bedrooms you can claim for under the rules.

You can generally claim one bedroom for each of the following:

  • 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

The maximum number of bedrooms you can claim for is four.

If you are under 35 and are single with no dependants you may only be entitled to the 'shared accommodation rate'. Find out whether this applies to you on the page Housing costs if you're under 35.

If you're over 35 and living in shared accommodation

You’ll get the:

  • 1 bed self rate if you’re claiming Universal Credit

  • shared accommodation rate if you’re claiming Housing Benefit

You can check the Local Housing Allowance rate that applies to you on DirectGov: Local Housing Allowance rates.

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.

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.

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. This is called a 'non-dependant deduction'.

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.

If your benefit doesn't cover your rent

If you are having  difficulty making up the difference between your rent and the benefit you receive, you may be able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

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: 11 January 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England