Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit is gradually being phased out and replaced by Universal Credit. Only some people can still make a new claim for Housing Benefit. This page provides information about who may still be eligible and how to apply.

If you are out of work or on a low income and need help to pay your rent then, in most cases, you will need to claim Universal Credit. See our page on Universal Credit to see how to apply for this.

If you have a mortgage and are eligible to claim benefits you may be able to get help to pay the mortgage interest.

People who can still claim Housing Benefit

If any of the following apply, you can still apply for Housing Benefit for help to pay your rent:

  • you or your partner have reached State Pension age

  • you or your partner have been getting Pension Credit since before 15 May 2019

  • you live in temporary homeless accommodation

  • you get care or support from your landlord and they are a charity or a housing association - for example sheltered housing

Who is not eligible

You usually won't be able to claim Housing Benefit if:

  • you have saving of over £16000, unless you are in receipt of the guarantee credit of pension credit

  • you live in the home of a close relative

  • you are a full time student, unless you are disabled or have children

  • you are an asylum seeker

  • you are living in the UK as an European Economic area jobseeker.

How to claim Housing Benefit

If you think that you are eligible for Housing Benefit you should make a claim. You can claim:

  • in writing - using a Housing Benefit claim form

  • by phone if your council has a special phone number for benefits claims

  • by email or online if your council allows it.

Your local council's Housing Benefit department will be able to help you with your claim.

See the page on how Housing Benefit is calculated to find out what your council will look at when working out your Housing Benefit. Including how the 'bedroom tax' may affect your claim.

When to apply

If you think that you might be entitled to Housing Benefit, you should claim as soon as possible. It's best to do this by phone or in person. A Housing Benefit claim form should be sent out to you for you to complete. This should be returned with all the necessary information to support your claim within one calendar month.

If you think that you might have been entitled earlier and you have a good reason for not having claimed earlier (for example, because you were ill), you may be able to get your Housing Benefit backdated.

If you are working age your claim may be backdated for up to one-month. If you are State Pension age your claim may be back-dated for up to three months.

In both cases though you need to show you had good reason for not claiming earlier. Provided as much information about this as you can when you claim.

How Housing Benefit is paid

If you are eligible for Housing Benefit then your claim will start from the Monday after you have notified the council that you intend to make a claim (this is normally made as backdated payment), provided that you return your application form and any supporting documents within a month.

Housing Benefit is paid automatically to your landlord.

If you pay your rent on a daily basis, for example, if you live in a hostel or boarding house or you are staying in temporary accommodation provided by the council because you are homeless, you may be able to get Housing Benefit paid from the first day you move in. If this is the case make sure you let the Housing Benefit department know.

I am going to claim Housing Benefit, can I stop paying rent?

Don't stop paying your rent unless you are confident that you will receive full Housing Benefit. You may not be entitled to Housing Benefit or you might only get help with part of the rent, leaving you to make up the rest.

Housing Benefit claims can take a long time to process and you could be left with huge rent arrears.

If possible, try to find out approximately how much help you might be entitled to when you hand in your form. You could ask your council or housing association if they have a welfare rights officer who would be able to help you. You could contact a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice, your local council or other local advice centre. 

If you are having difficulty paying your rent and you are not sure if you will be entitled to full Housing Benefit, try to keep making rent payments at a level you can afford, and tell your landlord that you have claimed Housing Benefit.

Check if you're entitled to benefits

Use the Turn2us benefit calculator

You’ll need information on your household’s:

  • income and savings

  • outgoings, such as rent

  • existing benefits and pensions

  • council tax bill

Get help managing your money

Services that can help with budgeting, applying for benefits, and debt:

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 6 January 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England