Rent arrears and housing benefit not being paid in time
Problems with your claim for Housing Benefit or Universal Credit housing costs can lead to rent arrears. Find out what you can do if you are in this situation.
Try to find out approximately how much Housing Benefit you will be entitled to. The benefit department will probably not be able to tell you before they process your claim, but a housing officer at the council, an adviser at a Citizens Advice or a specialist benefit adviser may be able to estimate this for you. You may not be entitled to any benefit or you might get less benefit than you expect. If you wait until your claim is processed, you could be left with huge rent arrears that you have to pay back yourself.
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.
Scotland’s Financial Health Service Advice offers lots of useful information about money and finances and has helpful links to services by council area.
Waiting for Housing Benefit to be processed
If you have rent arrears because you are waiting for your Housing Benefit claim to be processed, don't assume that it has not been processed because there is a backlog. Your claim form may have got mislaid, so contact the council to make sure that they have your form and any additional information required to process your claim. Housing Benefit is normally paid in arrears every 4 weeks so this can cause problems with paying rent on time.
See the page Waiting for a Housing Benefit claim to be processed for advice on what steps you can take next.
Waiting for Universal Credit housing costs to be processed
There is usually a five week wait before your first payment of Universal Credit but you can request a payment in advance. You will need to pay this back over the following year.
If you need to check anything about your Universal Credit claim contact the benefits service via your online account.
Eviction and benefits
If your landlord takes legal action because of your rent arrears, the sheriff or tribunal will have to take into account if there is a delay in your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit claim, - so long as this wasn't your fault - when deciding whether or not to evict you. This only applies if you are a:
You must be able to show:
that you have provided the council or benefits department with all the necessary information to process your claim, and
that when your claim is processed, you expect the benefit payment to clear all or most of your arrears.
If you are getting Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, you may at some point receive a letter telling you that you have been overpaid and that you have to pay it back. You might have to pay it back directly but if the money was being paid directly to your landlord they might ask your landlord to pay it back from your rent account and this could lead to arrears.
If you get a letter telling you that you have been overpaid benefit, contact an adviser at Shelter Scotland, Citizens Advice or other advice agency.
Last updated: 3 February 2021
Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.