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.

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:

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.

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

Last updated: 3 February 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England