Housing Benefit: help with your rent

Housing Benefit is help to pay your rent if you're on a low income. It might cover all or part of your rent and may also cover some service charges.

How much you get depends on: 

  • your household income
  • any benefits you get
  • how much your rent is
  • whether you’re a council, housing association or private tenant
  • who you live with
  • the number of rooms you have.

You may get more help if you're receiving other benefits like Attendance Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

Who can claim it?

You can only claim Housing Benefit if one of the following applies:

  • you’ve reached State Pension age
  • you live in supported, sheltered or temporary housing, where you get care, support or supervision.

If you’re a couple, only one of you can apply for both of you. You must both have reached State Pension age, except in certain circumstances.

Housing Benefit is means-tested so it depends on your income, savings and investments. You may be able to claim if:

  • you are personally or jointly responsible to pay rent on your home
  • you have less than £16,000 in savings or investments (unless you receive Guarantee Pension Credit, which has no upper savings limit)
  • you're on a low income or receive Guarantee Pension Credit.

For more information, see our factsheet Housing Benefit.

Local Housing Allowance

If you’re a private tenant, how much Housing Benefit you can get depends on:

  • your council’s Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates (the maximum rent allowed for properties in your area)
  • the number of bedrooms your household needs, up to a maximum of four.

If you’re disabled and receive regular overnight care from a carer who doesn’t live with you, an extra bedroom for the carer to stay overnight is usually allowed.

You can find out what the LHA is in your area from your local council or the Valuation Office Agency. If your rent is more than the maximum, you’ll have to make up the difference. You may be able to get short-term help from the Discretionary Housing Payments scheme.

Discretionary Housing Payments

If your Housing Benefit doesn't cover all of your rent, you may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). Contact your local council to find out how to apply or visit Gov.uk for more information.

You may also be able to get a one-off payment for costs such as rent deposits or rent in advance.

Your council decides whether to award a DHP, for how long, and how much you’ll get, based on your circumstances. Give as much information as possible when you apply, such as:

  • details of your income and outgoings
  • any disabilities you have
  • your debts
  • any other benefits you receive.

You should explain why it's so difficult for you to pay the shortfall in your rent.

Help if you have a mortgage

If you own your home, you may qualify for a Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) loan. This is help with interest payments on your mortgage and on certain loans for repairs or improvements to your home.

SMI is paid in the form of a loan, which must be repaid when you die or sell your home. If you were receiving it as a benefit before 6 April 2018, you won’t have to repay the money you’ve already received and you have the option to take out an SMI loan. Visit MoneyHelper for more information.

An SMI loan is calculated using a standard rate of interest, not your lender’s rate. It’s only available to cover interest, not the amount borrowed. There is an upper limit on the amount you can claim.

Who can claim it?

You may qualify for an SMI loan if you're not working and you're getting one of the following benefits:

  • Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Universal Credit.

To check if you qualify or to ask about how to claim, contact the Pension Service if you’re getting Pension Credit, Jobcentre Plus, or the Universal Credit helpline.

SMI is usually paid direct to your lender. If you’re on Pension Credit or you’ve reached Pension Credit qualifying age, this should happen straightaway. You’ll have to wait 39 weeks if you’re working age, or until you've received nine consecutive payments if you're getting Universal Credit. 

It’s a good idea to get advice before you decide whether to take out an SMI loan. Contact Citizens Advice for help.

There may be other options if you’re struggling to pay your mortgage. Read our webpage Problems paying your mortgage for more information.

Next steps

To apply for Housing Benefit, contact your local council to ask for a claim form. You can find their contact details on Gov.uk

If you’re already claiming Pension Credit, contact the Pension Service. They will forward your claim for Housing Benefit to your council. 

If you need help with your claim, contact your local Age UK or Citizens Advice .

For more information on SMI loans, visit Gov.uk.

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