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 various factors: 

  • your household income
  • if you receive certain benefits
  • how much your rent is
  • if you are 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?

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 liable 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 Council Tax Support and 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) and 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 you get Housing Benefit but it doesn't cover all your rent, you may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). Contact your local council to find out how to apply.

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, debts, and any other benefits you receive, explaining 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 be eligible for a Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) loan. This is help for housing costs, such as interest payments on your mortgage and on certain loans for repairs or improvements to your home.

SMI is now 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 April 6 2018, you won’t have to repay the money you’ve already received and you have the option to take out an SMI loan. Contact the Money Advice Service for more information.

An SMI loan is calculated using a standard rate of interest, not your lender’s rate, and is 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 be eligible 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’re eligible or to ask about how to claim, contact the Pension Service if you’re getting Pension Credit, Jobcentre Plus, or the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 9344.

SMI is usually paid direct to your lender after a waiting time of 39 weeks if you are of working age, or after you've received nine consecutive payments if you're receiving Universal Credit. There is no waiting time if you're on Pension Credit or if you have reached Pension Credit qualifying age.

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

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/find-your-local-council

If you're already claiming Pension Credit, contact the Pension Service gov.uk/contact-pension-service and they will forward your claim for Housing Benefit to your council. 

If you need help with your claim, ask your local Age UK or Citizens Advice if they can help.

For more information on SMI loans, visit gov.uk/support-for-mortgage-interest/overview.

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