You don’t have to be unemployed to claim housing benefit, you just need to be earning less than a certain amount.
Housing benefit will help you to pay all or part of your rent and it can come in very handy if you’re unemployed and worried about keeping a roof over your head.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.
Can I get housing benefit?
You may be allowed housing benefit if:
- You pay rent
- You earn a low income or receive no income at all
- You have savings of less than £16,000
You probably won’t get housing benefit if:
- You live in the home of a relative
- You have over £16,000 of savings.
- You are a full-time student (unless you’re disabled or have children)
- You’re an asylum seeker or sponsored to be in the UK
- You live with a partner who receives housing benefit
- You’re single and under 35 living in anything other than a bedsit or 1 bedroom shared accommodation
How much will I get?
How much housing benefit you’ll get depends on who you rent from, as you’ll receive different amounts depending on whether you rent privately or from the council.
I live in council accommodation
If you live in council accommodation or other social housing, the most housing benefit you can get is the same as your 'eligible' rent. “Eligible rent” means what is deemed to be reasonable rent for a house in your area. This particular housing benefit would cover rent for your home and some services like lifts, play areas and shared spaces, but it wouldn’t cover any bills.
However, other factors can determine how much housing benefit you receive too. This includes your household income (including any other benefits that you get), if you have over £6,000 in savings and your general circumstances (e.g., the age of the occupants in the house, if anyone in the house has a disability etc.).
I live in council accommodation with a spare bedroom
Due to changes to the benefits system, the amount you receive can also be reduced by a set amount if you have a spare bedroom.
If you have 1 spare bedroom there is a 14% reduction in housing benefit, and if you have 2 or more spare bedrooms, there would be a 25% reduction in the amount you’d receive.
In order to determine whether properties have a spare bedroom, certain occupants are expected to share bedrooms. This includes:
- An adult couple
- 2 children under 16 of the same gender
- 2 children under 10 (regardless of gender)
The following can have their own bedroom and aren’t considered to be using a possible spare room.
- A single adult (16 or over)
- A child that would normally share but shared bedrooms are already taken
- Children who can’t share because of a disability or medical condition
- A non-resident overnight carer (but they must stay overnight)
- A foster carer (up to 52 weeks)
- Rooms used by students or members of the armed or reserve forces that intend to return home.
I’m renting from a private landlord
If you are a private tenant renting you’ll have to claim Local Housing Allowance. The exact amount you’ll be paid will depend on where you live and who lives with you.
Other things that can affect how much you receive include your income (including any benefits you may already receive), if you have over £6,000 in savings, your personal circumstances and what the Local Housing Allowance limit is in your area.
The MAXIMUM amount you’ll get for rent is:
- Up to £250 a week for a one bedroom property (including shared accommodation)
- £290 a week for a two bedroom property
- £340 a week for a three bedroom property
- £400 a week for a four bedroom property
How do I apply for housing benefit?
You need to contact your local council – you can find out what this is by looking at your council tax bill.
You can claim up to 13 weeks in advance (17 weeks if you’re aged 60 or over). Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get your housing benefit claim backdated.
If your claim is rejected, you can appeal the decision.
How is housing benefit paid?
If you are a council tenant, your council will pay any housing benefit straight into your rent account.
If you're not a council tenant, your housing benefit will be paid directly to you or to your landlord – whatever you prefer.
If you find that your housing benefit doesn’t sufficiently cover your rent, you can ask your local council for a discretionary housing payment in order to cover the remaining amount.
What happens when I go back to work?
If your circumstances change and you return to work or start earning more money, your housing benefit may stop.
In these circumstances, you can ask for an extended payment of housing benefit. This would give you an extra 4 weeks of housing benefits in order to help you pay your rent. If you’re still struggling when this payment ends, you can then ask for “in-work housing benefit”.
Other things to consider…
When applying for housing benefit, remember that the council will look at your home and access whether it’s suitable for your needs. So if you live in a house that is too large, you may be refused housing benefit.
Also, housing benefit is purely to help you pay the rent. It can’t pay for any other house related bills such as heating, water or electricity. If you’re looking for help to pay other bills, you can use the official benefits calculator to see what else you could be entitled to.
There is also a benefits cap that limits the amount people aged between 16 -64 can get. So if you’re already claiming other benefits, you may be turned down for housing benefit or get a reduced amount so you don’t receive over the benefits limit.
If your circumstances change, you must inform your local council immediately as your benefits may be affected.
For more information on housing benefit, go to the GOV official website.