Housing Benefit 2020

If you meet the eligibility criteria for Housing Benefit (e.g. you get a low income, claim benefits, or you’re unemployed) you can get help to pay your rent.

Even though it is being replaced by Universal Credit, you can still make a new claim for Housing Benefit if one of these applies to your situation. For example if you:

  • Already get the severe disability premium or you have entitlement to claim it.
  • Received (or were entitled to) the severe disability premium within the last month and you still meet the eligibility criteria to claim it.
  • Already reached State Pension age.
  • Are living in temporary accommodation.
  • Live in sheltered or supported housing that has special facilities (e.g. alarms or wardens).
Note: You may need to make a claim for Universal Credit instead if you do not qualify. Learn how to use a benefits calculator so you can check whether you can get help to pay your rent before you start an application.

Generally, you will not qualify for Housing Benefit if you:

  • Have more than £16,000 in savings (unless you are getting the Guarantee Credit of Pension Credit).
  • Are paying a mortgage on your own home (you may still get Support for Mortgage Interest).
  • Are living in the home of a close relative.
  • Already get Universal Credit (unless in temporary or supported housing).
  • Have a partner who is already claiming Housing Benefit.
  • Are a full-time student (unless you have a disability).
  • Are residing in the United Kingdom as a European Economic Area jobseeker.
  • Have entered the United Kingdom as an asylum seeker or you are sponsored to be in the UK.
  • Are subject to immigration control and your granted leave states you cannot claim public funds.
  • Are a Crown Tenant.

Note: Check the section below to see if you can get other help with your housing costs.

Eligibility Changes from May 2019

Some important changes took full effect from the 15th of May 2019. As a result, being in a couple would mean you can only start getting Housing Benefit if (either):

  • Both you and your partner have already reached State Pension age.
  • One of you has reached State Pension age and started claiming Housing Benefit or Pension Credit (for you as a couple) before the 15th of May 2019.

You would be able to backdate a claim if you were not already getting it on the 14th of May 2019. You may need to claim Universal Credit instead if you already lost your eligibility.

Already Getting Housing Benefit as a Couple

Payments will continue after the 15th of May 2019 for couples who have already been receiving it. But, if you lose your entitlement you would need to meet the criteria for the new rules to start a new claim (e.g. if your personal or household circumstances change).

Already Getting Housing Benefit as a Single Person

If you are single, you would stop receiving the payments from the 15th of May 2019 if you start living with a partner under State Pension age. Even so, once your partner reaches State Pension age you would be able to start claiming it again.

How Much Housing Benefit Can You Claim?

In fact, there is no set amount. In general, whether you get help with all or part of your rent will depend on whether you are renting privately or from a local council.

An informative guide explaining how to apply for Housing Benefit and what documents you need to provide to support a claim.

Renting from a Council or Social Housing

There are set rules for council and social housing rent. Hence, the total amount you get will depend on:

  • Your ‘eligible’ rent.
  • Whether you have a spare room (or not).
  • Your household income (including what you get from benefits, pensions, and personal savings (over £6,000)).
  • Your household circumstances (e.g. the age of people in the house or whether any of them have a disability).

Eligible Rent Explained

In simple terms, eligible rent is the amount that the office uses to calculate a Housing Benefit claim. It combines the actual rent paid out along with any ‘necessary’ service charges (e.g. for lift maintenance or for communal laundry services).

It is important to be aware that your eligible rent would not include things like the heating or water costs for the home.

If You Have Spare Bedrooms

Living in council or social housing, and having a spare bedroom, is likely to reduce the total amount that you get. As a result, the reduction could be:

  • 14% of the ‘eligible rent’ if you have one (1) spare bedroom.
  • 25% of the ‘eligible rent’ if you have two (2) or more spare bedrooms.

An Example:

Supposing you have one spare bedroom and your eligible rent is £100 per week. In this example, they would reduce your eligible rent by 14% down to £86 per week.

Thus, this final figure would be the amount used to calculate how much you get.

Expectations for Sharing Bedrooms

The department dealing with your claim would expect these groups of people to share bedrooms:

  • An adult couple
  • Two (2) children under the age of ten (no matter what sex)
  • Two (2) children under the age of sixteen of the same sex

But, the following would be able to occupy their own bedroom:

  • Single adults (16 or older).
  • Children who would usually share but shared bedrooms are already occupied (e.g. you have 3 children and 2 are already sharing).
  • A couple (or children) who cannot share due to a disability or a medical condition.
  • An overnight carer for you, your partner, your child or another adult (providing the carer does not live with you but sometimes needs to stay overnight).

Also, they will allow there to be one spare bedroom for:

  • An approved foster carer (between placements) but only for a maximum of 52 weeks from the end of their last placement.
  • A newly approved foster carer for a maximum of 52 weeks from the date of approval if they do not get a child placed with them during that time.

They do not count rooms used by students and members of the armed or reserve forces as ‘spare’ while they are away providing they intend to return to the home.

Housing Benefit and Renting Privately

Some of the rules for Housing Benefit change if you rent privately. Thus, your eligible rent amount will be the ‘lowest amount’ between your Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate and the actual rent that you are paying.

The circumstances used to calculate the LHA rate will be based on:

  • The area where you are living.
  • The number of people in your household.
Note: You can search GOV.UK websites for Local Housing Allowance rates by postcode or local authority. You can also use the LHA bedroom calculator to work out how many bedrooms you are eligible for.

How much you can get will depend on:

  • The lowest figure between your ‘eligible’ rent and your LHA rate.
  • Your household income (including what you get from benefits, pensions, and savings (over £6,000)).
  • Your household circumstances (e.g. your age and whether you have a disability).

You should contact your local council authority if you are living in a:

  • Caravan site
  • Hostel
  • Houseboat (or a mooring)
  • Rent Act protected property
  • Room with any meals included with the rental payments (also called a boarding home)

An Exception

Have you been getting Housing Benefit since before the 7th of April 2008? If so, these limits would only apply if you:

  • Change your address.
  • Have a break in your claim for Housing Benefit.

How You Get Paid

The way that your local council pays Housing Benefit will depend on what type of tenant you are. So, if you are a:

Housing Benefit and the Benefit Cap

The benefit cap places a limit on the total amount of benefit payments that most claimants can get. Furthermore, it applies to people aged between sixteen (16) and the State Pension age.

As a result, you may find that your Housing Benefit amount will go down to stay within the cap level. But, using the benefit cap calculator can help you check how the benefit cap might affect you.

Appealing a Housing Benefit Decision

Your local council handles complaints and appeals about this type of welfare support. Therefore, you would need to contact the council authority to question any of its decisions. Similarly, you must also follow the correct procedure to appeal a Housing Benefit decision.

Support Needed for Housing Benefit Claims

You must provide some information and certain types of evidence (documents) to support a claim for Housing Benefit. So, preparing the required documentation will help you speed up your claim.

First of all, you will need to determine:

  • How much rent you are paying and whether it includes anything else (e.g. gas, electricity, or charges for water).
  • Whether you are paying for service charges (would include building maintenance or insurance).
  • The contact details of your landlord or rental agent.

Rules for Special Types of Tenancy Agreements

You will also need to know if yours is an ‘assured tenancy’ agreement. So, are you renting from a private landlord and your current tenancy first started in or before 1997? The Shelter website has a tenancy rights checker if you are not sure.

Likewise, if you are a ‘Crown Tenant’ (you are living in and paying rent for a government property, you will lose your benefits entitlement to Housing Benefit. This rule also applies to armed forces personnel who live in service family accommodation (SFA).

Evidence You Need to Provide

The documentation that you must provide should be the original documents (not photocopies). Among the supporting evidence you will need to supply, are:

  • Recent payslips (2 if you get paid monthly and 5 if you’re paid weekly).
  • Bank or building society statements for the last two (2) full months.
  • Proof of other income or investments (including ISAs, shares, and Premium Bonds).
  • Proof of income for any non-dependants that live with you (e.g. adult relatives or friends).

You will also need to provide proof of your partner’s name and address (two separate documents) if you are in work or you are claiming the contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The two documents that you would need to supply can be (any):

How to claim Housing Benefit in the United Kingdom
  • A UK photocard driving licence
  • Current passport
  • Birth or marriage certificate
  • Biometric residence permit
  • Certificate of registration or naturalisation
  • Permanent residence card
  • Letter from HMRC or the Home Office
  • Recent bank or building society statement
  • Recent benefit award statements
  • Utility bill (must be recent)

If You are Renting from a Private Landlord

If you rent privately you will also need to provide (either):

  • A tenancy agreement (or a rent book).
  • A letter from your landlord confirming the tenancy arrangement (usually supplied at the beginning of a tenancy period).

How to Apply for Housing Benefit

In fact, Universal Credit is replacing claims made for Housing Benefit. Therefore, most new claimants will need to claim Universal Credit instead.

The method you use to claim Housing Benefit will depend on whether you will be making a new claim for any other rights to benefits at the same time. Either way, you are going to have to provide some evidence to support the claim.

Applying Only for Housing Benefit

If you are only applying for Housing Benefit you can apply through your local council to help pay your rent.

Similarly, you can still make a new claim through the council even if you already receive other social security benefits.

Applying for other Benefits as Well

You can also apply for Housing Benefit as part of another application for other welfare benefits. There are several different ways to apply, depending on the particular benefit.

Income Support, ESA, or Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact Jobcentre Plus so they can send details of the claim to your council.

Jobcentre Plus
Telephone: 0800 055 6688
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
Next Generation Text service (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 055 6688
Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm

Pension Credit

After contacting the Pension Service they will send details of the claims to your local council.

Pension Service
Telephone: 0800 99 1234
Textphone: 0800 169 0133
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 99 1234
Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm

Universal Credit (UC)

As a general rule, you cannot get Housing Benefit at the same time as Universal Credit. An exception applies for some people in certain kinds of supported or temporary housing.

Even so, you may get help paying for your housing costs with your Universal Credit payment. You would need to be paying rent directly to your landlord.

Claiming in Advance (backdate a claim)

Even though you can make a claim in advance, such as when moving homes, it cannot be by more than thirteen weeks (17 weeks for people 60 or older). Nonetheless, it would be unlikely for you to get any money until after you have moved.

Your local council can also provide further information on how to get a claim for Housing Benefit backdated.

Reporting a Change of Circumstances

It is important to report a change of circumstances straight away – for yourself and for anyone else in your household. In fact, delays in reporting changes could mean they reduce or stop your claim altogether.

A list of the most common changes in circumstances includes:

  • Starting or stopping work, education, training, or an apprenticeship.
  • Certain changes to the benefits that you get (or anyone else in your house).
  • Changes to your pension, savings, investments or property.
  • Your rent goes up or down.
  • Moving homes.
  • Going abroad for any length of time.
  • Going into hospital, a care home, or sheltered accommodation.
  • People move into or out of your household (e.g. a child, your partner, or lodger).
  • Having a baby.
  • The death of your partner or someone you live with.
  • Your child turns 18.

You should report all changes of circumstances to your local council. They can also confirm whether you need to report any specific change if you are unsure about it.

What if You Receive an Overpayment?

In most cases, if you get paid too much money (e.g. a benefit overpayment) you will have to pay it back if you:

  • Failed to report a change in circumstances straight away.
  • Gave the wrong information to the department.
  • The department overpaid you through error (they made a mistake).
Note: Giving the wrong information, or not reporting a change in your circumstances, can result in you being taken to court or having to pay a penalty for benefit overpayment.

What if Your other Benefits Change or Stop?

You must report a change of circumstances for benefits that you may be receiving in addition to Housing Benefit.

Furthermore, going back to work, working extra hours, or earning a higher wage can mean some benefits will completely stop. If it happens, the local council can:

  • Give you an extra four (4) weeks of payments (called an ‘Extended Payment of Housing Benefit’).
  • Start to pay you an ‘in-work Housing Benefit’ instead.

It would be up to the local council to decide whether you meet the eligibility criteria for this kind of help. What’s more, they would write to let you know so there is no need to claim it.

Getting other Help with Housing Costs

Even if your application for Housing Benefit is successful the money will not cover the costs of heating you home, producing hot water, your energy bills, or your food.

So, using a benefits calculator is free and independent and it can reveal what other financial help you may be entitled to.

Claiming Discretionary Housing Payments

If your council determines that you need extra help to meet your housing costs they may provide you with Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs).

The council would look at the circumstances and see whether you qualify for a DHP. Following that, they would determine how much to pay you and for how long you would receive the payments.

Financial Help with Heating Costs

The government offers certain types of energy grants and other ways to save energy in your home. It is worth checking to see what help you can get with the cost of heating your home and with energy costs.