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What is Housing Benefit?

What is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit helps you pay your rent if you’re on a low income. It can pay for part or all of your rent but how much you get depends on your income and circumstances. You can apply for it whether you’re unemployed or working.

Apply for Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit cannot:

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How much Housing Benefit can you get?

Housing Benefit can only be paid up to your 'eligible rent'. Your eligible rent is the most we can pay you in Housing Benefit. If you share the total rent payable for your home with other people, your eligible rent is based on the share that you and your family pay.

You can use the online benefits calculator to get an estimate of how much you may be entitled to.

Council and Housing Association Tenants

If you rent your home from the Council or a Housing Association, eligible rent normally means your actual rent minus any ineligible service charges (for example, water rates or heating).

Since April 2013 the eligible rent we use to assess your Housing Benefit may be decreased by an under-occupancy reduction if you have more bedrooms than your household needs. The amount of reduction to your eligible rent is:

  • 14% if you have 1 bedroom more than your household needs
  • 25% if you have 2 or more bedrooms than your household needs

Our information on Size Criteria can help you work out how many bedrooms you need.

Private Tenants

If you are a private tenant and you:

  • rent from a private landlord
  • live in a houseboat, caravan or mobile home
  • moved into your property before 15 January 1989
  • live in supported housing, or
  • pay a large part of your rent towards 'board and attendance'

Your eligible rent is normally decided by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). Your eligible rent cannot include ineligible service charges (for example, water rates or heating).

In all other cases, your eligible rent is set by the VOA in the form of a Local Housing Allowance (LHA). Your eligible rent in these cases is based on the LHA rate the VOA has set for the property you live in.

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Size Criteria

The number of people who live with you as members of your family determine how many bedrooms you need. This is your 'size criteria'.

Council and Housing Association tenants

Your size criteria is used to work out whether or not an under-occupancy reduction applies to you (see previous section above).

Private tenants

Your size criteria is used by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to work out your Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate or your Rent Officer rent.

Working out your size criteria

The following information can be used as a guide to work out how many bedrooms you and your household need.

You are entitled to one bedroom for:

  • every adult couple (married, unmarried or in a civil partnership)
  • any other adult aged 16 or over
  • a member of a couple who cannot share a bedroom
  • a member of a couple who can share a bedroom
  • a child who cannot share a bedroom
  • any two children under 10
  • any two children of the same sex
  • any other child

Please note specific criteria must be satisfied for a member of a couple or a child to be considered unable to share a bedroom.

Overnight Carers and Qualifying Parents or Carers

You may also be entitled to an extra room in your size criteria if (subject to specific criteria):

  • you, your partner or both of you have a carer who stays overnight
  • you, your partner or both of you are a qualifying parent or carer

Where both of the above apply you may qualify for two extra rooms in your size criteria.

If you believe you may qualify for an extra room please complete our Extra Room Request form.

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How your Housing Benefit is paid

Council Tenants

If you rent your home from the council your Housing Benefit is credited direct to your rent account. We do not issue payments to council tenants.

The council will tell you how much of your rent is left for you to pay (if any).

Remember that you must always pay any ineligible service charges included in your rent (for example, water rates or heating).

Private tenants

Most private tenants have their Housing benefit worked out using Local Housing Allowance (LHA).

If your benefit is assessed using LHA, we normally pay benefit directly to your bank account as this is the safest and easiest way to do it. We do not issue payments by cheque.

In some circumstances we can pay your landlord - but if necessary you will have to give us good reason before we can do so.

We will pay your landlord if:

  • we think you have or will have difficulty managing your financial affairs
  • we don't think you will pay your rent
  • you are eight weeks or more behind with your rent
  • it will help you secure or retain your tenancy

We will make a decision on each case individually. If we decide to pay your landlord, we will write to them for their bank details.

All other private tenants

If you:

  • rent from a housing association
  • live in a houseboat, caravan or mobile home
  • moved into your property before 15 January 1989
  • live in supported housing, or
  • pay a large part of your rent towards 'board and attendance'

We can pay benefit to:

  • you
  • your landlord, or
  • someone who has been nominated to look after your affairs

We pay benefit directly into a bank account as this is the safest and easiest way to receive it. We do not issue payments by cheque.

Providing your account details

You can provide your bank account details:

If you do not have a bank account and need information and advice on basic accounts please visit the Money Advice Service (external link).

If you do not have a suitable bank account you can get independent advice on setting up a bank account from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) (external link) or you can call them on 0800 111 6768.

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Page last updated:

6 July 2020

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