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Housing Benefit

This guide for RCN members provides information about Housing Benefit including how to apply.

What does Housing Benefit cover?

You may be entitled to housing benefit if you pay rent. This includes people living in hostels, bed and breakfasts and mobile homes as well as council and housing association tenants.

It can help cover all or part of your rent along with some of the service charges you may required to make as part of your tenancy agreement. It will not cover expenses associated with meals, heat, light and charges for care and support.

If the amount of Housing benefit you are awarded is less than the total rent you pay then you will need to make up the shortfall. Your local council may be able to offer a discretionary housing payment (DHP).  If you are living in Northern Ireland, you will only qualify for a DHP if you are a tenant renting in the private sector. Please see our information on DHPs.

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How much could you get?

You can ask your local authority to give you a manual calculation. Most local authorities also have online calculators where you can work out how much you could receive.

If you pay council or social housing rent the amount you could get depends on a number of factors including the amount of *eligible rent you pay, whether you have a spare room, your household income and personal circumstances (e.g. the ages of people in your home and whether anyone has a disability). This money will usually be paid into your rent account.

If you rent privately, Housing Benefit is worked out using Local Housing allowance. The amount you will get is based on the size of your household, your household income, personal circumstances and where you live. It will usually be paid into your bank or building society account. Please see our advice on ‘Local Housing Allowance’ for more information.

Housing benefit is not usually paid if you:

  • live in the home of a close relative

  • have savings over £16000

  • are a full time student (unless you have children or are disabled)

  • are an European Economic Area job seeker residing in the UK

  • are sponsored to be in the UK, are an asylum seeker or are subject to immigration control which states that you are not able to claim public funds.

* Eligible rent is the reasonable rent for a suitable property in your area including service charges but not utilities.

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Making a claim

If you are claiming Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Job Seeker's allowance please contact Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688.

If you are claiming Universal credit you can get help for your rent as part of this payment.

If you are claiming Pension Credit please contact the Pension Service on 0800 99 1234.

If you are not claiming any other benefits you should apply through your local council (online or by completing a claim form).

If you think that you could be entitled to housing benefit you should make your claim as quickly as possible. You may be able to get your housing benefit back dated. Time limits apply and you may need to demonstrate a good reason for the delay in applying e.g. you have been unwell you were previously wrongly advised by a benefits professional.

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Reporting changes to your personal circumstances

You must keep your local council up to date with any changes to your personal circumstance, such as:

  • if your children leave school

  • if anyone moves in or out of your home

  • if your household income changes

  • if you or your partner’s savings and capital change.

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Appealing a decision

If your application is rejected you can ask your local council to reconsider. You must write to your council within one calendar month of the date on the decision letter. If you are still unhappy with their outcome you can appeal to a Tribunal. The RCN Welfare Rights and Guidance Service can advise and assist with appeals.

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Call the RCN on: 03457726100

Page last updated - 25/01/2018