Help to pay rent

Last updated: 01/04/2024

You may get financial help to pay your rent with Housing Benefit, Universal Credit or a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) if you have been affected by the UK Government Benefit Cap.

Related content

The benefits system has undergone a major change with the introduction of Universal Credit.

Read more about how benefits have changed.

See more information on Universal Credit.

Help if you have been affected by the Benefit Cap

Starting from 1 January 2023, the Scottish Government has committed to fully fund the mitigation of the benefit cap, as far as is possible within devolved powers. The funds allocated to local authorities for benefit cap mitigation are based on the maximum cost of the cap to claimants in Scotland. Everyone affected by the benefit cap can apply to their local authority for a Discretionary Housing Payment to replace as far as possible the cash support removed by the cap. More information and how to apply can be found here.

Scotland-specific statutory guidance for local authorities sets out how the DHP scheme should be administered in Scotland. The Scottish DHP scheme will allow local authorities to mitigate the benefit cap and provide better support for low income families more fully. The new scheme allows housing costs in addition to rent to be taken into account in benefit cap cases.

You can get help to pay your rent with Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. You will receive one or the other, not both. If you receive Universal Credit, the contribution towards your rent is included in your monthly award. Housing Benefit is paid separately to your other benefits.

No new claims can be made for Housing Benefit so if you do not already receive it, you will need to make a claim for Universal Credit to help with your rent.  If you are already getting Universal Credit, you can ask for help with your rent in your online account.

How much will I get?

The amount of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit you get depends on your earnings, other benefits you receive and the circumstances of any other adults or children who live with you.

You will not get help to pay your rent if you have savings or capital over £16,000. Savings or capital between £6,000 and £16,000 will affect any eligibility for help with rent. ‘Capital’ includes property you own that is not the home you live in, as well as some one-off payments such as statutory redundancy.

Help if you are renting from a social landlord

Provided you have the correct number of rooms you are likely to have your rent paid in full if:

  • You are renting from a council, housing association or co-operative, are not working and are getting:
    • Income Support
    • income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance
    • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
    • Universal Credit

The help you get to pay rent may be reduced if you are working or have any other income.

You can choose to have the money you get to help pay rent paid directly to your landlord.

If you have a spare room

You may not get your full rent paid if you live in a home with more bedrooms than the council says you need. This is commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’. A reduction of 14% will be made to your maximum Housing Benefit if you have 1 extra bedroom and 25% for 2 or more extra bedrooms.

However, you can apply to your local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment to meet this shortfall. Although the housing officers can normally decide who can or can’t get a discretionary housing payment the Scottish Government has said it must be paid to tenants in council, co-operative and housing association properties who are affected by the ‘bedroom tax’.

You will not be affected by the bedroom tax if someone in your household is :-

  • a pensioner,
  • a carer,
  • an overnight carer,
  • an approved foster carer,
  • a parent of adult children in the Armed Forces who are still living at home.

You will also not be affected if you live in a:

  • shared ownership property
  • caravan or houseboat.

Help if you are renting from a private landlord

Help to pay rent for a private property is calculated using the maximum amount the local council decides is right for that property. This is called the Local Housing Allowance or LHA. The LHA is based on the number of rooms the council says you need and is different in each local authority area.

If your rent is over the LHA you will have that extra amount to pay yourself.


If your rent is £150 per week and the LHA for your circumstances is £120 per week, the maximum you could possibly get towards your rent is £120. You will need to pay £30 per week towards your rent yourself.

If you are renting from a private landlord, the landlord will often ask for a deposit and a month’s rent in advance before you move in. This can amount to a substantial amount of money. Your local council may give you a Discretionary Housing Payment to pay for this.

Contact your council, or visit their website, to find out what the LHA is where you live and to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Reduced help if other adults live with you

There may be a reduction in the help you get to pay rent if an adult aged 18 or over lives with you. This includes your son or daughter. This is called a non-dependant deduction and the amount depends on the other person’s earnings.

There are no deductions made for 16 or 17-year-olds or for 18 to 25 year-olds who are not working and receiving:

  • Income Support,
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance,
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance during the assessment phase, or
  • Universal Credit.

The maximum amount of benefits your family can receive

There is a limit on the total amount of money that can be paid to you from certain benefits. This is called the Benefit Cap.

For single parents the cap is £423.46 per week. If your benefits total more than this weekly amount, help towards paying your rent will be reduced.

If you are not entitled to Housing Benefit or Universal Credit the Benefit Cap will not affect you.

The benefits taken into account for the Benefit Cap include the following:

  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Child Benefit
  • Universal Credit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance (or Widowed Mother’s Allowance or Widow’s Pension if you started getting it before 9 April 2001)

 The Benefit Cap will not affect you if you care for someone with a disability or are receiving:

  • Universal Credit and have earnings of £722 per month or above
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance (support group)
  • Limited Capability for Work and Work Related Activity element of Universal Credit
  • War Widow’s or War Widower’s Pension
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Industrial Injuries Benefits (and equivalent payments as part of a War Disablement Pension or the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme)
  • Guardian’s Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance or the Carer’s Element in Universal Credit.
  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

Discretionary help towards your rent

Discretionary Housing Payment

As well as getting any Housing Benefit or Universal Credit to help pay your rent your local council may also give you a Discretionary Housing Payment depending on your circumstances. Each council has some money to make Discretionary Housing Payment.

You can ask for a Discretionary Housing Payment from your local council if you –

  • need help to pay a rent deposit or rent in advance
  • have been affected by the bedroom tax
  • have been affected by the Benefit Cap,
  • are at risk of becoming homeless.

There are other situations where help may be given so it is always worth talking to your local council’s Housing Department if you are having difficulty paying your rent.

Payments may be made regularly or as a one off. How much you get will be based on your individual circumstances.

Contact your local council’s Housing Department for more information.

How can I calculate the help I will get towards my rent?

The calculations used to work out how much help you might get to pay rent are complicated. The Lone Parent Helpline can do this for you based on your personal circumstances.

You can call the Lone Parent Helpline free on 0808 801 0323 Mon – Fri, 9.30am – 4pm.