What financial help is available to pay my rent?

Last updated: 30/09/2021

Depending on your circumstances you may get financial help to pay your rent to a social landlord or private landlord through housing benefit or universal credit.

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You can get help to pay your rent with housing benefit or universal credit. You get one or the other not both. If you get universal credit the help towards your rent is included in your monthly award. Housing benefit is paid separately from your other benefits.

No new claims can be made for housing benefit so if you do not already get it you need to make a claim for universal credit to help with rent.  If you are already getting universal credit ask for help with rent in you online account.

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. If you have savings or capital between £6,000 and £16,000 any help with rent will be reduced. Capital includes property you own that is not the home you live in, and 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 cooperative, you are not working and are receiving:
    • 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 reduction in the money you receive to pay your rent is commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’. A reduction of 14% will be made to your maximum housing benefit if you have one extra room and 25% for two or more extra rooms.

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, cooperative and housing association properties who are affected by the ‘bedroom tax’.

Households where there are pensioners, carers, overnight carers, approved foster carers, parents of adult children in the Armed Forces who are still living at home, people in shared ownership properties and people living in caravans or houseboats will not be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’.

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 amount 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.

For example, 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.

Contact your council or visit their website to find out what the LHA is where you live.

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.

Reduced help if other adults live with you

There may be a reduction in the help you get to pay rent to a social or private landlord 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 without the addition of a component, 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 £385 per week. If your benefit entitlement totals 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 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 is not applied if you are receiving:

  • Universal credit and have an income of £617 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, an underlying entitlement to it, or the carer’s element in universal credit.
  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

Discretionary help towards your rent

Discretionary Housing Payments

As well as getting any housing benefit or universal credit to help pay your rent your local council may give extra financial help depending on your circumstances. Each council has some money to make ‘discretionary housing payments’.

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.

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

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.

Contact your local council’s housing department for more information.


Tenant Hardship Grant 

This grant is to help tenants who have rent arrears due to the coronavirus pandemic. The money comes from the Scottish Government and is paid by local councils. It does not have to be paid back.

Can I get help? 

The grant can help private, housing association and council tenants who have rent arrears from between 23 March 2020 and 9 August 2021. You cannot get help with arrears from before or after this period. Your rent arears must be as a result of how you were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

How much will I get? 

The council will decide if and how much help you can get based on your circumstances. You may get help with all of your rent arrears or only some. Any grant you are given will be paid directly to your landlord. 

If you do not get enough help you can ask for a Discretionary Housing Payment or apply for a Tenant Hardship Loan but this loan needs to be paid back. 

How do I apply? 

There is no application form but if you have rent arrears from between 23 March 2020 and 9 August 2021 you should contact the council to talk about your situation. 


Tenant Hardship Loan 

If you cannot get help to pay rent arrears from the Tenant Hardship Grant or Discretionary Housing Payments you can apply for a Tenant Hardship Loan. This needs to be paid back. 

 Can I get it? 

The Tenant Hardship Loan is to help pay for arrears from 1 January 2020. It cannot help with arrears before this date.  

You need to show that you have already sought advice about taking this loan and that you will be able to make repayments. Advice can be sought from debt services like National Debtline Scotland or a Citizens Advice Bureau. 

How much will I get? 

You can borrow up to 9 months of rent which can include up to 3 months future rent. 

Repayments are made monthly over 5 years starting 6 months after you receive the loan. There is no interest so your monthly repayment will be the total amount borrowed divided by 60. 

How do I apply? 

Applications are made online. 

For more information and to apply visit: https://tenanthardshiploan.est.org.uk/  

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

There are many things to consider when calculating what help you could get  to help pay your rent. 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.