What financial help is available to pay my rent?

Last updated: 10/02/2020

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 through housing benefit or universal credit. If you claim universal credit help towards your rent is included in your monthly award. Housing benefit is paid separately from your other benefits.

The amount of housing benefit or universal credit you get depends on your earnings, benefits 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 your landlord considers you have the appropriate number of rooms, you are not working and are receiving:

  • You are renting from a council, housing association or cooperative, and
    • 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.

In Scotland, if you get universal credit you can choose to have the housing part of your universal credit paid directly to your social landlord.

If you have a spare room

You may not qualify to have your full rent paid if you live in a home with more bedrooms than the council says you need. This reduction of 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 the two or more extra rooms.

However, you can apply to your local council for discretionary housing payments to meet this shortfall. Although the housing officers can normally decide who can or can’t receive these payments the Scottish Government has instructed that these payments 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 the rent 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 even if you qualify for full help with your rent on the part the council see as the correct amount for your home.

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, depending on income and circumstances. 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.

Reduced help if other adults live with you

There may be reductions in the help you get to pay rent to a social or private landlord if any working adult of 18 or over also 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 is not applied.

The benefits taken into account for the benefit cap include the following:

  • Income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, housing benefit
  • Bereavement allowance, maternity allowance
  • Child tax credit and child benefit
  • Universal credit
  • Widowed parent’s allowance and widow’s

 The benefit cap is not applied if you are receiving:

  • Universal credit and have an income of £604 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 widows and bereavement allowance
  • Disability living allowance
  • Personal independence payment
  • Industrial injuries disablement benefit
  • Guardian’s allowance
  • Carer’s allowance, an underlying entitlement to it, or the carer’s element in universal credit.

Discretionary help towards your rent

As well as getting any housing benefit or universal credit you may be entitled to 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.

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

There are many things to consider when calculating help towards your rent and it can be difficult to estimate this yourself. Call the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323 for an in-depth personal calculation of the help you could get to pay your rent, which considers type of landlord, your income, personal circumstances and plans, and the rules that will apply to you as a single parent.