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Help with your rent - Housing Benefit

What is Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit is a benefit for people on a low income to help them pay their rent. You may be able to get Housing Benefit if you are on other benefits, work part-time or work full-time on a low income. You cannot get Housing Benefit to help with the costs of a mortgage or home loan. If you are an owner-occupier, you may be able to get help with your mortgage interest through Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Pension Credit.

From 2013 onwards, Housing Benefit and Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance and income-related Jobseeker’s Allowance are gradually being replaced by a new benefit called Universal Credit which can include amounts to help with either rent or mortgage. Pension Credit will remain and in the future will include amounts for rent as well as mortgage costs.

For information about Income Support, see Help for people on a low income – Income Support, for information about income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), see Benefits and tax credits for people looking for work, for information about ESA, see Benefits for people who are sick or disabled and for information about Pension Credit, see Benefits for older people. For information about Universal Credit, see our section on Universal Credit.

Housing Benefit does not help with the Council Tax, but if you are on a low income you may be able to get a reduction in your Council Tax under a local scheme.

For more information about Council Tax Reduction Schemes, see Help with your Council Tax – Council Tax Reduction.

Housing Benefit is paid by your local authority.

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Who can get Housing Benefit

You pay rent for the home you live in

To get Housing Benefit you must pay rent. It does not matter if your landlord is the council, a housing association or private landlord. You can also claim Housing Benefit if you rent a room in a hostel, or are a boarder. You can claim it if you share a flat or a house and can get Housing Benefit as a joint tenant or a sub-tenant. You cannot get Housing Benefit if you rent your home from the Crown, or you are 16 or 17 and have been in care.

You can only get Housing Benefit if you are responsible for paying the rent for your home, or live with your partner who is responsible for the rent. Only one member of a couple who live together can claim Housing Benefit. You must also live in the accommodation for which you are claiming Housing Benefit.

There are some people who will be treated as though they are not responsible for paying rent even though they are paying it, for example, if you are renting from a close relative who also lives in the home.

Students may be able to claim Housing Benefit, but special rules apply to you if you are a student.

If you have two homes or you are temporarily away from home, you may be able to get Housing Benefit, depending on the circumstances.

If you live in a residential care home or a nursing home you cannot usually claim Housing Benefit. You may be able to get help with care home fees. If you are living in a care home and you need financial help, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

You are resident in the UK

You must be living in the UK to claim Housing Benefit. If you are from overseas or have recently come to live in the UK you may have difficulty claiming the benefit, depending on your immigration status.

If you are not sure about your right to claim benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

If you have been in care

If you are aged 16 or 17 and you have been in local authority care, you may not be able to get Housing Benefit. The local authority will have a duty to accommodate and support you.

If you are a young person who has left care, or are about to leave care, and you want to know what support you can expect with your accommodation, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

You are a Crown tenant

You are a Crown tenant if you rent your home from the Crown or a government department. If you are a Crown tenant, you cannot get Housing Benefit unless your property is managed by the Crown Estates Commissioners.

If you are a Crown tenant who cannot get Housing Benefit, you may be able to get help with your rent from Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Pension Credit.

For information about Income Support, see Help for people on a low income – Income Support, for information about income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, see Benefits for people looking for work, for information about ESA, see Benefits for people who are sick or disabled and, for information about Pension Credit, see Benefits for older people.

Your income and capital

To get Housing Benefit, you must have income and capital below a certain level. However, if you're getting certain benefits, different rules apply – see below. Capital means things like savings, land or property. However, some capital is ignored, for example, your personal possessions. Certain other types of capital are also ignored. For full details of other capital which is ignored, you should get advice.

If you or your partner have more than £16,000 in capital, you will not get any Housing Benefit, unless you are getting the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit.

If you or your partner have capital of over £6,000, you will be assumed to have some income from that capital.

If you or your partner have reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit and you have capital of over £10,000, you will be assumed to have some income from capital.

To find out more about the qualifying age for Pension Credit, see Benefits for older people.

If you are getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, you will automatically be within the income and capital limits for Housing Benefit and you will qualify for the maximum amount. If you are on Pension Credit and you get the guarantee credit (whether on its own or with the savings credit), you will also automatically get the maximum amount of Housing Benefit. If you get the savings credit only, you may qualify for Housing Benefit but it will depend on your income and savings. The local authority will use the Pension Service figures for income and savings to assess whether you can get Housing Benefit.

When you will be treated as not paying rent

In some situations, the local authority may treat you as if you are not responsible for paying the rent, even though you have to pay it and you will not get Housing Benefit. This will be the case if you have a rental agreement the local authority thinks is ‘non-commercial’, for example, because it is not legally enforceable.

You may be excluded from Housing Benefit by this rule if you pay rent to a close relative who also lives in the home, or to a former partner for the home where you used to live together. It can apply if you pay rent to a company or trust that you have some connection with. It can also apply if you (or your partner) used to own the home and your ownership ended within the last five years. It can apply if you live in your home as a condition of your employment or your partner’s employment, or if you live there because you are a member of a religious order which provides you with your living costs.

The local authority may also apply this rule if they think the rental arrangement has been set up only to get Housing Benefit (this is called ‘taking advantage of the Housing Benefit scheme’). The local authority may say your arrangement ‘takes advantage’ if you are an adult living in someone else’s home and you start to pay them rent.

If the local authority say that you cannot get Housing Benefit because you are not responsible for the rent, or you think this might apply to you, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

If you are a student

If you are a student in full-time higher education (degree level or equivalent), you cannot usually claim Housing Benefit. However, you can claim it if you are studying part-time. If you are under 19 and on a course below degree level, you can also claim Housing Benefit (unless you have recently left care).

You can also claim Housing Benefit if you get Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you are a single parent or you are disabled, regardless of whether you are studying full-time, or what level of education you are in. You can also claim if you are a member of a couple, you are both full-time students and you have dependent children. If you are a full-time student but your partner is not, check if your partner could make the Housing Benefit claim instead of you.

I am deaf and am studying full-time at college. Can I get help to pay my rent?

Yes, as a disabled student, you can get Housing Benefit as long as your income is below a certain level and you don't have more than £16,000 of savings. You may also get other financial help if you’re a disabled student. In England, you can get more information from the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk. In Scotland, see the website of the Student Awards Agency at www.saas.gov.uk.

The rules about which students can claim housing benefit are complicated. There are also rules about how student grants, loans and other financial support are treated when your income is being calculated.

Some full-time students who cannot get Housing Benefit and need financial help may be able to apply for money from discretionary funds at their place of study.

For more information in England, see Financial support for higher education students and in Wales, see Student finance Wales.

For more information about financial support for higher education in Scotland, see Student Awards Agency guide to support for students in higher education.

If you are a student and you want to check if you can get Housing Benefit, or you want to check how much you will get, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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How much Housing Benefit can you get

How much Housing Benefit you can get depends on how much rent you pay, what income you have coming in and where you live.

From April 2013, it can also depend on the total amount you get from all benefits. This is known as the Benefit cap.

Housing Benefit may not cover all of your rent or the housing costs which are included in your rent. In some cases, the amount of your rent which is eligible for benefit will be restricted according to the number of people in your household and the size of your accommodation.

Housing Benefit will not cover some costs and services which could be included in your rent, for example, water charges, charges for heating, hot water, lighting or cooking, and payments for food or fuel.

If you are not sure what costs are included with your rent, or you want to check what housing benefit will cover, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

If you're on benefits

If you are on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or the guarantee credit of Pension Credit (whether you get it on its own or with the savings credit), Housing Benefit will cover all of your eligible rent. But you need to remember that not all of your rent or housing costs may be covered.

Also, the Housing Benefit you can get may be reduced if another person lives with you who could be expected to pay towards their accommodation, even if they do not.

If your Housing Benefit does not cover all of your rent and you need more help, you may be able to get some additional money from the local authority.

If you're not on benefits

If you're not getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or the guarantee credit of Pension Credit, Housing Benefit may cover all or part of your rent. The amount of Housing Benefit you get will depend on your income and capital (if you get the savings credit of Pension Credit, the local authority will use the same figures as the Pension Service to calculate your Housing Benefit). The income you can have before it reduces your Housing Benefit depends on your circumstances, for example, your age, whether you have a partner or children, or whether you are disabled or care for a disabled person. There are also certain types of income that are ignored when working out how much housing benefit you should get, for example child maintenance.

You need to remember that not all of your rent or housing costs may be covered by Housing Benefit.

The Housing Benefit you can get may be reduced if another person lives with you who could be expected to pay towards their accommodation, even if they do not.

If your Housing Benefit does not cover all of your rent and you need more help, you may be able to get some additional money from the local authority.

To find out more about how Housing Benefit is calculated, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Restrictions on how much rent Housing Benefit will cover

If you pay rent to a private landlord, the rent your Housing Benefit can cover will normally be restricted to an amount set by a rent officer.

If you rent from a social housing landlord, such as the council or a housing association, and you are working-age, the rent that can be covered by housing benefit will be restricted if your accommodation is considered to be too large.

More on Housing Benefit rent restrictions if your social housing is too large

Private tenants on or after 7 April 2008

If you're the tenant of a private landlord and you make a new claim for Housing Benefit on or after 7 April 2008, your local authority will normally calculate how much rent your Housing Benefit can cover using the Local Housing Allowance rules. Local Housing Allowance rules will also normally apply if you move address, even if this is within the same local authority's area.

Under the Local Housing Allowance rules, the local authority will limit the maximum amount of Housing Benefit you can get. This is called the standard Local Housing Allowance and is decided by a rent officer.

The Local Housing Allowance is based on some of the lowest rents in the area you live in and on the number of rooms Housing Benefit rules say are needed for your household. This may not be the same number of rooms as you are actually living in.

For example, from 1 January 2012, if you're single, under 35, and have no dependent children, your housing benefit is based on the rent for a single room with shared facilities. However, some people are exempt from this, for example, some people who need overnight care, foster carers, kinship carers in Scotland, care leavers under 22, some disabled people, and people aged 25 to 34 who have been living in a homeless hostel.

You may find the amount of Housing Benefit you are entitled to won't cover all your rent. If this is the case, you may have to make up the difference out of any other income you have, or find cheaper accommodation. You may be able to get Further help with housing costs.

It's very difficult to challenge a rent officer's decision about Local Housing Allowance because you cannot appeal against this. However, you may be able to challenge a local authority's decision about how much housing benefit they pay you if you think it's wrong. See Problems with Housing Benefit.

If you're thinking of moving into private rented accommodation, or of moving into another area, you can find out how much rent Housing Benefit will cover where you want to live. You can ask the local authority's Housing Benefit office to tell you which Local Housing Allowance figure will be used to calculate your Housing Benefit or you can look on the Valuation Office Agency website at www.voa.gov.uk.

Private tenants before 7 April 2008

If you're the tenant of a private landlord and you applied for Housing Benefit before 7 April 2008, there are different rules about how much of your rent Housing Benefit can cover. These rules apply if you have not made a new claim or moved home since then. They also apply to certain kinds of accommodation, for example, where you get care, support or supervision in some cases.

These rules may still mean that Housing Benefit does not cover all your rent. How much of your rent Housing Benefit can cover is decided by a rent officer. Instead of using the Local Housing Allowance rules, they look at the rent you pay and decide whether it is reasonable for Housing Benefit to cover all the rent. This depends on a number of things, including how much your rent is compared with other similar properties in the area and whether the accommodation is the right size for your needs.

For example, from 1 January 2012, if you're under 35 and single with no children, the rent officer compares your rent with the market rent for a single room with shared facilities. However, some people are exempt from this, for example, some people who need overnight care, foster carers, kinship carers in Scotland, care leavers under 22, some disabled people and people aged 25 to 34 who have been living in a homeless hostel.

The local authority works out how much Housing Benefit you're entitled to based on the rent officer's decision.

If the amount of Housing Benefit you are entitled to doesn't cover all your rent, you may have to make up the difference out of any other income you have, or find cheaper accommodation. You may be able to get further help with housing costs.

If you applied for Housing Benefit before 7 April 2008, you can challenge a rent officer’s decision if you think it's wrong, for example, if there is no cheaper accommodation in the area. You can't appeal directly to the rent officer, but you can ask the local authority to ask the rent office to review their decision.

If you want to challenge a rent officer's decision, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Other Housing Benefit restrictions

Adults who live in someone else’s home

An adult who lives in your home and who is not a tenant or boarder, other than your partner, is called a non-dependant. For example, you might have a friend, parent, grown-up son or daughter or another relative living with you. If you have a non-dependant living in your home, an amount will usually be deducted from your Housing Benefit on the assumption that they could give you some money towards the costs of accommodation, even if they do not do so. The amount of the deduction depends on their circumstances.

If you were living with someone as a non-dependant, and then you enter into an agreement to pay rent while they are still living there, you may not be able to get Housing Benefit towards that rent, unless you can show that the arrangement was not set up in order to get Housing Benefit.

If you have a non-dependant living in your home, or you are a former non-dependant and you want to claim Housing Benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

If you have to pay rent on two homes at the same time

You can usually only get Housing Benefit for one home at a time. However, if you have to pay rent for two homes, you may be able to get Housing Benefit for both homes for a limited period. This might apply, for example, if you move home quickly and have to pay rent on your old home, if a new home is being adapted for a disabled person, or if you have to leave home because of domestic violence. The rules about when Housing Benefit can be paid for two homes are complicated.

If you need to claim Housing Benefit for more than one home at the same time, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

If you are away from home

If you are temporarily away from home and still have to pay rent, you may be able to carry on getting Housing Benefit. This might apply, for example, if you are in hospital or if you are away from home because of a fear of violence. You can only get Housing Benefit for up to a set number of weeks while you are not living at home.

If you need to claim Housing Benefit while you are temporarily away from home, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Benefit cap

Starting from April 2013, there may be limits applied to the amount of Housing Benefit you receive if your total income from all benefits exceeds the following limits:

  • £500 a week for a couple (with or without dependent children)
  • £500 a week for a single parent with dependent children
  • £350 a week for a single person without children.

Find out more about the benefit cap and if it applies to you.

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If you need overnight care

From 1 April 2011, if you or your partner have a disability or health problem that means you need overnight care from a carer who does not live with you, and you have an extra bedroom available for the carer, you may be able to get more Housing Benefit towards the cost of the extra bedroom.

This can be backdated for the entire period when you qualify for it, after 1 April 2011.

If you were already claiming Housing Benefit on 1 April 2011, it is up to you to tell your local authority if you need an extra bedroom for an overnight carer, as they may not know already.

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If you have a disabled child who cannot share a bedroom

If you have a disabled child who cannot share a bedroom with another child because of a disability, the housing benefit rules normally allow the disabled child their own bedroom. This means you may be able to get more housing benefit towards the cost of the child's bedroom. The child must meet all the following conditions:

  • they are entitled to the highest or middle rate of the care component of disability living allowance
  • the local authority is satisfied that because of their disability, the disabled child cannot reasonably share a bedroom with another child
  • there is an extra bedroom in your home for the child.

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Further help with housing costs

If your Housing Benefit does not cover all of your rent and you need more help, as long as you are entitled to some Housing Benefit you can ask the local authority for a discretionary housing payment. This is an extra payment (not Housing Benefit) which you can get if you need further financial assistance with your housing costs. It is up to the local authority whether to give you this help, so you should give them as much information as possible.

If you want more information about discretionary housing payments, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Minimum payments

The minimum amount of Housing Benefit which can be paid each week is 50p. If after your benefit is calculated, you are entitled to less than 50p a week, you will not get any Housing Benefit.

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How to claim Housing Benefit

If you're claiming Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

When you claim Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance at your local Jobcentre Plus, you are given a claim form for Housing Benefit at the same time.  

You will need to check with the Housing Benefit Department of your local authority whether or not they will accept this form. A local authority may only accept Housing Benefit claims made on their own form. If this is the case with your local authority, you will need to get a claim form from them, fill it in and send it back as soon as possible. This could lead to a quicker decision on your claim. You should keep a copy of any claim form you complete.

Alternatively, you may be able to claim Housing Benefit by telephone if your local authority has published a phone number for making telephone claims. If you've claimed Housing Benefit by telephone, your local authority may require you to approve a written statement of your circumstances.

If you are already getting Income Support, income-related ESA or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance and you start paying rent, you can ask for a Housing Benefit claim form at the Jobcentre Plus and contact the local authority for a copy of their Housing Benefit claim form.

Some local authorities allow you to make a claim for Housing Benefit by email or on the internet. It's up to your local authority to decide whether to allow electronic claims. They can also decide some of the conditions you'll have to meet to make an electronic claim.

Rapid reclaims

You may be able to complete a shortened Housing Benefit claim form, also known as a 'rapid reclaim'. To fill in a 'rapid reclaim', you must have previously made a claim for Housing Benefit and for one of the following benefits in the last 26 weeks:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit.

The time limit is twelve weeks if you have previously made a claim for Housing Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance.

You must also be reclaiming one of these benefits, as well as Housing Benefit, and your circumstances must have stayed the same.

To find out more about making a 'rapid reclaim', ask your local Jobcentre Plus.

If you claim Pension Credit

If you make a claim for Pension Credit by telephone, you can claim Housing Benefit at the same time. This means you do not have to make a written claim.

You can still claim directly from your local authority if you want to.

If you want to claim Housing Benefit and you are already getting Pension Credit, you should ask your local authority for a claim form. You may be able to make a claim over the phone, by email or over the internet. Not all local authorities allow you to do this, so check with your local authority on how you can make a claim.

If you make a claim for the savings credit of Pension Credit (but not guarantee credit) and you also claim Housing Benefit, the Pension Service will pass details of your income and capital on to your local authority. Your local authority will then use these details to calculate your Housing Benefit.

If you aren't claiming Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Pension Credit

If you are not entitled to one of these benefits, you should claim Housing Benefit direct from your local authority Housing Benefit office.

You should use the claim form from the Housing Benefit office and ask the claim to be dated from the day you asked for it.

You should answer all the questions on the claim form which apply to you, including details of your personal circumstances, your income and your savings. You should keep a copy of the claim form.

Alternatively, you may be able to claim Housing Benefit by telephone if your local authority has published a phone number for making telephone claims. If you've claimed Housing Benefit by telephone, your local authority may require you to approve a written statement of your circumstances.

Some local authorities allow you to make a claim for Housing Benefit by email or on the internet. It's up to your local authority to decide whether to allow electronic claims. They can also decide some of the conditions you'll have to meet to make an electronic claim.

Information to support your claim

When you apply for Housing Benefit, you will have to provide your national insurance (NI) number. If you don’t know your national insurance number, but you think you have one, try to provide information that will help the office find your number. If you do not have a national insurance number, you will have to apply for one. To show that your number belongs to you, or to apply for a number, you will also have to provide evidence of your identity, for example, a birth certificate.

If you are not on Income Support, income based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit, you will have to provide evidence of your income and capital, for example, a savings book or wage slips. You will also have to show that you are responsible for the rent, for example, by providing a tenancy agreement.

For information on how to apply for a national insurance number, see National insurance – Contributions and benefits.

If you have problems applying for a national insurance number or proving your identity, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Getting Housing Benefit backdated

You may be able to get some Housing Benefit for a period before you make your claim if you could have claimed earlier. Getting benefit for a period before you claim is called ‘backdating’. You can get backdated Housing Benefit for six months if you can show you have a good reason for not claiming earlier, for example, you were given wrong advice. You also have to show that you were entitled to Housing Benefit throughout the period of backdating – that you were paying rent, and your income was low enough. You will not usually get any backdated benefit just because you did not know that you could make a claim. You should explain on your claim form that you want to claim benefit from an earlier date, and give your reasons for failing to claim earlier.

The rules are different if you or your partner are 60 or over and you are not claiming Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance. In this case, you do not have to have a good reason for making a backdated claim. The period for making a backdated claim for these people is three months.

If you want to claim backdated Housing Benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Civil penalties for causing an overpayment

In some cases, you may have to pay a civil penalty if you do something which causes an overpayment. This can happen if, for example, you give wrong information or you keep quiet about something, and as a result you get more Housing Benefit than you're supposed to be getting. You can only be asked to pay this penalty if you haven't committed fraud. If you have committed fraud, different rules apply.

You can appeal against a decision to impose a civil penalty.

Checks on Housing Benefit, change of circumstances and fraud

You may commit benefit fraud if you deliberately give incorrect or misleading information when you apply for Housing Benefit, or fail to report a change of circumstances. Even if you are not committing fraud, you can cause an overpayment which will have to be repaid. Your circumstances can be checked at any time while you are claiming and fraud officers can also get information about you from other government agencies and from your employer, bank or utility companies. Benefit fraud is a criminal offence and you can be prosecuted or asked to pay a penalty. Your benefit may be reduced if you are convicted more than once.

For more information on what to do if you are asked to attend an interview under caution, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.

If you are worried about whether you might be suspected of fraud, you are under investigation or you have been convicted, or if you have been asked to repay an overpayment of benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens’ Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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How is Housing Benefit paid

Housing Benefit is paid by your local authority.

If you are a local authority tenant, you will not get your Housing Benefit paid to you directly. Instead it will be taken off your rent so that you either pay no rent or a reduced rent (also known as a rent rebate).

If you are a private or housing association tenant and you don't come under the Local Housing Allowance rules, you may get Housing Benefit paid directly to you or to your landlord, depending on your circumstances.

If you come under the Local Housing Allowance Rules, your local authority will normally pay Housing Benefit to you, rather than to your landlord. You will not be able to choose to have it paid direct to your landlord. However, there will still be some circumstances where your local authority can decide to pay Benefit direct to your landlord instead of you, for example, if you're unlikely to pay the rent or have difficulty managing money.

From 1 April 2011, if the landlord agrees to lower the rent to help you stay in the property, it may also be possible for the landlord to be paid direct from the local authority.

If Housing Benefit is paid directly to you, this will be by cheque, giro cheque cashable at the Post Office, or straight into your bank or building society account.

Housing benefit is usually paid in arrears. This means that it is paid after your rent is due. It can be paid weekly, fortnightly, every four weeks or every month, depending on how frequently you pay your rent. You have a right to be paid fortnightly if your housing benefit is £2 a week or more and it is not being paid to the landlord.

For more information about payment of benefit, see Payment of benefit and tax credits.

If you have problems with the way your housing benefit is paid, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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How long is Housing Benefit paid for

Generally, once you start getting Housing Benefit payment can continue indefinitely. Housing benefit only has to stop if you are no longer entitled to it.

However, in some circumstances, you have to make a new claim to continue getting benefit. For example, if you move to a different local authority area, you will have to make a new claim to that local authority housing benefit department. Otherwise, you should remember to report all changes of circumstances which might alter the amount of Housing Benefit you get, for example, changes in income or capital, or changes in the number of people who live with you. If you do not report these changes, you may be underpaid, or you may cause an overpayment which you will have to pay back later.

If you are on low income benefits

Housing benefit can continue to be paid indefinitely while you are on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance. You should report any relevant changes of circumstances which could affect your entitlement to Housing Benefit or the amount you get, for example, if your partner leaves, you have a new child, or you move address within the same local authority. If you do not report relevant changes, you may be underpaid, or you may cause an overpayment which you will have to pay back.

However, if you stop getting one of these benefits because you (or your partner) get a job or your hours or wages increase, you may be entitled to carry on getting Housing Benefit at the same rate for a further four weeks. This is called an extended payment.

For more information about extended payments of Housing Benefit, see Benefits and tax credits for people in work.

If your circumstances change

You should tell the local authority about any changes of circumstances which could affect your benefit, for example, a change in the people who live with you, or a change in your income or capital. If you move, you must report your new address and give information about the tenancy. If you move to a new local authority, you will have to make a new claim.

If you get Pension Credit, you can report some changes in circumstances to the Pension Service, who will pass the information on to the local authority. This is because your Housing Benefit is based on the Pension Service figures for your income and capital. However, there are some changes which you must report directly to the local authority. These are changes to your tenancy, changes to the people who live with you, longer absences from home (if more than 13 weeks), changes involving children, changes to capital over £16,000, and any changes to income and capital of a partner who is not included in your Pension Credit claim.

If you are not sure whether to report a change, you should do so anyway. If you do not report a change, you may be paid less than you are entitled to, or be overpaid, or you may even be investigated for fraud.

If you want more information about what changes to report, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Problems with Housing Benefit

If you are refused Housing Benefit and you think the decision is wrong, or you think the amount of Housing Benefit has been worked out wrongly, you can ask for the decision to be looked at again, or you can appeal. You should do this within one month of the decision about your housing benefit.

If you are not happy with the service you have received from the Housing Benefit department (for example, because of long delays or errors which are not sorted out), you can complain. You can do this whether or not you are also challenging a Housing Benefit decision.

Discrimination

It's against the law for you to be treated unfairly because of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or childbirth, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation when benefits or tax credits are paid to you. Also, the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs and most local authorities have policies which say they will not discriminate against you because of other things, for example, if you have caring responsibilities. If you feel that you've been discriminated against when you are paid benefits or tax credits, you can make a complaint about this.

For more about discrimination, see our discrimination pages.

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