Help with my Rent/Council Tax
Housing costs are the costs associated with maintaining the property in which you live. These are typical classed into rent for people renting their accommodation, and mortgages for those who own their property.
There are 2 different types of landlord; a social landlord is one who offers discounted rents for those in need of housing, such as those with disabilities or health conditions. Social landlords are typically local authorities and housing associations.
Private Landlords are those where anybody is entitled to rent from the landlord and these are often charged at premium prices.
What Help is there with My Housing Costs?
If you are renting from a landlord on a commercial basis, i.e. you have a tenancy agreement you may be entitled to help with your rent.
If you are on a means tested benefit such as; JSA, ESA and Income Support you have an automatic entitlement to claim Housing Benefit which can support you with your rent. Even if you are working and have a low income, you may be able to claim some help with the rent. To make a claim you should contact your local authority.
Local authority rents sometimes include a service charge for services such as water which Housing Benefit cannot be paid. You will need to pay this yourself.
If you are entitled to claim Universal Credit, you can apply for help with your housing costs and if eligible a housing element will be added to your claim.
Please note – some 18-21 year olds that have not been involved in training, education or employment for around 6 months before making their claim may not be entitled to claim the housing element of Universal Credit.
The type of landlord that you have may affect your housing costs entitlement.
If you are renting from a social landlord and are considered to have a spare room, your housing costs will be deducted by 14% for one spare room and then 25% for 2 or more spare rooms.
The rules governing spare rooms are as follows:
For example – A single parent who has 2 children a boy aged 12 and a boy aged 10 in a 3 bedroom house where the rent is £150 per week would lose £21 per week in Housing Benefit as she is only entitled to 2 bedrooms.
If this affects you, there are schemes that your local authority may run to encourage you to downsize.
If you are renting from a private landlord the rules are slightly different.
Your Housing Benefit/Housing Element is determined by the Local Housing Allowance (LHA). Even if you are claiming an out of work benefit, your housing benefit will be capped at a set rate based on local market average. You can check the LHA rate in your area at https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/search.aspx
The rules are broadly the same as above in respect of allocation of bedrooms; however the Local Housing Allowance will only pay for a maximum of 4 rooms meaning that you may find yourself with a large shortfall.
In addition, those aged under 35 are only entitled to the shared accommodation rate of rent.
An example of the maximum Housing Benefit you could receive in the Chilterns Region.
For example – a single person aged 30 rents a one bedroom flat with a rent of £100 per week. He is in receipt of Universal Credit and makes a claim for Housing Element. He is only entitled to £89.75 per week, leaving him to pay the remaining £11.25 per week.
Other issues that May Affect your Housing Benefit/Housing Costs Help
Non-dependant deductions – If you have a non-dependant living with you, someone over the age of 18, deductions maybe made from your benefit based on their circumstances. These are called non-dependant deductions. These are assessed on the income of the non-dependant as below. For those under 25 in receipt of out of work benefits, there is no deduction and for those over 25 the lowest deduction applies.
There are exemptions to this:
Table: Deductions from April 2023
How much your relative or friend earns each week before tax
Weekly deduction from your housing benefit
Less than £162
Between £162 and £235.99
Between £236 and £307.99
Between £308 and £409.99
Between £410 and £510.99
£511 or more
It is therefore important to update Housing Benefit with the circumstances of the non-dependant.
Under Universal Credit, there is one flat deduction that will be made of £85.73 per month regardless of circumstances. Under Universal Credit, there will be no deductions until the non-dependant turns 21.
There is now a limited of the amount of benefit which you can claim each week as follows:
If your income from benefits exceeds this amount, the balance will be deducted from your Housing Benefit/Universal Credit and you will be required to pay the balance yourself towards your rent.
There are exemptions where the Benefit Cap will not apply:
For example – A family of 5 living in London have the following monthly income:
Universal Credit (including rent of £1000 per month)
Child Benefit £223.20
Total Income = £2163.40
This means that they exceed the maximum cap of £2110.25 meaning that £53.15 will be deducted from the Universal Credit amount with the family having to make this shortfall up each month from the rest of their money.
If you are in receipt of Benefit and/or are working with a low income, you may be eligible to claim council tax reduction from your local authority. Changes in the scheme mean that whilst you were historically entitled to full Council Tax Benefit on benefits, this has now changed with even those in receipt of out of work benefits having to make a small contribution towards their council tax. If you are claiming Universal Credit, you will need to claim this independently.
What if I am Struggling to Pay My Rent?
If you are struggling to pay your rent, your landlord may issue you with a Section 21 notice asking you to give up the tenancy which is the first step taken to remove you from the property. If you can demonstrate that you are taking active steps to improve your situation, you may be eligible to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment from your local authority which is an additional pot of money separate from Housing Benefit which is allocated on a discretionary basis. It can be used with rent shortfalls, help with rent arrears or assist in moving costs. Awards are not indefinite and are only time limited so you may not get another award.
This advice is provided by our Benefits Advisor, Robert Mandelstam. The information provided above is up to date for the financial year ending 5th April 2024.
We have factsheets and advice on the following topics (these are up to date for the financial year 2023/2024):
If you would like to access this support service, please complete the referral form linked below:
Once you have completed this form, we will be in touch to book you in with our Benefit Advisor (keep an eye on your junk folder just in case the email goes there!). This service is offered to our six communities without charge. If you have any questions about this service, please email email@example.com
Robert Mandelstam is a Welfare Benefit Advisor at The Maggie’s Centre at the Royal Marsden, a charity focused on providing financial, emotional and practical support to those living with cancer. He is now also working to support our six charities as part of the Better Together project. Robert has been working in the field of welfare benefit advice for over 10 years in a range of different settings, namely, the NHS, local authority/housing providers and other third sector organisations. Robert aims to break down the barriers which exist around accessing support for some of the most vulnerable people in society and is adept at providing advice from the initial stages of a claim, through to representation at benefit tribunals.