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Last updated:
02/12/2021

Housing Benefit

  1. Welfare Benefits for Mental Health
  2. Personal Independence Payment
  3. Universal Credit
  4. Employment and Support Allowance
  5. Council Tax: Exemptions and support to pay
  6. Statutory Sick Pay
  7. Housing Benefit
  8. Jobseeker’s Allowance
  9. Working Tax Credits
  10. Support for Mortgage Interest
  11. Attendance Allowance
  12. Cold Weather Payment
  13. Income Support
  14. Incapacity Benefit
  15. Severe Disablement Allowance
  16. Social Fund

Housing Benefit is designed to help people on a low income pay their rent. However, many people cite housing costs as harming their mental health.

If you are experiencing mental health and housing problems, this guide can help you decide if you should apply for Housing Benefits.

What is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit is a means-tested benefit to help meet your housing costs for rented accommodation.

You cannot use it to pay your mortgage. It is usually paid by your local authority/council (LA) but is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit (UC).

Can I apply for Housing Benefits with a mental health condition?

You can only make a new claim for Housing Benefit if you meet one of the following conditions:

  • You have reached the State Pension age
  • You are living in temporary, supported, or sheltered accommodation.
  • You receive or are eligible to receive the severe disability premium.

There are several added conditions you usually have to meet before making a new claim.

  • You have to be on a low income or be claiming other benefits.
  • You must be at least 16 years old – if you have been in care, you must be 18 before making a new claim.
  • You must have less than £16,000 in savings - this includes any combined savings you and your partner/spouse have.
  • You must not already be receiving Universal Credit (UC).

What is the state pension age?

The state pension age is the earliest age you can legally start receiving your state pension.

There is no longer a forced retirement age, so the earliest date you can receive your state pension depends on when you were born.

You can check your state pension age on the UK government website here.

What is temporary, supported, or sheltered accommodation?

Temporary accommodation

Temporary accommodation is housing you are only meant to live in for a short time.

For example your local authority moves you into a hotel or bed and breakfast whilst they find a more permanent home for you.

Supported accommodation

Supported accommodation is when you receive extra help, care, or supervision in addition to your housing.

It is meant to help you live as independently as possible whilst acknowledging that you need some extra support.

You might be eligible for supported housing if:

  • You have a mental illness or persistently suffer from mental ill-health.
  • You are an older person (over state pension age).
  • You are diagnosed with a learning disability, such as:
    • ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
    • Dyslexia
    • Down's Syndrome
    • Autism
    • PMLD (Profound and multiple learning disability)
  • You have a physical disability.
  • You are at risk of homelessness.
  • You are recovering from drug or alcohol misuse.
  • You need housing support following a custodial sentence.
  • You have left childcare or are a teenaged parent.
  • You are fleeing from domestic abuse.

This is not a definitive list. Local authorities may decide you have additional needs or a combination of needs that require supported accommodation.

Case study: Katesha

Katesha has schizophrenia and is being evicted by her private landlord.

Katesha can manage her condition with help from the GP and a mental health support worker.

Katesha's support worker helps Katesha apply for supported accommodation. 

The local council examines the evidence Katesha and her support worker have provided.

This includes Katesha's medical diagnosis along with all the medication and cognitive treatment she receives.

The local council concludes that Katesha should be provided with supported accommodation to live independently but have help when she needs it. 

Sheltered accommodation

Sheltered accommodation is like supported accommodation but is usually only available to people aged 55 or over.

Sheltered accommodation is often provided by the local authority and/or a housing association. There are different rules on who gets sheltered housing depending on where you live.

If you are 55 or over and feel you need extra housing support for your mental health, you should contact your local council.

You can check your local authority website or contact them by phone to find out what is available and how you can apply.

What is the severe disability premium?

The severe disability premium is an extra amount of money to help you manage your disability. You must be receiving an income-related benefit and one of the following benefits to qualify:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) daily living component.
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment.
  • Disability Living Allowance care component at the middle or highest rate.
  • Attendance Allowance.

Income-related benefits include:

  • Employment and support allowance.
  • Income-related jobseeker's allowance.
  • Income support.
  • Guarantee credit of pension credit.

How do I know if my income is low enough to qualify for Housing Benefits?

The Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) defines low income as any household earning less than 60% of the national median income.

Example
The average household income at the end of the financial year 2019-2020 was £29,900.

60% of £29,900 = £17,940.

Calculation: 0.60 x 29900 = 17,940

So, if your household income is less than £17,940 per year, you might be eligible to apply for Housing Benefit.

Local authorities must always use the most recent statistics to calculate your eligibility for Housing Benefit. You can use the example calculation above to help.

I am 17 years old, but I have been in care since I was 15. Can I apply for Housing Benefit?

No. If you have been in care, you must be 18 years old before making a new claim for Housing Benefit.

You might be able to apply for Universal Credit or another benefit instead. You can speak to a welfare rights adviser if you are unsure.

I am 16 years old and have never been in care. I live in temporary accommodation and am struggling to pay my rent. Can I apply for Housing Benefit?

Under these conditions, you can apply for Housing Benefit.

Remember, you must meet at least one of the following conditions to apply for Housing Benefit:

  • You have reached the State Pension Age.
  • You are living in temporary, supported, or sheltered accommodation.
  • You receive or are eligible to receive the severe disability premium.

If you meet one of the above conditions, you must typically also meet the following conditions:

  • You must be on a low income (less than 60% of the national average household income).
  • You must be at least 16 years old – if you have been in care, you must be 18 before making a new claim.
  • You must have less than £16,000 in savings – this includes any combined savings you and your partner or spouse have.
  • You must not already be receiving Universal Credit.

If the DWP has told you that you must move over to Universal Credit, you cannot receive Housing Benefits.

Housing Benefit Exclusions

Some people are excluded from being able to claim Housing Benefit. The list is very long, and we've not included all of them here, but these are the most common exclusions:

  • You lived in your home before you started renting it.
  • You live with your landlord, who is a close relative.

You can sometimes claim Housing Benefits if you live in a property owned by a close relative, but they do not live there too.

The rules can be complicated. You should speak to a welfare rights adviser if you want to claim Housing Benefits for living at your relative's property.

If you do not meet the rules for claiming Housing Benefits, you can apply for Universal Credit.

Local Housing Allowance

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules are used to determine how much Housing Benefit you get if you rent from a private landlord.

The LHA rates depend on how old you are, what area you live in, the number of people in your household, and the size of the property.

This can range from a single room in a shared house up to a property with four bedrooms.

LHA rates for the size of accommodation should be available from the local council. This could help you work out how much Housing Benefit you would get if you moved to a new address. Find out LHA rates.

Single people under 35 without children usually have an LHA of one bedroom in shared accommodation, but this won't be applied if they receive a severe disability premium.

The LHA rules will be different for you if you are exempt.

The exemptions are:

  • Your private tenancy began before January 1989.
  • You have been claiming Housing Benefit continuously since 1st January 1996, and you have not moved address.
  • Your home is a resettlement hostel.
  • You need an extra bedroom for a carer who does not live with you but provides you with overnight care.
  • You are under 22 and have been in the care of a local authority.
  • You are 25 or over and have lived in a hostel for homeless people or a hostel that provides rehabilitation and resettlement within the community for at least three months. You must have received resettlement support to help you live in the community.

Can my Housing Benefit rate go up and down?

There are limits on the amount of Housing Benefit you can receive. Every local authority can increase or decrease the amount you receive depending on your situation.

The amount of Housing Benefit you get can go up if you:

  • Have evidence that you need overnight care.
  • Receive overnight care.
  • Need an extra room in your property.

You may be able to claim Housing Benefit for a property with an extra room. For example, if you have a non-resident carer that needs to stay overnight a lot of the time.

Renting council or housing association property

Your Housing Benefit will be capped in line with Local Housing Allowance rules (LHA) – see the LHA section for more information.

Housing Benefit will cover all of your rent if:

  • Your only income is from means-tested benefits, and
  • You live in a property owned by the local authority or housing association.
  • You may only get part of the rent paid if you have other income and if so, you are responsible for paying the rest of the rent.

You may get less Housing Benefit if:

  • Part of your rent pays for bills or services that Housing Benefit does not cover. This could include electricity, water charges, meals, or laundry services.
  • You have a non-dependant living with you. A non-dependant is someone who should pay money towards the rent. Non-dependants may be:
    • An adult child
    • Friend or relative

Non-dependant deductions are not made if the person living with you is:

  • Under 18.
  • Under 25 and on income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA) or assessment-phase income-based employment and support allowance.
  • Under 25 and entitled to Universal Credit, unless they have earnings.
  • On pension credit.
  • Get a Work-Based Learning for young people allowance.
  • Have been in an NHS hospital for over 52 weeks (1 year+)
  • Have their normal home elsewhere.
  • A prisoner.
  • A member of the armed forces away on operations, or
  • A full-time student.

Non-dependant deductions are not made if you or your partner is:

  • Certified as severely sight impaired or blind by a consultant ophthalmologist.
  • Getting Disability Living Allowance care component at the middle or highest rate.
  • Getting Personal Independence Payment daily living component.
  • Getting Armed Forces Independence Payment.
  • Getting attendance allowance or constant attendance allowance, or
  • Getting pension credit.

Spare Room Tax (also known as the bedroom tax)

You will lose some of your Housing Benefit if you have more rooms in your property than you need – this is known as spare room tax or under-occupying your property.

Your Housing Benefit will be reduced by:

  • 14% if you have one spare room that can be used as a bedroom, or
  • 25% if you have two or more spare rooms that can be used as bedrooms.

Some exceptions allow you to keep one extra room without under-occupying your property.

What if I need the extra room for a carer to stay in?

You may be able to keep one extra room if you, your partner, or your child need overnight support from a carer.

You can keep the room if you or your partner claim:

  • Attendance allowance.
  • The care component of Disability Living Allowance at the middle or higher rate, or
  • The daily living component of Personal Independence Payment, or
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment.

You can still claim the extra room even if you are not claiming any of the above benefits.

Still, you will have to prove that the overnight carer is needed. You can do this with any certificates, evidence, or documents you have.

The carer must provide overnight care and stay in the bedroom regularly to claim the exemption.

What if I need the extra bedroom because I cannot share one with my partner because of my/ their disability?

If you cannot share a bedroom with your partner because of your disability or theirs, then you may be able to keep one extra bedroom without the tax.

In this case, you or your partner must claim one of the below benefits and prove that you cannot share a room:

What can I do if I am affected by the bedroom tax?

You have some options to think about if you are affected by the spare room tax. You could:

  • Move house.
  • Take in a lodger.
  • Apply for discretionary housing payments from your local council.
  • Increase your work hours.
  • Get a benefits check to make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to.
  • Pay the difference out of your benefits or other income if you can afford to do this.

Shared Ownership Scheme

Shared ownership means that you buy a share of your home through a shared ownership scheme but still pay rent – you can get Housing Benefit during this time.

In addition, you may be able to get help with mortgage interest payments through the Support for Mortgage Interest scheme.

Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)

To qualify for DHP, you must get Housing Benefit or council tax support – DHP is not a benefit, which means you do not have a right to claim it.

However, your local authority can give you a DHP if they believe you need extra money to help with housing costs.

DHP's are limited, so there is no guarantee that you will get one, but you can contact your local authority to apply for DHP.

When will my Housing Benefits stop?

You will be able to keep claiming Housing Benefit for as long as you need to, providing you meet the conditions and do not start claiming Universal Credit (UC).

However, you may need to start claiming UC instead if you have a change of circumstances or if the DWP tells you that you need to start claiming UC under managed migration.

My mental health makes it hard for me to claim Housing Benefit. What can I do?

If your mental health makes it difficult for you to apply for Housing Benefit, you should speak to a welfare rights adviser.

Welfare rights advisers provide face-to-face, online, and telephone advice to people who need help understanding welfare benefits.

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Within this subject

  1. Welfare Benefits for Mental Health
  2. Personal Independence Payment
  3. Universal Credit
  4. Employment and Support Allowance
  5. Council Tax: Exemptions and support to pay
  6. Statutory Sick Pay
  7. Housing Benefit
  8. Jobseeker’s Allowance
  9. Working Tax Credits
  10. Support for Mortgage Interest
  11. Attendance Allowance
  12. Cold Weather Payment
  13. Income Support
  14. Incapacity Benefit
  15. Severe Disablement Allowance
  16. Social Fund
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