Skip to Content
Back to A-Z Help pages index

Housing Benefit rent rules

If you are a tenant and on a low income you may qualify for help with your rent through Housing Benefit. The exception is people who claim Universal Credit, where help with rent comes through the housing element of Universal Credit.

In order to calculate your Housing Benefit correctly you should enter your eligible rent as defined under Housing Benefit rules. Housing Benefit can only be claimed to help with the part of the rent that is ‘eligible’. 

For example, take someone who rents a property where the full rent is £80 per week but £10 of this is for heating and hot water, which are not eligible costs under Housing Benefit rules they should enter £70 per week into the calculator as their eligible rent (£80 per week minus £10 per week ineligible costs). 

Local councils define eligible rent as the money people pay just for living in their homes, this can include site rent for Park Homes and caravans. So it can cover the rent for the accommodation and charges for some services, such as a caretaker, communal laundry facilities, play areas, etc

However, Housing Benefit cannot cover:

  • water charges (unless for a communal area)
  • charges for heating, hot water, lighting, cooking (unless for a communal area)
  • payments for food or fuel in board and lodgings or hostels.

For more information on which charges may be included as part of your eligible rent see eligible rent and charges.

Joint tenants

If you have a tenancy agreement where you and one or more other people are jointly liable for paying the rent then, in benefit terms, you are a joint tenant in shared accommodation. This will be the case where you have one tenancy agreement covering a number of people.

To work out how much you can claim in Housing Benefit you should enter the rent that you are meant to pay, not the whole rent. This will normally be the whole rent divided by the number of joint tenants. For instance, if three joint tenants pay a weekly rent for their accommodation of £150 per week then they can claim for £50 per week each in Housing Benefit. This is because each individual must claim for Housing Benefit according to their own circumstances.

However, if you have to pay a greater share or the whole rent because another tenant has left, you may be able to receive a greater amount. This is subject to the rules on under occupation and Local Housing Allowance. Seek advice if you do not receive help with the extra rent that you are now legally liable for. 

If you are a couple you are classified as one claim for the purposes of Housing Benefit and only one person should apply for benefit. 

If you rent in the private sector then the rent you can get help with can not exceed the Local Housing Allowance amount for your area. Because you share accommodation you will qualify for the shared room rate of Local Housing Allowance. For more information see Local Housing Allowance.

More information

More information is available if you are not charged rent for 52 weeks a year – see rent-free weeks.

There are also special rules for people in private residential care and nursing homes, people who have two homes or are temporarily away from home, people who live in someone else’s home and students. In these instances we can not calculate your entitlement.