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Getting help with your rent

Housing Benefit (rent rebate)
Rent arrears often build up when tenants don't claim all the benefits they can. Claiming Housing Benefit can reduce the rent you pay.

To make a claim, ask your council's Housing Benefit office for a form.

When you make a claim, keep a copy of your claim form and any letters you send or receive.

Pay as much as you can towards your rent until your rebate comes through. The Housing Benefit office or a local advice centre should be able to tell you how much you need to pay.

If you are a private or housing association tenant and you are waiting for a Housing Benefit claim to be sorted out, 14 days have gone by and this is making your rent arrears worse, tell the Housing Benefit office and ask for an interim payment of Housing Benefit.

How is it paid?
If you are a council tenant, your Housing Benefit will be paid direct to the rent office of your council's housing department. It is usually known as a rent rebate.

If you are a housing association or private tenant, Housing Benefit will be paid direct to you. But you can arrange to have Housing Benefit paid direct to your landlord if you wish. Doing this may make them more willing to come to an arrangement over your arrears because they will be sure of receiving a regular payment. Arrange this with your landlord and ask the Housing Benefit office to start making payments to the landlord.

In some circumstances your landlord and the housing benefit department can agree for housing benefit to go directly to the landlord without your agreement.

Is your rent registered as a fair rent?
If you pay rent to a private landlord (not a council or housing association), and feel your rent is very high, it may be worth having a fair rent registered on your home. Your local council's rent officer will decide what is a fair rent for your home and fix it at that. Your landlord cannot then increase the rent unless the rent officer agrees.

But be careful. Before you apply to the rent officer, check how much rent other people are paying in your area for similar flats or houses to see if your rent is above average. The rent officer can increase the rent on your home as well as reduce it.

New rules for Housing Benefit
From 2 January 1996 if you make a new claim for Housing Benefit you may not have your rent covered in full. These new rules could affect you if:
  • you rent from a private landlord
  • your tenancy began after 15 January 1989.

If you are already claiming Housing Benefit the new rules will only affect you if you move or you make a new claim after a gap of more than four weeks.

These rules do not apply to council tenants or certain hostel accommodation. If you rent from a housing association the council can only refuse to cover the full rent if they decide your accommodation is unreasonably large or expensive.

Housing Benefit may only cover a 'single room rent' if you are single and aged under 25 and in a private tenancy. This covers a bedroom, bathroom and living room from 2 July 2001. If this applies to you get advice from a local advice centre.

What if the council doesn't pay all my rent?
  • You may be able to ask the landlord to charge less rent.
  • You could try to pay the extra rent yourself out of your income.
  • Ask the council to review their decision. You can appeal the decision to an Independent Tribunal within a month of the review decision, but only if you think a mistake has been made.
  • Councils can pay all your rent out of a limited fund called a Discretionary Housing Payment. They will only help if you can show you will be in hardship due to exceptional circumstances. If the fund has no money left in it, they can refuse to pay. You can ask the Council to review their decision. There is no right of appeal.
  • Write to the Housing Benefit Department and ask them to top up your rent explaining your circumstances fully.

If the council will not pay all your rent after claiming Housing Benefit contact a local advice centre.

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