If you have rent arrears because of problems with your benefit claim(s), there are a number of things you may be able to do to stop the situation getting worse:
Has your claim been filled in properly?
A claim for housing benefit might be delayed if you don’t provide all the information the council asks for. You should sign and date all your forms and provide all the information the council asks for as soon as possible, and no later than four weeks after they ask. If you are having problems completing the form, an adviser in your area can help you. Use our checklist to make sure you have given in everything they need.
Has the council lost your form?
You may also have problems with housing benefit payments if the council loses your application form. If possible, it’s always best to keep a photocopy of your forms, and take them to the housing benefit office in person. Always ask for a receipt, so you can prove that you handed the form in on a particular day if your form gets lost.
No housing benefit payment after 14 days?
If you rent from a private landlord or a housing association, once you have made a claim, the council normally has to make an interim payment of housing benefit within 14 days. This is sometimes called a payment on account.
Waiting for a universal credit (UC) payment
Universal credit claims take at least 5 weeks to process. You can ask for an advance payment while you wait for your first payment.
What if my housing benefit does not cover all of the rent?
If your benefit doesn’t cover all your rent because the council thinks your rent is unreasonably high, or the property is too large for your household, you may be able to challenge the decision. You should act quickly as there are time limits to bring any challenge.
Can I get extra help with my rent payments?
If you can’t afford to pay the difference between your rent and your housing benefit or UC housing costs, it may be possible for you to apply for an extra payment from the council. This is called a discretionary housing payment (or DHP). The council will decide whether you should get one based on your particular circumstances.
Is your claim up to date?
If you already get housing benefit, then the council will usually send you a renewal form at regular intervals. It is very important that you complete the renewal form and send it back in time, with all the information the council is asking for. If you don’t do this, then your housing benefit could stop.
Have your circumstances changed?
It is also important that you tell the council (or Jobcentre if claiming UC) about any change of circumstances in your situation, such as a change in your income, or someone moving in with you. If you don’t update your claim, you could miss out on the extra benefit you might be entitled to, or could get paid too much, which you would then have to pay back.
What can I do if I’m facing eviction?
If your landlord is taking you to court because of arrears caused by benefit problems, get advice as soon as you can. It may be possible to persuade the council to sort out your claim so you can pay off some or all of your arrears before the hearing but you will probably need help.
If you are a housing association tenant, or a secure council tenant, your landlord should take certain steps before starting any eviction proceedings. This includes helping you with any housing benefit problems. Take a look at the steps they should be taking here:
You can find more details about eviction for rent arrears below.