I need help with my rent

Suddenly realising you can’t pay the rent is a scary feeling and it can be shocking to realise you may be facing eviction. We’ve listed all your options and the places you can go to get help, so you can start getting control of the situation.  

Woman sitting at a table looking at documents while on the phone.

I can’t pay my rent this month, what should I do? 

Talk to someone you trust and ask for a loan to get you through the rough patch. Don’t feel scared or ashamed – rising rents and shrinking paycheques mean many people are struggling financially. It takes courage to speak up but it’s a vital step to resolving the problem.

If possible, avoid telling your landlord if it’s just a single month’s payment – you don’t want to give them the impression you’re having problems as this will add more stress.

I haven’t paid my rent for a while and I’m scared I’ll be evicted

If it looks like you’re facing a longer-term struggle to pay your rent, you have to consider all the options – and you should definitely tell your landlord this time, as they may be able to set a payment plan to help you get through a tricky time.

It’s also really important you get advice from a housing adviser immediately. You can also get support from our helpline. There are special procedures any landlord has to follow before they can evict tenants – so keep all your paperwork and records to prove your case.

Don’t just ignore the problem – it will only get worse. Most likely, you’ll have to move to a cheaper area or larger house share to keep costs down. If you are already living very cheaply, you may need to apply for housing benefit.

What is housing benefit? 

Housing benefit is paid by councils to help people who are on benefits or a low income, pay their rent. Because of high rent costs, many people rely on housing benefit even though they are working.

There’s no set amount – what you get depends on whether you rent from a landlord, council or housing association, what your income is and the area you live in. In some areas housing benefit has been replaced by Universal Credit.

How does it work?

To claim housing benefit, apply to your local council, or do it at the same time as you claim any other benefits.

The council will look at the amount of rent and service charges you pay, or if you have other adults living with you. They should make a decision within 14 days but it can take longer. You may be able to get a ‘payment on account’ to tide you over.

How do I claim if I’m renting privately?

If you pay rent to a private landlord, your housing benefit is called local housing allowance (LHA).

If you’re privately renting, are under 35, single and don’t have children, you’re only allowed to claim the cost of renting a room in a shared house – not your own flat or house. This rule applies even if you can’t find shared accommodation – but there are exceptions, for example, if you’re severely disabled.

The so-called ‘bedroom tax’ means you’re only allowed a certain number of bedrooms and may lose housing benefit for any ‘spare’ rooms.

Can I get housing benefit if I’m a student?

You can claim housing benefit if you’re studying for a part-time degree, if you’re under 19 and on a course below degree level, or if you have children. There’s more detail here.

I’m under 18 – can I claim housing benefit?

Yes. But if you’re renting privately and single, the amount you can get is limited. The only exception is if you’re leaving care. If you’re under 18 and homeless, your council have a legal duty to make sure you have a home.

What if my housing benefit isn’t enough?

You can appeal a decision if your housing benefit does not cover your rent. Get in touch with a local adviser for help.

Can I get a loan to help with my rent?

Local councils run loan schemes to help people who’re struggling. Find your local council here.

The social fund is a pot of money which provides interest-free loans, at a minimum of £100, to help people on benefits pay any rent arrears or moving costs. You can apply at a local Jobcentre Plus.

Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)

If you’re already on housing benefit, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). This payment helps people who get housing benefit, but are having trouble paying rent. It can be paid weekly or as a lump sum, and can also be backdated.

It is not a long-term answer, because the amount available is limited. Get in touch with your local council to apply.

What else can I do?

If you have to move house because of rising costs, you can get help with your deposit through a ‘rent bond scheme’.

Ask your family or friends for support – any help from loved ones won’t affect your benefits. Try negotiating with your landlord to see if they will agree a cheaper rent or accept a delayed rent payment.

More information

  • Citizens Advice Bureau offer free help with housing, money and legal problems. Find your local bureau.
  • Shelter offers advice on all housing issues. Get advice online or call their housing helpline 0808 800 4444. If you're in Scotland, use http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/
  • Go to Money Advice Service for free and impartial money advice.