BENEFITS EXPERT: Struggling to meet shortfall in my rent: can I get any help?
Q. I am currently receiving Income Based ESA and I am in The Work Related Activity Group, as I am aged 27 and rent privately my Housing Benefit is capped at the shared accommodation rate.
I am struggling with the shortfall in the rent and wondering if there is any additional help I could get to meet the shortfall or avoid the shared accommodation rate?
A. Generally speaking people under 35 years renting privately, are single and without dependent children then your Housing Benefit will be calculated under the appropriate Local Housing Allowance for shared accommodation. Although you receive legacy benefits the rules and advice given here are equally applicable for Universal Credit claimants is a similar situation (with some caveats) . There a number of options available to you in this situation. Firstly I would advise you make a claim to your local council for Discretionary Housing Payments to cover the shortfall. As the name suggests although you can legally apply for the help then council may not make an award, this is at their discretion and your case will be decided on your particular merits. You can submit supporting information, for example health problems, financial circumstances, etc. that you feel is relevant. Successful awards are normally paid for a 3 month period, you can re-apply after but the council normally will expect you to try and take steps to maximise your income, for example other benefits you can claim, debt support if you have other non-priority creditors.
If your health conditions mean you have any additional care/daily living needs then you should also consider claiming PIP. If your award is successful then your overall benefit income will increase as PIP is ignored as income for most benefits and you could use the additional money to cover the rental shortfall. More importantly if you do get PIP for daily living, as you live alone you would qualify for the Severe Disability Premium (as long as no-one is planning to claim Carer’s Allowance for a successful award) then the council will use the one bedroom rate of LHA and not the shared rate so more Housing Benefit will be paid towards your rent.
For Universal Credit claimants in a similar situation we would expect similar rules to be put in place once Universal Credit introduces the equivalent of Severe Disability Premium.
Discretionary Housing Payments would also be available for Universal Credit claimants even though your rent costs are paid by the DWP and not the council.