Benefits for Students in Scotland Handbook
Part 1: Benefits and tax credits
Chapter 6: Housing benefi...
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Chapter 6: Housing benefit

This chapter covers:

1. What is housing benefit (below)

2. Who is eligible (Cross reference)

3. Basic rules (Cross reference)

4. Amount of benefit (Cross reference)

5. Claiming housing benefit (Cross reference)

6. Challenging a decision (Cross reference)

7. Other benefits and tax credits (Cross reference)

Basic facts

– Housing benefit (HB) helps with your rent.

– It is administered by local authorities.

– Full-time students are eligible if they are on a non-advanced course and are under 21 (or are 21 and turned 21 on their course).

– Other full-time students are eligible if they get income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance or income-related employment and support allowance, or if they are a lone parent, disabled or over pension age.

– Couples with a child are eligible throughout the year, whether one or both are students.

– There are limits to the rent covered by HB.

– HB is means tested and the amount you get depends on your grant, loan and other income.


1. What is housing benefit

Housing benefit (HB) helps with your rent. Most full-time students are not eligible, but part-time students are. You can get help with rent in private accommodation, but not if you live with your parents. There are limits to the level of rent that HB covers. HB is means tested, so your grant, loan and other income affect the amount you get.

Note: people under pension age cannot usually make a new claim for HB, as it is being replaced by universal credit (UC). However an exception applies if:

you have a severe disability premium in your income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment support allowance or HB (or you got one in the past month and you continue to satisfy the rules for it); or

you live in certain types of specified or temporary accommodation, such as homeless accommodation (you may still need to claim UC as well for your living costs). See CPAG's Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for details.

2. Who is eligible

To qualify for housing benefit (HB), you must be a student who is eligible to get HB (see below), your accommodation must be eligible for HB (see Cross reference) and you must satisfy the basic HB rules (see Cross reference). As new claims cannot usually be made (see above for exceptions), most students getting HB  will be those who were already on HB before starting the course, and who are eligible for HB as a student. If you cannot claim HB, you may be able to get help with your rent through universal credit (see Chapter 11).

Full-time students

If you are a full-time student 'attending or undertaking a full-time course of study', you cannot normally get HB.Footnote However, there are exceptions for some students.

You start being a student from the first day you attend or undertake the course. You stop being a student after the last day of the final academic term in which you are enrolled, or from the day you finally abandon your course or are dismissed from it.Footnote

Who counts as a full-time student

In most cases you are treated as a full-time student if your college or university says your course is full time.

If you are at a further education (FE) college, not on a higher education course, and your course is government funded, a learning agreement from the college shows how many hours are involved in the course and a 16/21-hour rule determines whether it is full or part time.Footnote The rules on whether or not you count as a full-time student are the same as for income support (IS), except that there is no 12-hour rule if you are claiming HB and are aged under 20 and in relevant education. In this case, the 16/21-hour rule applies (see Cross reference).

Guidance states that postgraduates stop being treated as full-time students for HB purposes when their course ends. If you go on to do further research or write up a thesis, whether or not you are regarded as full time depends on how much work you are doing at the time, not on whether the course is full time.Footnote  

Who can get housing benefit

You are eligible for HB as a full-time student if you are in one of the following groups.Footnote

You are under 21 on a full-time course of non-advanced education (see Cross reference) (benefit can continue if you turn 21 on your course, but stops once you turn 22), or you are a child or qualifying young person for child benefit purposes (see Chapter 2), even if no one gets child benefit for you.Footnote Note: if you are a care leaver and are aged 16 or 17, you cannot get HB, even if you come into one of the groups below, because the local authority should be supporting you. You are on IS, income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA) or income-related employment and support allowance (ESA). You are a lone parent of a child under 16, or under 20 if s/he is still a qualifying young person (see Cross reference). Lone parents can only usually get IS until their youngest child's fifth birthday (see Cross reference). If your IS stops, make sure you tell the local authority that pays your HB. You or your partner have reached pension age. Pension age reached 65 in November 2018 and is due to reach 66 by October 2020. For more details, see CPAG's Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook. You qualify for a disability premium or severe disability premium with your HB – eg, you get disability living allowance (DLA), personal independence payment or long-term incapacity benefit (IB), or are certified as severely sight impaired or blind. See pCross referenceCross reference for details. Note: you cannot qualify for a disability premium if you have limited capability for work.Footnote  You have been incapable of work for the last 28 weeks. Since 27 October 2008, new claimants are assessed under the limited capability for work test (see below). However, the previous incapacity for work test may still apply to you if you are already getting IB, or IS on the basis of disability. You have had limited capability for work for the last 28 weeks and you continue to have limited capability for work. You should claim ESA to have your limited capability for work acknowledged (although you do not have to get any ESA to qualify). You can add together weeks of limited capability for work on either side of a gap of up to 12 weeks. You get a disabled students' allowance because of deafness. You are eligible for HB from the date you apply for the allowance.Footnote However, if you are still waiting to hear about the allowance, the local authority may postpone making a decision on your HB claim, but should then fully backdate your benefit.Footnote You are in a couple,  your partner is also a full-time student and you have a dependent child under 16, or under 20 if s/he is a qualifying young person (see Cross reference). Unlike IS and JSA, which you can only claim in the summer vacation, you can claim HB throughout the academic year. If you are claiming IS or income-based JSA, remember that if these benefits stop at the end of the summer vacation, you must tell the local authority so it can reassess your HB. If your partner is not a student, s/he can claim HB for both of you, whether or not you have a child.

You are single and caring for a child boarded out with you by the social work department.

Studying part time

You can get HB throughout your studies. You must meet all the basic rules below, including being liable for rent and being in eligible accommodation. You are a part-time student if you do not count as a full-time student under the definition on Cross reference. The rules on who counts as full time are the same as those for IS, with one exception. If you are under 20 and in 'relevant education', there is no 12-hour rule. The 16/21-hour rule applies to you if you are on a non-advanced course, whatever your age.

3. Basic rules

As well as being a student who is eligible to claim housing benefit (HB – see Cross reference), you must also meet all the following conditions to qualify.

You are liable to pay rent (see Cross reference).

You pay rent for the home in which you normally live (see Cross reference).

Your accommodation is eligible for HB (see Cross reference).

You satisfy the 'habitual residence' and ‘right to reside’ tests, and are not a 'person subject to immigration control'. These terms are explained in CPAG's Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook. Overseas students can get further advice from UKCISA (see Appendix 2).

You have no more than £16,000 capital. There is no capital limit if you are getting pension credit (PC) guarantee credit.

Your income is sufficiently low (see Chapter 17).

What follows is a brief outline of the basic HB rules, including those that refer specifically to students. For more details, see CPAG's Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.

Liable for rent

You must be liable for rent. If you are jointly liable for the rent with others (eg, you have each signed the tenancy agreement), the amount of HB you get is based on your share of the rent (although, less commonly, it may not be an equal share if that seems reasonable to the local authority).

If you are in a couple, it does not matter whose name is on the rent agreement; either of you can claim. So if you are a student who is eligible for HB, you can claim for both of you, or if you are not eligible for HB, your non-student partner can claim for both of you.

There are some circumstances in which a local authority has the discretion to treat you as liable for the rent even when you are not legally liable – eg, if you have taken over paying the rent from someone else.

Your normal home

Usually, you can only get HB for one home and that is the place where you normally live. If you are away from your normal home, in some cases your HB may stop. In other cases, you can get HB for two homes at the same time.

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