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Help with rent

As a single parent, there are various ways you can get financial support with your rent and housing costs. We explain the main ones here. 

If you’re thinking of renting from friends or family, you should still be able to claim benefits as a single parent, although the rules are different. You can get more information on from Shelter.

Universal Credit

Discretionary Housing Payment  

Other financial help

When you might get less help with your rent

If you have a mortgage, see our page on getting help with your mortgage.

Our helpline advisers can help you work out if you’re eligible for help with your rent and how much you might get. Shelter also has a useful article on how to find landlords who accept benefits.

If you’re not a UK citizen

If you’ve recently come to the UK, have limited right to be here, or are from the EU, you might not be able to claim support for housing. If you do, this may affect your application to the Home Office to live in the UK. 

It’s a good idea to get advice on this before you make a claim. Citizens Advice has more information on how your immigration status can affect your benefits and help with housing. You can call them for free confidential advice and get referred to a specialist adviser if necessary.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is replacing many of the older benefits and tax credits. If you’re claiming benefits for the first time, you’ll most likely have to claim Universal Credit instead of Housing Benefit. If you’re already getting Housing Benefit, you can keep claiming it until you’re moved onto Universal Credit, choose to claim Universal Credit, or your circumstances change.

Part of Universal Credit is a payment called the housing element. If you qualify, this is included in your monthly Universal Credit payment to help with your rent. It’s then your responsibility to pay your rent when it’s due.

Discretionary Housing Payment

If you’re struggling to pay your rent or other housing costs,  you might be able to get money from your council called a Discretionary Housing Payment. You can apply for this if you get Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit but this doesn’t cover your full rent. This includes where your benefit has been reduced because of the benefit cap or the bedroom tax if you have a spare bedroom.

The council will take into account special circumstances like if you have extra expenses because you’ve been ill, or if you’re about to become homeless. Contact your local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment form. Remember to tell them about any particular difficulties you’re having.

The council will decide if you’re eligible for a payment. They’ll decide how much to give you and whether to give you a one-off payment or ongoing payments. If you’re turned down, you can ask them to reconsider.

Other financial help

Whether you’re renting privately or living in council housing, you might be able to get extra financial help if you’re struggling to cover the cost.

Council Tax Reduction

If you’re on a low income, you might be eligible for Council Tax Reduction (sometimes called Council Tax Support). This can reduce your council tax bill or even mean you don’t have to pay anything at all. How much you get depends on your income and circumstances – and every council has slightly different rules. You can find out more and apply on gov.uk. 

You might also be eligible for a single person discount on your Council Tax. If you’re the only adult in your home, you can get 25% off your bill. If you share a home with an adult who is a full-time student or an apprentice/trainee you may still be able to get the single person’s discount. Check with your local council.

Every council has slightly different rules, so to find and more or apply for a Council Tax discount, contact your local council. More on Council Tax discounts from gov.uk


If you can’t get a Discretionary Housing Payment – if you’re not claiming Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, or if you’ve been turned down – speak to the housing department at your council. They might have a tenancy support scheme that could help you. 

Crisis has a Help to Rent database that can help you find a support scheme. If there are no tenancy support schemes listed for your area, there might be other local schemes. Try Shelter’s directory or contact your local council to find an advice service in your area.


There are 2 types of loans you might be able to get to help with your housing costs: a Budgeting Advance and a Budgeting Loan. These can be used to pay rent or deposits, or for the cost of moving, or for things like furniture or white goods for your home. You need to pay these back within 2 years, but you won’t be charged any interest. 

  • If you get Universal Credit, you can apply for a Budgeting Advance through your Universal Credit account or your local jobcentre.
  • If you get income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Pension Credit, you can apply for a Budgeting Loan here.

     You can find more about these loans on our page on managing financially.

When you might get less help with your rent

Here are a few situations where you might get less financial help with your housing costs.

Renting privately

If you rent from a private landlord or agency, there’s a limit to how much Housing Benefit or Universal Credit housing element you can get. This maximum amount is called the Local Housing Allowance. If your rent is more than this, you’ll have to pay the difference, even if you’re on benefits or a low income.

The Local Housing Allowance varies from place to place. Check your Local Housing Allowance online or speak to your council for details.

The benefit cap

There’s a limit to the amount of money that working age households can get in benefits and tax credits – this is called a benefit cap. This means your Universal Credit or Housing Benefit will be kept under  this limit. So depending on how much you pay in rent, it might not all  be covered by your Universal Credit housing element or Housing Benefit.

The benefit cap doesn’t apply to everyone, so it’s important to check whether you’re exempt or could become exempt. Our interactive benefit cap checker will help you see whether you could be affected.

If the benefit cap applies to you and you’re struggling to pay your rent, you might be able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment from your local council.

The bedroom tax

If you live in council housing, there are rules on how many bedrooms you can claim Universal Credit or Housing Benefit for. If you’re classed as having a spare bedroom, your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will be reduced. See our page on the bedroom tax for more.

Date last updated: 28 June 2023

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