'I'm facing redundancy and can't afford my rent'
I'm single, aged 30 and live in a one-bedroomed flat. It seems likely that I'll be made redundant in the next few months. I'm worried about how I'll pay my rent if my job goes. My tenancy still has over six months to run. I've heard that the government has reduced the amount of help with rent that someone of my age can claim. Is that right?
Yes, major changes to the way housing benefit is calculated for single private tenants under 35 began in January. New claimants under 35 with no dependents and unemployed (or on a very low income), now have the amount of housing benefit that they receive restricted to levels of local rent for a single room in a shared house.
If you are faced with a period of unemployment and find that your benefit does not cover your rent there are a number of things that you can do.
First of all you might like to try negotiating with your landlord to see if they will accept a lower rent. If this doesn't work (or isn't appropriate) you could apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) from your local authority.
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In order to claim a DHP you must already be claiming some housing benefit and need further financial assistance to meet housing costs. These payments can also be made to help with council tax liability if you are receiving council tax benefit. As the name suggests, the local authority has discretion as to how much to give and for how long. A successful claim for DHPs would give you a breathing space in which to find cheaper accommodation without falling into debt with your landlord.
Application forms for discretionary payments are available from your local housing office or the local authority website. Once your application has been received, you should be sent a written decision, with reasons, within a reasonable period. If your claim is refused you may ask for it to be reconsidered.
If you need further help with this or more information contact your local CAB or advice agency.