Recent changes to the benefits system might mean you have less to live on. This can lead to pressure on your household budget and worry about debts. Find out what you can do to make ends meet in the short term, then look at longer-term ways of managing your money.
Housing support cuts
If your Housing Benefit or the housing costs element of your Universal Credit has been cut, perhaps because of the benefit cap or a spare bedroom, then you might be worried about falling behind with your rent. Or perhaps you already have rent arrears.
If you’re worried about finding the money to pay your rent, the first thing you should do is to talk to your landlord to see whether there are any options available to you.
If you rent a social housing property, your council or housing association might talk to you about transferring to a smaller home (if any are available) and they can advise you on whether any extra financial help might be available to you.
Claim a Discretionary Housing Payment from your council
You might be able to apply to your council to help top-up your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit in the short term with a Discretionary Housing Payment.
They are available to people who are facing a shortfall between their benefits and housing costs.
Consider getting a lodger
Renting out your spare room might be a possibility.
If you do decide to go down this route, there are a few things you need to know:
- Having a lodger would mean you’re no longer considered as having a spare room when it comes to assessing your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.
- If you’re on Universal Credit, any money you get from sub-tenants and lodgers under the rent-a-room scheme will not be counted as income up to the tax-free allowance of £7,500. This means it is a great way to supplement your income.
- However, if you’re on Housing Benefit, apart from the first £20 a week, the extra cash you get in rent is likely to be deducted, pound for pound, from your benefits.
- You’ll have to check your tenancy agreement allows you to sublet a room.
- Your contents insurance might not be valid if you take in a lodger. Make sure you check with your insurer you’re still covered.
- Download a factsheet about renting out a room in your home from the GOV.UK website.
Act quickly if you have rent arrears
If you are already behind with your rent, you must speak to your landlord straight away.
You might be able to come to agreement with them where you pay them the money you owe bit by bit.
If you need advice on how to deal with your landlord or you’re worried about losing your home, you can call Shelter or the Citizens Advice Bureau, or Housing Advice NI in Northern Ireland.
Local councils have their own Council Tax Reduction Schemes.
In some areas you won’t have to pay anything towards your Council Tax bill, while in others you might have to pay a percentage of it.
Check the bill you’ve been sent is correct
It’s worth checking your council is charging you the correct amount of Council Tax.
You should check your home has been put in the right band and whether you qualify for any exemptions or discounts.
Ask your council to spread the payments over 12 months
You can choose to spread your payments over 12 months instead of 10.
Contact your local council and ask them to set up monthly payments.
Claim a Discretionary Housing Payment to help with your Council Tax
You might be able to apply to your council for a Discretionary Housing Payment to help with your Council Tax payments.
If your benefit has been cut as a result of a sanction
If your benefits have been sanctioned then there are things you can do, such as:
- check the sanction is correct and challenge it if not
- apply for a hardship payment from the Jobcentre
- get help with essential costs from your local welfare scheme.
Free debt advice
If you you’re worried about falling behind with bills or keeping up with debt repayments there is lots of free, confidential help and advice available.
Help with budgeting
Look at how much you have to live on
Work out how much money you have coming in. Then list all your outgoings.
How much money do you need to pay for the basics?
Remember that bills like your rent or mortgage, your Council Tax and your gas and electricity should be your top priority.
Call the Money Advice Service on 0800 138 7777 and one of our advisers will be able to help you do a budget.
See if you can make any cutbacks
Is there any way of reducing your expenditure? Are there any bills where you think you might be able to get a better deal?
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