Housing cost support
Many households in Scotland receive help in meeting their housing costs:
- some tenants in the social and private sectors can receive support to help pay their rent through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit (UC)
- tenants in receipt of either of the above may also be eligible for additional support through Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs)
- some homeowners can receive Support for Mortgage Interest
The majority of social security is reserved to the UK Government, however, we have funded DHPs since 2017. We also have some powers over the way in which UC is paid, including over payment of housing costs direct to landlords, and the way in which UC's housing costs element is calculated.
The UK Government has been undertaking a programme of changes to social security since 2010. These measures affect policy areas that are devolved to Scotland, such as health, social care and housing.
Help and advice
If you think you may be eligible for support to help meet your housing costs, or are concerned about how any changes will affect you, you can find free and independent advice about benefits on mygov.scot.
Information for housing practitioners
Housing Benefit is the responsibility of the UK Government, but is administered by local authorities. For working age adults, Housing Benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit. If you receive Housing Benefit but need additional financial support to help you meet your housing costs then you may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment.
Universal Credit (UC) is replacing six existing in and out of work benefits, including Housing Benefit, for working age adults. In calculating a UC award, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can include an element to meet, or help meet, housing costs.
The DWP or your local authority will be able to tell you whether you should apply for UC or Housing Benefit. If you receive UC and your award includes an element to help meet your housing costs, but you still need additional financial support, then you may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment.
Find more information on our Universal Credit (Scottish choices) page.
Discretionary Housing Payments
We became responsible for funding Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) in 2017.
You can receive a DHP to help you meet your housing costs if you are a renter and you are in receipt of either Housing Benefit or an award of Universal Credit which includes an element to help meet your housing costs.
DHPs are administered by local authorities and they must decide on what basis they award DHPs and how much they will pay. However, we fully fund the mitigation of the bedroom tax through DHPs, and so if you are affected by the bedroom tax and apply for a DHP you should receive one.
In 2021 to 2022 we allocated £10.9 million to local authorities to fund non-bedroom tax DHPs, and we expect to spend £71m through local authorities to mitigate the bedroom tax.
Although other Discretionary Housing Payments are allocated to particular streams, Local Authorities have freedom on how they spend them, within guidelines, and can top them up from their own resources to address any local priorities.
Support for Mortgage Interest
If you have a mortgage and are struggling to meet your housing costs, you may be eligible for Support for Mortgage Interest. From April 2018 this will always take the form of a loan, which will need to be paid with interest when your home is sold or ownership is transferred. If there isn't enough money from the sale of your home to repay the SMI loan in full, the rest of the loan will be written off and you won't need to repay it. This scheme is the responsibility of the UK Government.
The bedroom tax
From April 2013, the UK Government limited Housing Benefit and the housing element of Universal Credit for working-age council or housing association tenants if they are considered to be under-occupying their homes. This is widely known as the 'bedroom tax'. It means the amount of rent tenants can claim Housing Benefit for is reduced by:
- 14% for one additional bedroom
- 25% for two or more additional bedrooms
We have fully mitigated the bedroom tax in Scotland through DHPs. If you think you are affected by the bedroom tax but not receiving a DHP you should apply for one from your local authority.
We are working with the UK Government to abolish the bedroom tax at source for recipients of UC. Until then, if you are affected you will need to continue to apply for DHPs.
Support for 18-21 year olds
In April 2017, the UK Government removed the automatic right to support for housing costs from 18 to 21 year olds under UC. This policy only applies to new claimants of the full service of UC. The UK Government announced in March 2018 that this policy would be coming to an end, and all young people would have the same entitlement to housing support as older claimants.
We have worked with local authorities to provide interim support through the Scottish Welfare Fund for young people who can't get housing support through UC. This support will remain available for as long as it's required.
We have published Scottish Welfare Fund assistance for 18-21 year olds: guidance to set out what local authority staff and support workers should take into account when processing applications.
Policy position papers
We have published a series of social security policy papers setting out our position on the development of the devolved benefits in Scotland.