Whether you’re a homeowner or a tenant, it’s important to know what support is out there to help you if you’re struggling financially.

This blog takes a look at some of the areas you could look into if you feel you’d benefit from some additional support with housing and utilities-related costs.

Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)

If you’re a homeowner, you may be able to get help towards interest payments on your mortgage or home improvement/repair loans. This is a loan which will need to be paid back, with interest, when you sell or transfer ownership of your home (unless you decide to move the loan to another property).

Usually, you’ll need to be in receipt of a qualifying benefit – such as Universal Credit – to receive this support. You can read the full eligibility criteria here.

You can’t use SMI to help with costs to pay back the amount you borrowed, towards insurance policies you have or any mortgage arrears – just the interest on your mortgage. 

If you qualify for SMI, you’ll get help paying the interest on up to £200,000 of your loan or mortgage – however, you can only get up to £100,000 either if you receive Pension Credit or you started claiming another qualifying benefit before January 2009 and you were below State Pension age at that time.

The interest added to the loan can increase or decrease but the rate won’t change more than a maximum of twice a year. If you want to pay the loan back in a quicker timeframe, you can decide to make voluntary repayments.

SMI is usually paid direct to your lender and you can find out more about when the payments are likely to start here.

To find out more, see the contact information here.

Using a guarantor

If you’re struggling to find accommodation, you could consider asking a close friend or relative if they’d act as your guarantor. It’s a serious responsibility as if you miss a rental payment, they’ll be held responsible and could be taken to court if the payment isn’t made.

Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)

DHPs provide financial support to help with rent or housing costs. If you currently receive Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit, you can apply for a DHP. To apply for this, ask your local council to look at your circumstances to assess whether you’re eligible, before deciding whether to give you this payment, how much they’ll provide and how long you can receive it for.

Contact your local council for further information here

Don’t suffer in silence

No-one should have to sit in the cold or dark through the colder months for fear of being unable to afford energy bills. If you’re concerned, speak to your energy company to see whether there are any hardship funds they can provide to help you cope with the rising costs – or your local council to see if they still run a Household Support Fund.

Visit the Turn2us website to see what other grants are still available.

Cold Weather Payment

If you receive certain benefits or Support for Mortgage Interest as mentioned above, you might be able to receive a Cold Weather Payment. If the average temperature in your area is recorded as – or is forecast to be – zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days. You’ll receive £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March.

Check if you can get a payment in your area here

Winter Fuel Payment

If you’re born on or before 26 September 1955, you could get between £100 and £300 to help you pay your heating bills. Most payments are made automatically in November or December.

You’ll receive this automatically if you’re eligible and in receipt of either your State Pension or another social security benefit (not including Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit or Universal Credit).

If you don’t receive these, you may need to make a claim.

Warm Home Discount Scheme

Under the Warm Home Discount Scheme, you could get £140 off your electricity bill for winter 2021 to 2022. The money isn’t paid to you – it’s a one-off discount on your electricity bill (between October and March).

You may be able to get the discount on your gas bill instead if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity, but you’ll need to get in touch with your supplier to find out.

To qualify, you’ll need to be in receipt of the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit or be on a low income and meet your energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme.

If you’re on a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go meter, you can still qualify and your supplier will tell you how you’ll receive the discount. If you’re eligible for the Warm Home Discount Scheme, this won’t affect your Cold Weather or Winter Fuel Payment.

Council Tax Rebate

If you pay for your council tax via direct debit, and your household falls within bands A-D, you could receive a £150 council tax rebate to help you manage your living costs.

This has been offered to help spread the cost of rising energy bills (which came into place in April 2022).

If you don’t pay by direct debit, you should be contacted by your council and invited to make a claim that way.

Water usage and costs

Water can be the forgotten utility – lots of people think they can’t save on water bills, but there are ways to make savings which are worth considering.

If there are more bedrooms in your home than people – or the same number – consider getting a meter.

The Consumer Council For Water’s calculator will tell you if you can save with a meter. It’ll ask questions about your water use and tell you your estimated costs if you have a meter. Access the calculator here.

There are also some free gadgets out there which can help monitor usage. Contact your water provider to find out more.

The Water Sure Scheme can also help people with their water bills. To apply for the scheme, you must be receiving benefits and need to use lots of water either for medical reasons or because your household has a certain number of school-age children. You also need to be on a water meter or be waiting to have one installed. For further information, eligibility and how to apply, click here.

For more support and advice

If you’re interested in learning more about making the most out of your budget and maximising your income, our Financial Wellbeing Hub is here to help.

If you’re struggling with debt repayments and want to get on top of your finances, remember you can contact us over freephone, email or via our Live Chat service.

Read the rest of our ‘What you could be entitled to’ series: