Housing costs and basic social assistance

Kela can grant basic housing assistance towards housing costs for a home located in Finland. You must be prepared to show proof of your expenses.

The following housing costs can be recognised to the extent that they are considered reasonable:

  • rent and separately paid water and heating charges (such as electric heating)
  • in an owner-occupied dwelling:
    • maintenance costs, which comprise the rent and any water and heating charges paid separately
    • interest on a personal housing loan if taken out to purchase or modernise the dwelling
  • necessary upkeep costs on a single-family home
    • heating costs, water charges and any building-specific charges (such as waste collection, chimney sweep, insurance, property tax and ground rent)
    • interest payments on personal housing loans if taken out to purchase or modernise the dwelling.

If you pay rent or a maintenance fee for an assisted-living home arranged for you by the municipality, it can be recognised in the same way as any other rent or maintenance fee.

Also the following can be recognised as housing costs to the extent that they are considered reasonable:

  • household electricity
  • home insurance premiums
  • fee for the use of the sauna (once per week)

Not recognised are, for example:

  • fees for the use of the laundry room (included in the basic amount)
  • parking fees (unless a parking space is necessary for medical reasons)
  • expenses related to domestic appliances or furniture. You can apply to the municipality for supplemental social assistance for these expenses.

Recognised housing costs according to family size

Usually Kela recognises housing costs to the extent that they can be considered reasonable, which depends on family size and the municipality in which the dwelling is located. If the expenses exceed the prevailing local level and cannot be considered essential, the amount recognised may be reduced to a level that corresponds to the prevailing level of prices. Reasonable housing costs are determined in the same way both in owner-occupied and rental housing.

Table: Basic social assistance, recognised rental costs by municipality 2018 (pdf)
Table: Basic social assistance, recognised rental costs by municipality 2019 (pdf)

If your rental costs exceed the limits shown in the table, you may be instructed to seek more affordable accommodation. In that case, contact landlords and other sources of rental housing in your locality and sign up with your municipality to be placed on a waiting list for rental housing. You must be prepared to accept any reasonable housing without regard to residential area or personal convenience. You are expected to apply to private providers of rental housing as well. Usually you have 3-6 months to find more affordable housing. During that time Kela will recognise your housing costs as such.

If you can show that affordable housing is not available in your locality, Kela may continue to recognise your housing costs as such as long as they are reasonable. This is possible also if you have a good reason why your rental costs are higher than the reasonable limits. This can include health reasons or additional space needed by your child’s non-custodial parent for parent-child visits. You must provide documentation about such reasons (for example a medical certificate or a social worker’s statement).

If a family member is disabled and needs a particularly large amount of space on account of assistive devices or an outside caregiver, such a person counts as two persons for the purpose of determining the amount of housing costs recognised.

The same limits for reasonable housing costs also apply to persons living in a rented single-family house. If the tenant pays for heating or has other housing costs in addition to the rent, the total housing costs are compared with standard fixed amounts defined by Kela to see if they are reasonable.

Allocation of housing costs in multifamily households

A flat or house may be shared by persons who, for social assistance purposes, are considered to be members of different families. If each tenant has a separate lease, the amount of rent agreed in the agreement is recognised as an expense of the person applying for social assistance, provided that the rent is reasonable. Any general housing allowance granted to the applicant counts as the applicant’s income.

If persons who, for social assistance purposes, belong to different families have a joint lease agreement, the rent and other housing costs are divided equally among the adults sharing the home. Any general housing allowance granted to the household is allocated among all the residents (both adults and children). However, the applicants may propose a different division of the housing costs. Based on information provided by the applicant(s), the housing costs can also be recognised at their actual amount.

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