Housing Benefit

Magnifying Glass With Calculator On ReportIf you are on low income, you may be able to get help with paying your rent with Housing Benefit. This will be paid by your local council and can be used to pay all or part of your rent, depending on how much you receive.

You may qualify for Housing Benefit, if:

  • you are resident in the UK
  • you actually pay rent
  • you are on a low income
  • you are claiming benefits
  • your savings are below a certain level, normally around £16,000

It does not matter whether or not you are in employment, but if you live with a partner, only one of you can get Housing Benefit.

If you are single and under 35, you can only get Housing Benefit for a bed-sit accommodation or for a single room in a shared accommodation.

How much will I get as Housing Benefit?

What you will receive as Housing Benefit will depend on a number of things including:

  • the ‘benefit cap’ which is the total amount you get from all benefits (£500 per week)
  • what your income is including savings and pensions
  • how much rent you pay
  • where you live
  • whether you are renting privately or from the council
  • if you have unoccupied rooms and live in council or social housing

Will my Housing Benefit cover all my costs?

This will depend on what is included in your rent and how much you receive in Housing Benefit. Your Housing Benefit may not cover all of your rent or housing costs which are included in your rent.

Housing Benefit can cover costs such as the actual rent for your accommodation and charges for certain services, such as a caretaker, but will not cover some costs and services which could be included in your rent, such as charges for water, heating, hot water, lighting or cooking and payments for food.

If you are on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or the guarantee credit of Pension Credit, then Housing Benefit will cover all of your eligible rent, which is the amount of rent you pay after services that cannot be paid for by Housing Benefit have been removed.

What if I live in council or social housing and have an unoccupied room?

If you are living in a council or social housing property and you are classed as having at least one extra bedroom in your house, then your Housing Benefit could be reduced by:

  • 14 per cent of the ‘eligible rent’ if you have one extra bedroom
  • 25 per cent of the ‘eligible rent’ if you have two or more extra bedrooms

The reduction is worked out based on your eligible rent and not on your Housing Benefit.

What if I am renting from a private landlord?

If you pay rent to a private landlord, the rent your Housing Benefit can cover will normally be restricted to an amount set by a rent officer using the Local Housing Allowance rules.

Local Housing Allowance rules are based on rent prices for the area you live in and the number of rooms needed for your household according to Housing Benefit rules. These rates are reviewed in April of every year.

Since April 2011, the rate of your weekly allowance cannot normally exceed:

  • £250 for a one bedroom property
  • £290 for a two bedroom property
  • £340 for a three bedroom property
  • £400 for a property with four or more bedrooms

These rules will only apply if you moved and made an application for Housing Benefit after 7 April 2008. If you have been receiving Housing Benefit before this date, the limits will only apply if you:

  • move and change address, even within the same local authority or;
  • have a break in your claim

How can I apply for Housing Benefit?

You can apply for Housing Benefit by contacting your local authority and requesting a Housing Benefit claim form.

Some local authorities provide telephone services for you to claim Housing Benefit by telephone. If you choose this option, your local authority may require you to provide a written statement of your circumstances.

Other local authorities allow you to make a claim via email or on the internet so you should check what is acceptable to your local authority.

If you are already receiving benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance, you should contact your Job Centre Plus to claim Housing Benefit and they will send the details of your claim to your local council.

If you are claiming pension credits, you should contact the Pension Service to claim Housing Benefit in addition to your pension credit. The Pension Service will forward the details of your claims to your local council.

How will I receive my Housing Benefit?

If you are a council or social tenant, your Housing Benefit will be paid into your rent account and you will not actually receive the payments directly.

If you are a private tenant, payments will normally be made into your bank or building society account and rarely by a cheque.

Backdated Housing Benefit payments

You may be able to receive Housing Benefit for a period before you submitted your claim if you could have claimed earlier. This is ‘backdating’ and you can receive backdated payments for up to six months if you can show that:

  • you have a good reason for not claiming earlier, for example, you were given wrong advice
  • you were entitled to the payments  throughout the period of backdating
  • you were paying rent, and
  • your income was low enough

You will need to explain on your application that you want to claim benefit from an earlier date, and give your reasons for failing to claim earlier. Not knowing that you could make a claim earlier will usually not be a good enough reason for requesting backdated payments.

For how long will I receive Housing Benefit payments?

You will continue to receive Housing Benefit until you are no longer entitled to it.

You will need to make a new claim if, for instance, you move to a different local authority area, because your payments will be made from your new local authority Housing Benefit department.

Change of circumstances

You should let your local authority know as soon as possible if there are any changes in your circumstances because this will affect the payments you receive.

For example, changes in income or capital, or changes in the number of people who live with you.

If you do not report these changes, you may be underpaid, or you may be overpaid and you will have to pay this back later.

If you have problems with your Housing Benefit

You should contact your local authority and ask that your Housing Benefit decision be reconsidered. You should raise any concerns within one month of the decision.

If you are still not happy with the response you can contact the council to question its decision and follow its appeals procedure.

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