Claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit, frequently asked questions
Housing benefit helps to pay your rent if your income is low. It looks at how much you can afford to pay towards your rent. The amount of housing benefit you will receive is your rent minus the amount that you can afford to pay (if anything), this calculation is based on your income and any savings you have. Your award is never more than the full rent charged by your landlord. Similarly, council tax benefit helps pay your council tax.
You will need to complete an online application form and provide original documents confirming the composition of your household, your income and capital and your rental liability. You will find details of the evidence needed on the application form. Once you have submitted your application, we will write to you if further information is needed in order to assess your claim.
How much could I get?
Our online benefit calculator and application form will tell you how much housing benefit or council tax benefit you could get.
To work out your housing benefit we will look at:
- the money you and your partner has coming in, including earnings, some benefits and tax credits and things like occupational pensions
- your savings and your partner's savings
- your circumstances, such as age, the ages and size of your family, whether you or any of your family are disabled, and whether anyone who lives with you could help with the rent.
The council will also look at whether:
- the amount of rent is reasonable for your home
- your home is a reasonable size for you and your family
- the amount of rent is reasonable for the area your home is in.
The most housing benefit you can get is the same as your eligible rent. This may not be the same as your full rent.
In most cases, if you rent from a landlord other than the council or a registered social landlord e.g. housing associations, the rent service must make a decision on how much of your rental liability can be met by housing benefit. The rent officer will compare the rent charged for your property with the rents charged for other properties of similar size in the area and make a valuation of what a reasonable market rent is for your property. If the rent officer's valuation is less than the rent your landlord charges, then housing benefit cannot be paid on the difference.
Housing benefit helps to meet some or all of the rental liability, whether to the council, a registered social landlord or a private landlord. If you have a mortgage, housing benefit cannot help with meeting this liability. In addition to paying the rent for a house, flat etc, housing benefit can also pay certain property related service charges such as for furniture and heating/lighting of the communal areas in a block of flats.
Council tax benefit and second adult rebate will both be paid directly into your council tax account. If an award of benefit means that your account is in credit, you can apply for a refund.
Housing benefit for council tenants is paid directly into their rent account. Tenants of registered social landlords or private landlords can either have their benefit paid directly to them by bank transfer or into their landlords bank account, if they request it. If you are more than eight weeks behind with your rent, your housing benefit may be paid to your landlord, even if you ask for it to be paid to you.
Most people who are liable to pay rent or council tax can claim benefits. The main restrictions relate to students and people who have only recently arrived in the United Kingdom.
Although you cannot receive housing benefit, you may still be eligible for council tax benefit or second adult rebate if you pay the council tax.
Subject to assessing your income and comparing it to the government's assessment of how much money your household needs to live on every week, you could be working full-time either for an employer or as a self-employed person and still have entitlement to benefit.
This depends on your circumstances. Most students are excluded from claiming housing benefit as the government expects that they will use their student loan or grant to pay their housing costs. However, if you are disabled, are a lone parent or are in receipt of income support, job seeker's allowance (income based) or are aged over 60, you will still be entitled to claim housing benefit. A household of full time students may be exempt from liability for council tax - please take a look at our council tax fact sheet on students and contact us if you need further advise.
Any applicant for benefit must comply with the 'habitual residency test'. You cannot claim benefit in most circumstances if your passport has been marked with 'no recourse to public funds'. If you have been granted refugee status or indefinite / exceptional leave to remain, then you are entitled to claim benefits. If you are a 'worker' from another European Economic Area country, then you are entitled to claim. Otherwise, you must normally have been living in the United Kingdom for at least two years before you can claim benefits. For further advice please contact us.
If you have capital of more than £16,000 this includes bank accounts, building society accounts, investment funds and shares, then you cannot claim housing benefit or council tax benefit, though you may still be eligible for second adult rebate.
The only exception to the capital limit is for pensioners who receive the guaranteed element of pension credit.
Other adults (other than your partner) who are members of your household are expected to make a contribution towards your housing costs. They are known as 'non-dependants', and fixed deductions from your benefit entitlement will be made for them depending on their circumstances. If the non-dependant is a full-time student or under 25 years of age and receiving income support or job seeker's allowance (income based), then they are exempt from non-dependant deductions. There is a scale of deductions ranging from £7.40 to £47.75 per week for housing benefit and £2.30 to £6.95 per week for council tax benefit based on their gross weekly income. Non-dependants who are members of a couple will have one deduction made based on their combined income.
If you pay for childcare, either to a nursery scheme or a registered child minder, some or all of these costs will be deducted when we make an assessment of your weekly income. The maximum amount that can be deducted per week is £175 for one child and £300 for two or more children.
Housing benefit and council tax benefit is assessed by the h&f Direct service within the Finance and Corporate Services department. If you need more information please contact us.
Page last updated: 10/01/2013