Question about claims?
- What is housing benefit and council tax support?
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). We work out how much you can afford to pay by determining your applicable amount. 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 support helps pay your council tax.
- How do I claim benefit?
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 we need further information 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 support 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.
We 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.
If you are in any doubt about potential entitlement to benefit you should submit a claim immediately or contact us for advice.
- I rent from a private landlord - will you pay my full rent?
In most cases, if you rent from a landlord other than the council or a registered social landlord e.g. housing association, the rent service must make a decision on how much of your rent 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.
- What costs are covered by housing benefit?
Housing benefit helps to meet some or all of your rent, 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, housing benefit can also pay certain property-related service charges, such as for furniture and heating or lighting of the communal areas in a block of flats.
- How will my benefit be paid?
Council tax support 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.
If you are a council tenant, housing benefit is paid directly into your 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 landlord's 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. Please note that this includes rent payable in advance.
- Can anyone claim benefit?
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.
- Can I get help if I own my own home?
Although you cannot receive housing benefit, you may still be eligible for council tax support or second adult rebate if you pay the council tax.
- Can I claim benefit if I work full time?
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.
- Can I claim benefit if I'm a student?
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 a student and you are
- a lone parent
- receiving income support or job seeker's allowance (income based)
- 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 advice.
- I'm a pensioner. How does this affect my claim?
- Can I claim benefit if I'm new to this country?
Any applicant for benefit must meet 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, you are entitled to claim benefits.
If you are a 'worker from another European Economic Area country’, you may be entitled to claim depending on several factors including the nature of your employment, the level of your income and your future prospects and intentions. Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive and other factors may also be taken into account.
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.
- Do you need to know about my savings?
If you have capital of more than £16,000, including bank accounts, building society accounts, investment funds and shares, you cannot claim housing benefit or council tax support, 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.
- What if I have other adults living with me?
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-dependents'. Fixed deductions from your benefit entitlement will be made for them depending on their circumstances. If the non-dependent is a full-time student or under 25 years of age and receiving income support or job seeker's allowance (income based), they are exempt from non-dependent deductions. From April 2016, the scale of deductions ranging from £14.65 to £94.50 per week for housing benefit and £3.77 to £11.45 per week for council tax support, can be seen in the table below. Non-dependents who are members of a couple will have one deduction made based on their combined income.
Non-dependant deductions for housing benefit:
Weeky income before tax (£) Amount deducted each week (£) Less than 133 14.65 From 133 and less than 195 33.65 From 195 and less than 253 46.80 From 253 and less than 338 75.60 From 338 and less than 420 86.10 From 420 94.50
Non - dependant deductions for council tax support:
Weeky income before tax (£) Amount deducted each week (£) Less than 195 3.77 From 195 and less than 338 7.58 From 338 and less than 420 9.56 From 420 11.45
Please note that you may also be exempt from non-dependent deductions if you receive certain disability benefits or are registered as blind. If you or your partner are over 65, the start of non-dependent deductions (or an increase in existing deductions, should the non-dependent’s circumstances change) can be delayed for 26 weeks from the date they would normally take effect.
- What is second adult rebate?
- I pay for childcare. Does this make any difference to my claim?
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.
- I have a carer staying overnight in my home - how will that affect my housing benefit?
If you or your partner have the carer staying overnight who uses a room to sleep in, but doesn't live in your home, the help you get with your rent can take account of this if your home rented from a private landlord.
In some cases, this could result in an increase in housing benefit. All your circumstances will need to be considered together with the changes in housing benefit to decide whether you can get more money.
Please do contact us if you think you might be entitled to help with the cost of an extra bedroom used by a carer so we can check your housing benefit is being paid at the correct level.
- Who assesses benefit?
Housing benefit and council tax support is assessed by our h&f Direct service. If you need more information please contact us.
- Where can I check my council tax support and / or housing benefit details online?
You can check details of your council tax support and housing benefit online by setting up an account at 'My Account' and registering for the housing benefit and council tax support service. You will only need to do this once, after that you can login to your benefit details whenever you like. Set up an account at My Account
- How can I check on the progress of a new claim?
If you have submitted a claim within the last 15 working days, please be patient as it will still be in progress. If your claim was submitted more than 15 working days ago and you want to find out what progress is being made please contact us.
- When will my benefit start from?
The general rule is that benefit is paid from the Monday following the date on which we receive your application form. However, if you hand in your form during the same week (Monday to Sunday) that you move into your property, you will be paid from when you moved in. If you receive:
- job seeker's allowance (income based)
- income support
- employment and support allowance (income related) or
- guaranteed pension credit,
you can receive benefit from the date you moved in, if you make your claim within one calendar month of moving in.
Similarly, if you are already resident and become entitled to one of these benefits, you can receive benefit from the Monday following the date that benefit starts, if you make your claim within one calendar month of that date. Otherwise, you can ask for your benefit to be backdated for a maximum of 26 weeks (13 weeks if you are a pensioner) before the date that you make your claim. For the delay in claiming, you will need to show good cause e.g. that you were severely unwell or submit medical evidence to show that you needed someone to help you with your application, before any backdated benefit will be awarded.
- What happens if you pay me too much benefit?
When too much housing benefit is paid it is referred to as an ‘overpayment’. When too much council tax benefit is paid it is referred to as an ‘excess payment’. Any overpayment of housing benefit can be recovered from you unless it was caused by our mistake and you could not reasonably be expected to have known about it. Overpayments of housing benefit are most often recovered either by deducting an amount from future benefit payments or by sending you or your landlord an invoice. Excess payment of council tax benefit is recovered by taking the money back from the council tax account.
- What if I suspect someone of fraudulently claiming benefit?
- What is the policy on electronic communication?