Frequently asked questions

Housing benefit frequently asked questions

Page last updated at 26 July 2017 at 22:07

 

What is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit is to help people on a low income who pay rent for where they live. Housing Benefit is a means-tested benefit.

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What is Council Tax Support?

The Council Tax Support Scheme replaced Council Tax Benefit from 1 April 2013. The scheme provides help to pay your Council Tax if you are on a low income.

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Who can claim Housing Benefit?

Anyone with a low income who pays rent. You don't have to receive income support or job seekers allowance to claim. You can apply whether you’re unemployed or working, and whether you rent from the council, a housing association or a private landlord.

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Who can’t claim Housing benefit?

Some people aren't eligible for Housing Benefit. You are ineligible if you:

  • don't pay rent
  • rent a former joint home from your ex-partner (there are exceptions)
  • rent from a close relative who lives in the same home as you or the tenancy is not on a commercial basis
  • are the parent or guardian of your landlord's child
  • live in your home as part of your job
  • live in a care home, such as a nursing home or old peoples' home
  • your partner, or both of you together have more than £16,000 in savings (except for some pensioners)
  • were previously a non-dependant in that property (there are exceptions such as a tenancy succession)
  • some students
  • some people from abroad.

This is not a definitive list so for further information please call the Benefit section direct.

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How is Housing Benefit calculated?

It is a means-tested benefit, which means that how much you get depends on your income and circumstances, who lives with you, any other benefits you receive and any savings you have. If you have a partner, your combined income and savings will be taken into account. Housing Benefit can pay for part or all your rent but not for other costs, for example fuel or meals. Any other adults living with you can affect how much Housing Benefit you receive.

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How long will it take to process my claim?

The Council is required to process your claim within 30 days or as soon as practicable thereafter. It could take longer if you haven't provided all the supporting evidence we asked for, or if we need to contact you again to provide more evidence.

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How is Housing Benefit paid?

Housing Benefit is paid directly into your bank account (or into the account of your landlord in certain situations). 

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When will I receive my Housing Benefit payment?

Your first Housing Benefit payment will be made as soon as possible after your claim has been assessed.  Further payments are made 4 weekly in arrears.  The following dates are the 4-weekly payment run dates for 2015/16:

  • 20 April 2015
  • 18 May 2015
  • 15 June 2015
  • 13 July 2015
  • 10 August 2015
  • 07 September 2015
  • 05 October 2015
  • 02 November 2015
  • 30 November 2015
  • 28 December 2015
  • 25 January 2016
  • 22 February 2016
  • 21 March 2016

The payment will be made in the week commencing the above dates.  Payment usually arrives in your bank account on the Wednesday of that week but can be on a different day if there is a bank holiday or unforeseen delays occur.

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How is Council Tax Support paid?

Council Tax Support is credited directly to your Council Tax account. The Council will send you a bill showing the Council Tax due less any Council Tax Support that has been awarded.

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I’ve been paid too much Housing Benefit – what should I do?

There are several ways you can pay back overpaid Housing Benefit: If you're still receiving Housing Benefit, we will reduce this each week by a standard amount. If you stop receiving Housing Benefit, we will send you an invoice. You can pay this invoice with a credit or debit card by contacting the Benefits section or you can visit the offices and pay using the payment machine in reception.  You will need the reference number shown on your invoice to make a payment.  In certain circumstances we may ask your landlord to repay us if he receives your Housing Benefit directly.

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I've been paid too much Council Tax Support - what should I do?

An amended Council Tax bill will be sent to you telling you how much Council Tax you have to pay.  To discuss payment of your Council Tax please contact the Council Tax section of the Council.

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What is a Direct Earnings Attachment?

A Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA) is a method of debt recovery used by Councils in relation to housing benefit overpayments. Using this method, employers are required to pay amounts from the salary of their employees direct to the Council until the debt is paid.

Advice for employers can be found in the employers guide to direct earnings attachments which explains:

  • how to operate a direct earnings attachment
  • how to work out how much should be deducted from the employee's earnings
  • how and when to pay deductions to the council
  • employer's responsibilities under the law

A payment schedule must be completed and sent to the Council giving details of the amounts deducted from the employee's wages. The completed schedule must be attached to any cheque payments or sent in separately when payments are made by BACS. The full procedure is explained in the employers guide, but it is not intended to be a full description or statement of the law.

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I’m moving, can I claim benefit/support on both homes?

If you move from one home to another, rent may be payable on both properties at the same time for a maximum of four weeks if:

  • you have moved from one home to another on a permanent basis and you are responsible for rent payments for your previous address
  • you can't move into a new home because it is being adapted to meet the disablement needs of yourself or a member of your family who lives with you
  • you had to leave your home for fear of violence and intend to return (maximum absence of 52 weeks)
  • your family is so large that the local authority has had to house your family in two properties (no time limit)
  • you or your partner is a student studying away from home and needs to claim benefit elsewhere. You would need to prove that it is unavoidable and that it is reasonable to pay benefit on both homes (no time limit)

You will need to make a written request for an overlapping payment direct to the Benefits section and provide evidence from your previous landlord.

You can only receive Council Tax Support on a single property at any one time so you will be responsible for payment of Council Tax on both homes if you do not get full Council Tax Support of your new property.

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What if the number of people living with me changes during the year?

You must write to us as changes to the number of people in your household may affect the number of bedrooms you need, which in turn affects the local housing allowance applicable to you. Changes which can affect your local housing allowance are, for example, a young person reaching the age of 16 or a child reaching the age of 10, or if there is a substantial change or improvement to the condition of your property.

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I am self-employed - what do I need to do?

If you are self-employed we will require you to send us your latest accounts or if these are not available then you will need to complete a self-employed income form (available to download here).

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Can my claim for Housing Benefit be backdated?

If you are over pensionable age your claim for Housing Benefit can be backdated up to a maximum of 3 months. If you request a backdated award you will be asked to provide details of your circumstances during this past period to enable us to make an assessment.

If you are under pensionable age you may ask for your claim to be backdated for up to 6 months prior to your application for Housing Benefit.

In both cases you must prove that you had a very good reason for failing to apply earlier. This is called "good cause". You will be asked for documentary evidence to support your request. For instance, if you have been ill, a letter from your doctor or the hospital.

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Can my claim for Council Tax Support be backdated?

If you are over pensionable age your claim Council Tax Support can be backdated up to a maximum of 3 months. If you request a backdated award you will be asked to provide details of your circumstances during this past period to enable us to make an assessment.

If you are under pensionable age you may ask for your claim to be backdated for up to 1 month for Council Tax Support.

In both cases you must prove that you had a very good reason for failing to apply earlier. This is called "good cause". You will be asked for documentary evidence to support your request. For instance, if you have been ill, a letter from your doctor or the hospital.

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I am a landlord and my tenant is behind with their rent - what can I do?

If your tenant is in arrears of more than 8 weeks you can ask the Council to make future payments of Housing Benefit directly to you. We will need to have documentary proof of the arrears and you will need to provide your bank details for any future payments.

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What is Under Occupation (Bedroom Tax)?

If you live in a Housing Association property and you have one or more spare bedrooms, your Housing Benefit may be reduced. More information about the under occupancy rules can be found here.

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