Housing Benefit Frequently Asked Questions
Who can claim housing benefit?
You can claim housing benefit if you are paying rent on the property you live in. This applies if you are:
- a council tenant
- a private tenant
- a housing association tenant
- a lodger or boarder
- living in a hostel, hotel or bed and breakfast
- living in a mobile home
- renting under a shared ownership scheme.
Please note: you do not need to be on state benefits to claim housing benefit. People on a low income can also apply.
Who cannot claim housing benefit?
You cannot claim housing benefit if:
- you or your partner have capital of £16,000 or more (unless you or your partner receives a pension credit).
Please note: capital includes money in bank and building society accounts, investments, cash or property
- you own or are buying your own home
- you are in a nursing home or residential care home
- you live in the same household as a close relative or in-law and pay rent to them
- you pay rent to your employer. This only applies in some circumstances and does not include council tenants who work for the council
- you are not entitled to benefits because of your immigration status in the UK
- you are a full-time student in higher education, unless you are a lone parent, disabled, under 19 and following a further (not higher) education course, aged 60 or over
- you are claiming Universal Credit which already includes support towards your rent
How to claim housing benefit?
To make your claim, you must complete an online application form. Our form is a combined Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction application so you will only be required to complete one form.
If you need help to claim online please contact our Support and Advice Team.
The claim form details all the information and evidence that you must supply. It is important that you provide all evidence in support of your claim within four weeks otherwise your claim may be withdrawn or may not start till a later date. If you are unable to provide all the information requested you should tell us about this but do not delay in sending us your completed application form. Any documents that you send with your claim will be returned to you immediately. We do not recommend that you send any valuable or important documents in the post unless you are using one of Royal Mail's special delivery services, for example Recorded Delivery. Alternatively you can hand deliver your claim form and documents to your nearest benefit office.
Remember: the sooner you send us all of the information we need, the sooner your benefit will be paid.
When will my benefit start?
Your benefit will normally start on the Monday after we receive your claim. However, if you receive Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, your benefit will start on the Monday after your Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance starts.
This applies as long as we receive your benefit application form within four weeks of your claim for Income Support/income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
How long will it take to work out my benefit?
Please make sure you send all the information or evidence that we ask for on the claim form and that you have answered all the questions. This will ensure that your claim is processed as quickly as possible.
This may not always be possible, especially if we need more information or documents from you or the Department for Work and Pensions. In these cases, we will deal with your claim as quickly as possible once we have received all the information we need.
Should I continue to pay my rent and council tax whilst I await a decision on my application for Housing Benefit/Council Tax Benefit?
It is very important that you continue to pay your Rent and Council Tax until you receive a decision about your claim for benefit.
You may receive little or no benefit and if you do not pay you may fall in to arrears. However, if you are having problems making payments, you should contact your landlord (including the Council) about your rent and your local Revenues office about your Council Tax.
You can get more information on help and advice if you are experiencing financial difficulties.
Can I find out how much benefit I will get before I move in to a property?
Prior to accepting a tenancy or moving in to a private property we strongly advise that you find out how much benefit you would be likely to get if you applied.
Local Housing Allowance affects anyone who lives in private rented accommodation and makes a new claim for housing benefit. The rate of local housing allowance that applies to you and your household depends on:
- who lives with you and the number of bedrooms your family needs
- the area you live in
The local housing allowance rates vary depending on the size of the property. These rates are set by an independent Rent Officer, based on local rents. You may get less than the maximum rate depending on your circumstances.
In order for us to tell you exactly how much benefit you can expect to receive you should make a claim, contact or visit us providing details of all your income, savings and personal circumstances. You will then be in a position to know if you can afford the rent of the property.
You may also get an estimate of the amount of benefit you can expect to receive by using a benefit calculator.
How will housing benefit be paid?
If you rent your home from the Council your benefit entitlement will be credited direct to your rent account.
If you privately rent your home benefit will be paid direct by BACS, in to your nominated bank account. In certain circumstances we can pay housing benefit direct to your landlord if you have difficulty managing your own affairs or you have rent arrears.
If you are entitled to benefit we will write to you and tell you how much you are entitled to and when your payments will start.
Can my housing benefit be paid direct to my landlord?
If you have difficulty in managing your own affairs or if you have rent arrears we can consider paying your landlord direct.
I live with a close relative, can I claim housing benefit?
You cannot get Housing Benefit if you are living with a close relative (such as a parent) and paying them rent. Other close relatives are considered to be:
- a step parent or parent in law
- brother or sister (including half brothers and sisters)
- son, son in law, daughter, daughter in law, step son, step daughter; or
- any partner of any of the above
How will my entitlement be calculated?
Housing Benefit is calculated by comparing your weekly income with your weekly applicable amount (the amount set by the government and is the minimum amount you need to live on).
If your income is less than or same as your applicable amount we will pay maximum benefit less any non dependant deduction.
If your income is more than your applicable amount we take off 65% of the excess income (the difference between your income and applicable amount). The minimum Housing Benefit payable is 50p.
The applicable amount differs from person to person. It depends on your age, household and is individual to each claim. The details of how your applicable amount is calculated are shown on the decision letter we send you. If you would like more information about applicable amounts you should contact us about this.
What information and documentary evidence must I provide with my claim for housing benefit?
When you complete your application for benefit the claim form will advise you the evidence you will be required to provide with your claim. It is important you send your claim to us as soon as possible so that you do not lose out on benefit. If you are unable to provide us with all the information when you complete your claim tell us about this in the claim form. If we need more information or evidence to allow us to process your claim we will write to you about this.
Will Housing Benefit cover all of my rent?
Housing benefit may not cover all your rent because:
- your level of income will decide the amount of benefit that can be paid
- charges included in your rent for some services are not eligible for benefit. In this case benefit is calculated on a lower rent. The amounts deducted are set by the government and are shown in detail on your notification letter we will send you
- your personal circumstances, the level of rent and the size of the property may give you less benefit
- if you are living in private rented accommodation or are looking at renting privately, please see our pages about Local Housing Allowance