Benefits frequently asked questions
What happens if I am under 35?
If you are under 35 and you rent from a private landlord we have to base the amount of housing benefit that we can pay you on a 'single room rent'. The figure used to calculate the single room rent is provided to us by the Rent Service who is independent of the Council. We are obliged to use this figure even if you have a single room in a shared flat and pay a proportion of the rent on the whole accommodation.
What income do you take account of?
We take account of the following income:
- All your earnings less tax, national insurance and half of any pension contributions you make.
- Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Sickness Benefit, Job Seekers Allowance (Contributions Based), State Pensions and Benefits, and pensions from former employers
- Maintenance payments, rent from sub-tenants and any other income
How do you calculate Minimum Living Costs?
After the income and capital of the household have been assessed, the next step in the calculation of benefit is to decide the minimum living costs - known as the applicable amount - of the household. This figure is calculated using figures decided by the Government each year.
The applicable amount is made up of different allowances for single people, couples and children depending on the ages and circumstances, such as, whether they are of pensionable age or disabled. This applicable amount is compared with your total weekly income as calculated for benefit purposes, to decide the amount of benefit you are entitled to. The greater your weekly income compared with your applicable amount, the lower the amount of benefit you will be entitled to.
When does my benefit start?
If you are already living in a property your benefit will normally start on the Monday after you make your claim.
If you move into a new address we can start your claim on the date that you move in provided we receive the claim form before you move in or within the same week (for benefit purposes a week begins on a Monday and ends on a Sunday). If you are receiving Income Support, or Job Seekers Allowance (income based), and you move into a new address your benefit will start on the date that you move in provided we receive a claim form within four weeks of that date.
What savings do you take account of?
If you have savings and other capital, such as land or another property, of more than £16,000 you are not eligible to claim housing or council tax benefit unless you receive guaranteed pension credit. Savings of less than £6,000 for people of working age and £10,000 for those of pensionable age do not affect your benefit entitlement. For people of working age every £250 of savings between £6,000 and £16,000 the income used in the calculation of your benefit will be increased by £1 per week. If you are of pensionable age this amount is increased to every £500 between £10,000 and £16,000
How is the benefit paid?
If you are a council tenant your housing benefit is paid to your rent account. In a similar way, your council tax benefit is deducted from your council tax bill. If you are a private tenant, including Housing Association tenants, your housing benefit is paid by BACS. In circumstances where your landlord is paid directly by the council this payment will be made four weekly in arrears.
What if my circumstances change?
Let us know straight away if your circumstances change. Examples of changes you must tell us about include:
- you stop getting Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance (income based)
- your income changes
- your savings change
- the circumstances of anyone living with you changes
- someone moves in or out of your home
If a change in your circumstances occurs, which would mean you should receive more benefit and you do not let us know within one calendar month, we may only take account of the change from when you tell us, so you may lose money. If a change in your circumstances occurs, which means you should receive less benefit and you do not tell us straight away, we may pay you too much benefit that we will have to recover.
If you are unsure if you need to tell us of a change - get in touch!
What if I'm going into hospital?
If you go into hospital we can pay your benefit for up to 52 weeks provided that you are expected to return home within that time. You do not need to contact us before you go into hospital to receive benefit for the time that you are in Hospital. However, if possible you should ask a friend, or relative, or a hospital social worker to let us know where you are as soon as possible.
What if I'm fleeing domestic violence?
It is possible for housing benefit to be paid for up to 52 weeks if you have had to leave your home because of fear of domestic violence. If you are in a women's refuge you should ask one of the support workers to contact us, if you feel unable to do so yourself. We will not disclose your refuge address to anyone.
What if I'm going into prison?
If you are in prison as a remand prisoner you can still receive benefit for up to 52 weeks. If during this time you are sentenced and committed to prison, your housing benefit will stop unless your sentence is for 13 weeks or less. You do not have to inform us before you go to prison to receive benefits however you or a friend, or relative, or a prison social worker should inform us of what has happened as soon as possible.
How do I know when a decision has been made?
When a decision is made about your benefit claim you will be issued with a notification. This will detail our decision and include information on the award amount and period if applicable. The notification also details what to do if you disagree with our decision.
How quickly will you process my claim?
We will try and process your claim or change of circumstances as soon as possible. The more quickly you return the information we request, the sooner we can assess your claim.
I am still struggling to pay my rent, what can I do?
If you are in receipt of housing benefit and you still struggle to pay your rent you can claim Discretionary Housing Payments.
Can someone else make enquiries on my behalf?
Yes. please write to us and tell us who you would like to deal with your enquiries on your behalf.
Will Universal Credit affect my housing benefit?
Some benefits will eventually be replace with Universal Credit. In some circumstances housing costs will be covered by Universal Credit rather thank housing benefit. Visit the .GOV website to learn more.
Is there a limit to how much I can claim?
There's a limit on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called the benefit cap. How much you get for certain benefits may go down to make sure the total you get isn't more than the cap amount.
If the government thinks your housing benefit should be reduced because of the benefit cap, they will inform the council who will cap the benefit accordingly. If you disagree with the cap please contact DWP.
I'm a Landlord - what information can you give me?
We believe that landlords are an important stakeholder in the service that we provide. We aim to work with landlords to ensure that they receive payment promptly and to ensure that overpayments are minimised. In return we ask landlords to respect our obligations towards claimant confidentiality and the Data Protection Act when they make enquiries about their tenants.
We can pay your tenants housing benefit entitlement directly to yourself provided your tenant agrees or if they are more than eight weeks in arrears with their rent payments. This may change for some tenants after 7th April 2008 following the introduction of the Local Housing Allowance
Please note that if you accept direct payment form us we may require you to pay back money if your tenant receives housing benefit to which they are not entitled.
When we pay housing benefit directly to a landlord and their tenants entitlement to housing benefit changes we may ask the landlord to repay the money that has been overpaid. Each case is decided on its own merits. If we decide that it is appropriate to recover the money from the landlord we will invoice them. The invoice will show the period of the overpayment the name of the tenant and the amount of the overpayment.