Benefits - Frequently Asked Questions
1. 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 low incomes can also apply.
2. How do I apply for Housing Benefit?
To make your claim, you must complete an application form. Our form is a combined housing benefit and council tax reduction application so you will only be required to complete one form.
- Download, print and fill in a Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Reduction form
- telephone 01343 563456 to ask us to send you one
3. What information and evidence must I provide?
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.
4. 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.
5. Can my claim be started earlier?
In some circumstances it can be awarded from an earlier date. If there has been a reason which stopped or delayed you applying for housing benefit or council tax reduction you can ask for your claim to be 'backdated' so that it starts from an earlier date. There is a section on the claim form for this.
6. 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.
We aim to calculate your benefit entitlement within two weeks of receiving your claim.
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.
7. 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 the 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.
8. What is a Non-Dependant?
If you have someone living in your household who is not dependant on you, and not your partner, they are known as a non-dependant. This could be, for example, grown up sons or daughters. They are expected to contribute towards the cost of their accommodation. Whether or not a contribution is actually made by them to you, a standard deduction is made from eligible rent depending on their income, age and other circumstances. Benefit can only be assessed on the balance of rent/council tax after that.
9. 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 entitlement will be paid direct by BACS. In certain circumstances we can pay housing benefit direct to your landlord, for example 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.
10 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 things are not eligible for benefit. In this case benefit is calculated on a lower rent. The amounts deducted 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.
11. What if I am not happy with my Housing Benefit?
There are various things you can do – find out more on our Making an Appeal page for more information.
12. What if things change?
You need to tell us as soon as possible if your circumstances change – for more information go to our Change in Circumstances page.
13. What if I move out of my home for a short while?
You need to tell us as soon as possible – go to Temporary Absence from Home for more information.
14. What if I move?
You need to tell us as soon as possible if you change address – go to our Change in Circumstances page for more information.
If you still have any questions about Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction, please contact us.