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What are Housing Benefit and Council Tax Supp

What is Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support?

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support are benefits for people with low incomes and low savings.

  • Housing Benefit helps towards paying rent.
  • Council Tax Support helps towards paying Council Tax.

Who can claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support?

Anyone on a low income can claim as long they, or their partner:

  • are responsible for paying the rent on the property; or
  • pay the Council Tax bill for their home.

Special rules apply to certain people who make a claim for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support. These people include:

  • students;
  • people who are in hospital or a care home;
  • people who are in prison;
  • people who have to go through immigration control;
  • young people aged 16 to 17; and
  • people who have to maintain two homes.

Who cannot claim Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support?

The following people cannot claim Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support.

  • People with more than £16,000 in savings. If you get Pension Credit Link to External Website (the guarantee part), you may still be entitled to benefit.
  • Most full-time students.
  • People who:
    • live with and pay rent to a close relative;
    • used to live with the landlord as a member of their family;
    • rent a home they used to share with an ex-partner; or
    • within the last 5 years used to own the property they now rent.
  • People who are away from home.

These are just a few examples. If you are not sure, contact us for advice.

How do I claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support?

What if I need help filling in the form?

Just contact us if you need help filling in the form. We will be able to tell you where you can get help.

You could also contact your local citizens advice bureau Link to External Website for help.

Please note

  • If you have difficulty making a claim because you are elderly or disabled, we may be able to visit you at home.

Please contact us direct for help.

When should I claim?

You should claim as soon as possible because you may lose benefit if you delay.

If you apply late, sometimes we can pay Housing Benefit from an earlier date. This is called ‘backdating’. Council Tax Support claims can not be backdated.

There are strict rules on backdating Housing Benefit, and you must show good cause (reasons) so we can backdate your claim.

If you want us to backdate your Housing Benefit, you must apply in writing, giving your reasons why you could not claim from an earlier date.

For more information on ‘backdating’ contact us.

See also the section called ‘When will my benefit start’ for more information.

What proof do I need to give you?

If you get Income Support Link to External Website, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance Link to External Website, income-related Employment and Support Allowance Link to External Website, Universal Credit or Pension Credit Link to External Website (the guarantee part).

We need proof of your and your partner’s national insurance number Link to External Website, along with proof of the benefits you receive.

We may also ask you to provide proof of identity for both of you.

If you are on a low income

We need proof of your and your partner’s national insurance number Link to External Website. We may also ask you to provide proof of identity for both of you.

We also need to see proof of:

  • social security benefits;
  • Pension Credit Link to External Website (the savings part);
  • retirement pensions (State Pension Link to External Website and occupational pensions); and
  • wages.

We also need to see proof of all your bank accounts, along with proof of any other savings or investments you have.

Our form tells you what you need to provide. If you are not sure, contact us.

What if I haven’t got all the proof you need?

Don’t delay - you should send your claim form in anyway.

You can send us the information at a later date, but we will not be able to work out your benefit until you have provided the information.

For more information on Council Tax Support

How much Housing Benefit will I get?

How much you get will depend on whether you get Income Support Link to External Website, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance Link to External Website, income-related Employment and Support Allowance Link to External Website, or Pension Credit Link to External Website (the guarantee part).

You will normally get the maximum amount of benefit you are entitled to, after we have taken off charges for:

  • other people who live with you – these are called non-dependants, see the section ‘What is a non-dependant’; and
  • service charges which may be included in your rent.

In all other cases

We work out your benefit by comparing the money you get each week with your ‘applicable amount’.

Your applicable amount is what the Government says you and your family need to live on each week.

The applicable amount will be higher for some people – for example, if you are disabled or if you are a one-parent family.

When we have worked out what money you get each week, if it’s less than, or the same as, the applicable amount, you will usually get the maximum benefit.

But don’t forget, if you have any non-dependants living with you we might have to make a deduction from your benefit for them.

And, the amount of Housing Benefit you get might be affected by what the Rent Service has said, or by any service charges that are included in your rent.

What is a non-dependant?

A non-dependant is a person aged 18 or over who lives with you, or is using your home as their main home on a non-commercial basis.

Examples of non-dependants include:

  • adult sons or daughters; or
  • other relatives or friends.

A non-dependant does not have to be a member of your family.

If you have a non-dependant living in your home, or another adult moves into your property, we will need to see proof of all their income.

Depending on the amount and type of income the non-dependant receives, it could affect the amount of benefit you receive.

We will write to you to let you know how their income affects your benefit.

For more information on non-dependants, contact us.

What money do you count when you work out my benefit?

We count any money you and your partner (if you have one) have coming in.

This includes things like:

  • social security benefits;
  • works pension; and
  • wages or self-employed income.

We count the money you earn from work after money has been taken out for:

We do not count the first:

  • £5 of the money you earn each week, if you are single;
  • £10 of the money you earn each week, if you are a couple;
  • £20 of the money you earn each week, if you are disabled; or
  • £25 of the money you earn each week, if you are a single parent.

Sometimes we ignore different amounts from other types of income and benefits.

We also ignore things like:

These are just a few examples. For more information - contact us.

What about other money I have?

Small amounts of savings and investments do not affect your claim, but you must still tell us about all your savings and investments, including current bank accounts.

You should tell us about all the bank and building society accounts that you and your partner have.

Don’t forget to tell us about any stocks and shares you have too.

Government rules say that if you, and your partner if you have one, have savings or investments of more than £16,000, you cannot get benefit.

The only exception to this is if you, or your partner, get Pension Credit Link to External Website (the guarantee part).

  • If you, or your partner, are under 60 and have £6,000 or less, it will not affect your claim.
  • If you, or your partner, are under 60 and have between £6,000 and £16,000, it will affect how much benefit you get.

For every £250 (or part of £250) you have over £6,000, we add £1 to the money we count each week when working out your benefit.

This is called ‘tariff income’.

  • If you, or your partner, are over 60 and have £6,000 (£10,000 from October 2009) or less, it will not affect your claim.
  • If you, or your partner, are over 60, we will only use tariff income between £6,000 (£10,000 from October 2009) and £16,000.

For every £500 (or part of £500) you have over £6,000, we add £1 to the money we count each week when working out your benefit.

Do you need proof of my rent?

Yes, we need proof of your rent. This is usually a tenancy agreement, but could also be a rent book or a letter from your landlord.

The proof you provide must include:

  • your full name, and the names of any other joint tenants;
  • the full address of the property you are renting;
  • the landlord’s full name and address;
  • the full name and address of any agent;
  • the start date of the tenancy, and how long the tenancy will last;
  • how much rent you pay;
  • how often you pay your rent;
  • any services which are included in the rent and how much you pay for those services; and
  • your signature and your landlord’s signature.

When will my benefit start?

If you qualify, your benefit will usually start from the Monday after we get your claim form.

But, if you think your benefit should start earlier, you need to write to us and tell us why.

If you get benefit from an earlier date, it is called ‘backdating’. See the section ‘When should I claim’. Or, you can contact us.

What happens next?

We will work out your eligible rent when we get your claim form and all the proof we need.

The eligible rent is the rent you pay each week after we have taken off things like:

  • any deductions for other people who live with you; and
  • any service charges included in your rent.

When we have worked that out, we will then work out your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support and write to you to tell you whether you qualify.

How long will it take you to work out my benefit?

We aim to deal with all claims as soon as possible, but it depends on how quickly you give us all the information.

When we have all the information, we will work out your benefit and write to you to tell you how much you will get.

How will you pay me?

Housing Benefit

  • Housing-association tenant
    We usually pay your Housing Benefit every four weeks for the four weeks just passed. Sometimes we can pay it direct to the housing association. This is called ‘rent allowance’.
  • Private tenant
    Your benefit may have to be worked out under the new Local Housing Allowance rules. Under these rules we pay your Housing Benefit direct to you, into your bank account, unless there are special reasons why you cannot manage your finances (for example, because you have a learning disability, have language problems, are ill, are in a lot of debt or are addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling, or you owe rent for 8 weeks or more).

What happens if my circumstances change?

You should tell us straightaway in writing about any change which may affect your benefit. If you are on Income Support Link to External Website, income based Jobseeker’s Allowance Link to External Website, or income-related Employment and Support Allowance Link to External Website, you must also tell Jobcentre Plus Link to External Website.

If you receive Pension Credit Link to External Website, you will need to tell The Pension Service straightaway, The Pension Service will then tell us.

Typical examples of changes in circumstances are if:

  • you stop getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance;
  • your income changes;
  • your rent changes;
  • you move out of your property; or
  • an adult moves into or out of your property.

You must report all changes to us straightaway. It is an offence under Section 14 of the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act 1997 if you do not tell us about a change in your circumstances which might affect your entitlement to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.

If you have a change in your circumstances and are not sure if you should tell us, contact us.

What happens if you give me too much money?

If we have paid you too much benefit, it is called an ‘overpayment’.

If there is an overpayment, we will send you a letter which tells you:

  • why we paid you too much benefit;
  • how much the overpayment is;
  • if you have to pay back the amount; and
  • how you can appeal if you think this is wrong.

If you want more information, we have a leaflet called ‘What happens when you’ve been paid too much Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support’. Just pick up a copy – from any of our customer service centres.

Special rules for claiming Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support

Students

Most full-time students cannot get Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support, as they are expected to use other money (such as their student loan or grant Link to External Website) to pay for their accommodation. However, there are exceptions - see below for some examples.

If you are a student, you may be able to get benefit if:

These are just a few examples, and the rules on students and Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support are very complicated. So if you are not sure whether you can claim, contact us for advice.

People who are away from home

Most people who are away from home cannot get Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support. However, in certain circumstances we can pay benefit. This applies if you are away from home (for any reason) for less than 13 weeks.

We may also be able to pay benefit for up to 52 weeks in the following circumstances, if:

  • you are an in-patient in hospital;
  • you are receiving medically approved care, treatment or convalescence;
  • you are escaping violence; or
  • you are a prisoner on remand.

These are just a few examples, and the rules on people who are away from home and Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support are very complicated. So, if you are not sure whether you can claim, contact us for advice.

What can I do if I don’t agree with your decision?

If you don’t agree with our decision, you can ask us to look at it again. Our letters tell you what your rights are.

Where can I get help?

You can always phone us for help and advice. See the More Information Section for details.

If you need independent advice, contact your local citizens advice bureau Link to External Website.

What if I want to comment on your service?

You should get in touch with us. We would like to know what you think about this leaflet, or about the services we provide to you.

You’ll find our details in the More Information Section.

If you want more information

If you have any questions you can phone our Housing Benefit Section. The office is open: Monday to Wednesday from 8.30am to 5.00pm Thursday from 8.30am to 4.30pm Friday from 8.30am to 4.00pm. Phone 0161 342 3708 or call in and talk to someone at one of our customer service centres.

Page last updated: 4 June 2014