About housing benefit

April 2017 changes:  

What is housing benefit?

Housing Benefit helps people on low incomes with the cost of their rent and is paid by the local council.

How can I claim housing benefit?

If you claim income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, or income related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit the Department for Work and Pensions will normally tell us and you don't need to claim separately. If you are claiming Universal Credit you will need to claim your Housing Costs as part of your Universal Credit application.

If you don't claim these other benefits you should complete a housing benefit claim form. These are available from our offices, phone the Telephone Claim Line, or fill in our online form.

How much benefit can I claim?

If your Housing Benefit is worked out using Local Housing Allowance, you can get the Local Housing Allowance rate for your needs or your actual rent (whichever is lower) less any deductions we make for other adults living with you.

Housing Benefit for tenants in exempt accommodation is based on the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) valuation of a reasonable rent. Further deductions are made for any other adults living with you and for any charges included in your rent which are not eligible for Housing Benefit, like heating and hot water.

Housing Benefit in the social sector is based on 100% of your rent, less (if you are not a pensioner) a deduction of:

  • 14% if you have one more bedroom than you need
  • 25% if you have more than one extra bedroom

Further deductions are made for any other adults living with you and for any charges included in your rent which are not eligible for housing benefit, like heating and hot water.

The minimum amount of benefit paid is 50 pence per week.

You may be able to get help with the shortfall in your rent in certain circumstances; this is known as a Discretionary Housing Payment.

How is housing benefit paid?

If you rent from a private landlord we usually pay housing benefit directly into your bank or building society account every four weeks. If you do not have one, see our leaflet, "A Guide to Basic Bank Accounts", for further help.

You can only have it paid to your landlord in certain circumstances, if:

  • You are having difficulty managing your financial affairs
  • You are 8 weeks or more behind with your rent
  • You are having arrears of rent paid back to your landlord from certain social security benefits
  • You are unlikely to pay your rent.
  • Direct payments to your landlord will help you secure or renew a tenancy.
  • We may ask you to provide us with reasons and evidence as to why we should pay your landlord.

If you are renting from a Housing Association or Registered Social Landlord, or live in exempt accommodation, you have a choice of two ways:

  • Directly to you every four weeks
  • Directly to your landlord every four weeks

How soon will I be paid?

Payment should be made in 14 days if we have all the relevant information. If we do not have enough information to make a final decision then a payment on account may be made.

How often will I be paid?

Housing benefit is usually paid in arrears every 4 weeks. In certain circumstances it can be paid fortnightly in arrears.

Appeals

If you disagree with a decision that we have made regarding your Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction you can ask us to look at the decision again. This is sometimes called a reconsideration. If you do not understand a decision that has been made with regard to your claim you can ask for a statement of reasons.

  • Please write to us within one month of the date of your notification letter, telling us the reason for your request. If you make a request outside of this time limit you will need to explain your reasons for being late.
  • A different officer will reconsider the decision.
  • For Housing Benefit decisions an independent tribunal administered by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service is the second stage of the appeal process. It is usually arranged if you still do not agree with the assessment after the reconsideration has been carried out.
  • For Council Tax Reduction decisions if you disagree with the decision and the decision is changed but does not satisfy you, or we decide not to change the decision, or we fail to respond within two months, you can appeal to an independent tribunal called the Valuation Tribunal.

How is housing benefit worked out?

The amount of housing benefit you can get depends on:

  • your income;
  • your savings or capital;
  • the size of accommodation you need;
  • the amount of rent you are liable for; and,
  • other people who live with you

What income is used?

If you are in receipt of Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit you will normally get maximum Housing Benefit less any deductions for non-dependants.

If you are working or receive any other type of benefit, including tax credits, the amount of housing benefit you get will be based on your income and capital, and if you have a partner, their income and capital will also be taken into account.

Your benefit is worked out by comparing your total net weekly income with your applicable amount. This is the allowance set by the Government to take account of your individual or family's needs. If your income is less than or the same as your applicable amount, you will get the full amount of eligible Housing Benefit less any non-dependant deductions. If your income is more than your applicable amount then your housing benefit will be reduced by 65p for each £1 that your income is over your applicable amount and by any non-dependant deductions.

We use net income; this is what is left after tax, National Insurance and half your pension contribution is taken out. Before your benefit is worked out we allow you certain disregards from your wages.

  • Single Claimants £5.00
  • Couples £10.00
  • Disabled Claimants and Carers £20.00
  • Lone Parents £25.00

In addition there is an earnings disregard of £17.10 if you or your partner is working over 30 hours each week, or over 16 hours for certain people.

We also look at other types of income including most state benefits, tax credits, and occupational or private pensions. Certain types of income, although they need to be declared, are not taken into account in the calculation of your Housing Benefit. These include:

  • Child Benefit
  • Disability Living Allowance (care and mobility components)
  • Attendance Allowance
  • War Widows Pension
  • War Disablement Pension
  • Voluntary Payments
  • Child maintenance you receive
  • Permitted Work (i.e. earnings allowed by the Jobcentre Plus for people receiving certain sickness benefits.)

If you pay for childcare to a registered child-minder, an approved provider such as a local authority holiday scheme, or nursery, we may allow you up to £175 per week for one child or £300 per week for two or more children in approved childcare.

Non Dependant Deductions Table 2017/2018

Aged under 25 and on Income Support£0.00
Aged under 25 and on Jobseekers Allowance£0.00
Aged under 25 and on Employment and Support Allowance which does not include an amount for support component or work-related activity component£0.00
Aged 25 or over and on Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance£14.80
Aged over 18 and not in remunerative work£14.80
In receipt of main phase Employment and Support Allowance (Income Related)£14.80
In receipt of State Pension Credit£0.00
Aged 18 or over and in remunerative work 
Gross income less than £136.00£14.80
Gross income £136.00 to £199.99£34.00
Gross income £200.00 to £258.99£46.65
Gross income £259.00 to £345.99£76.35
Gross income £346.00 to £429.99£86.95
Gross income £430.00 and above395.45

 

Savings and capital

We also take an income from any savings, investments or capital you or your partner may have.

  • If you are of working age £1 of tariff income will be taken for every, or part of,  £250 of savings you have over £6,000.
  • If you have over £16,000 you cannot get Housing Benefit.
  • For people of pensionable age £1 tariff income will be taken for every, or part of, £500 you have over £10,000.
  • If you have over £16,000 you cannot get Housing Benefit unless you or your partner are receiving the guaranteed part of Pension Credit.

Rent

The amount of rent used in the calculation depends on the amount of rent you are liable for and the number of bedrooms your household needs.

These rules apply to ALL private sector tenants coming under Local Housing Allowance rules and social sector tenants who are under pension age.

Number of bedrooms your household needs

The general rule is one bedroom for each of the following:

  • A single claimant or every adult couple
  • Any other single adult aged 16 or over
  • Any two children under age 10
  • Any two children of the same sex aged up to 15
  • Any other child
  • A non resident carer who uses a spare bedroom
  • A foster carer who uses a spare bedroom for the foster child

There have been changes to these rules which take effect from 1 April 2017. These changes will affect cases where one or more members of the household have a disability and may require an additional room. 

The maximum bedroom allowance for Local Housing Allowance is 4 Bedrooms. There is no maximum for social sector tenants.

Housing benefit in the social sector is based on 100% of your rent, less (if you are not a pensioner) a deduction of:

  • 14% if you have one more bedroom than you need
  • 25% if you have more than one extra bedroom

Further deductions are made for any other adults living with you and for any charges included in your rent which are not eligible for Housing Benefit, like heating and hot water.

The number of living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms is ignored.

If you live in one room and share some facilities with other people, for example a kitchen or bathroom, or are under 35 and live on your own, there is a shared accommodation rate. The shared accommodation rate does not apply to social sector tenants

There rules do not apply to residents of exempt accommodation. In these cases the VOA decides how many rooms you need.

The benefit cap

If you are receiving the main out of work benefits and are under pension age a cap will be applied to the total amount of benefit you can get. The cap is £384.62 per week for a family and £257.69 per week for a single person

Benefits included in the cap:

  • Jobseekers Allowance;
  • Income Support;
  • Universal Credit;
  • Employment and Support Allowance (work related rate);
  • Severe Disablement Allowance;
  • Child Benefit;
  • Child Tax Credit;
  • Maternity Allowance;
  • Housing Benefit;
  • Bereavement Allowance;
  • Widows Benefits

The cap won't apply where a member of the household qualifies for:

  • Working Tax Credit;
  • Attendance Allowance;
  • Carer's Allowance (From November 2016);
  • Disability Living Allowance;
  • Personal Independence Payment;
  • Guardian's Allowance (From November 2016);
  • Employment and Support Allowance (support rate);
  • War Widow's or War Widower's Pensions
  • War Pensions
  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and Independent Payment;
  • Industrial Injuries Benefits

At the moment the cap will only be applied to Housing Benefit payments and they will be reduced to bring your total benefit income down to the permitted levels. You will always be left with at least £0.50 per week Housing Benefit so you can claim a Discretionary Housing Payment.

If your Housing Benefit payments are already subject to the benefit cap, the new restrictions will be applied to your claim from November 2016. For those newly affected the changes will be phased in.

What if there is a change in my circumstances?

If there is a change in your income or household circumstances you must notify us in writing immediately, or you may lose benefit You can do this by letter, or you can visit our offices. You can also download a change in circumstances form from our website. If the change gives you more benefit, but you did not tell us within a month of it happening, your benefit will increase from the Monday following the date you told us.

You must report any changes that may affect your claim. This includes the following;

  • Changes in your household such as people moving in and out, a new baby, children leaving school etc.
  • A change in the income of a member of your household
  • A change of address or rent liability
  • Temporary absence. The Housing Benefit regulations have changed. If you are going to absent from your property for 4 weeks or more, please tell us as this may affect your entitlement.

This list is only an example of the changes that may happen. If in doubt, please tell us.

It is an offence to fail to report a change in circumstances, which may lead to the issuing of a sanction if a large overpayment has occurred. This could include a fine, a caution or even a prosecution.

Extended payment periods

An extended payment can be awarded if you have recently come off Department for Work and Pension (DWP) benefits to start work and you expect the work to last at least 5 weeks.

The extended payment period will be for four weeks from the day after your Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance has stopped as long as you continue to have a liability to pay rent

You will get the same amount of housing benefit as you did before you started work.

What if I disagree with my entitlement?

If you disagree you should notify us in writing within one month from the date shown on your notification letter. You also have a separate right of appeal to an Appeal Tribunal.

Local Housing Allowances from April 2017

The following rates are from 1 April 2017. These rates are weekly and will remain effective until 31 March 2018. For details of which areas are covered by each Broad Rental Market Area, please see the maps in the related documents. For details of the rates applicable to other Broad Rental Market Areas, please refer to the valuation  website.

Broad Rental Market Area: Chichester

Local housing allowance rates for Chichester

Property

Local Housing Allowance Rate

 1 Bed shared

 £73.58

 1 Bed self contained

 £134.02

 2 Bedrooms

 £168.00

 3 Bedrooms

 £198.11

 4 Bedrooms

 £268.03

Broad Rental Market Area: Guildford

Local housing allowance rates for Guildford

Property

Local Housing Allowance Rate

 1 Bed shared

 £84.04

 1 Bed self contained

 £170.67

 2 Bedrooms

 £222.96

 3 Bedrooms

 £268.03

 4 Bedrooms

 £345.21

Broad Rental Market Area: Portsmouth

Local housing allowance rates for Portsmouth

Property

Local Housing Allowance Rate

 1 Bed shared

 £69.04

 1 Bed self contained

 £116.53

 2 Bedrooms

 £144.36

 3 Bedrooms

 £172.60

 4 Bedrooms

 £240.00

Changes To Size Criteria (Private Sector and Social Sector) - Extra Bedrooms

From 1 April 2017 the rules regarding the number of bedrooms allowed for Housing Benefit and Universal Credit have changed. The new rules affect households where:

  • An additional room is required for an overnight carer
  • A couple are unable to share a bedroom due to a disability

Additional Room Required For An Overnight Carer:

Prior to 1 April 2017 an additional room was only allowed in cases where a claimant or partner required and had an overnight carer. From 1 April 2017 the rules have been changed to include cases where;

  • a disabled child or non dependant adult reasonably requires and has overnight care and:
  • the disabled child or non dependant adult is in receipt of a specified benefit. If this is not in payment it is down to the Local Authorities discretion to decide whether an additional room is allowed.
  • there is an additional room available in the home

Couples Unable To Share A Room Due To A Disability:

Prior to 1 April 2017 couples were only allocated 1 bedroom regardless of their circumstances. From 1 April 2017 couples may be entitled to an additional room where:

  • the Local Authority is satisfied that a couple cannot reasonably share a bedroom as a result of a member of the couple's disability and :
  • that member of the couple is in receipt of a specified disability benefit
  • there is an additional room available in the home

These new rules apply to both private sector and social sector rents. However, if your Housing Benefit is currently being assessed based on the 4 bedroom rate of Local Housing Allowance, this cannot be exceeded.

Changes In Allowances: Households with more than 2 children

The rules regarding the number of children that are taken into account in the assessment of Housing Benefit claims is changing.

From 1 April 2017 a maximum of 2 dependant children will be taken into account when calculating your applicable amount.

  • This only affects the allowances used in the Housing Benefit calculation. This does not affect the award of premiums within the applicable amount.

  • This will not affect how eligible rent is calculated. For example a couple with 3 children will still require at least 3 bedrooms for Housing Benefit purposes.

  • Existing claimant's will not be affected by this change until:

    • there is a break in their claim or;

    • they become responsible for another dependant child. If there are already 2 children being taken into account, no additional dependant allowances will awarded within the applicable amount for children entering the household after 1 April 2017.

  • The new rules will not apply to cases where Her Majesty Revenues and Customs (HMRC) are taking more than 2 children into account in the assessment of Child Tax Credit. However, in these cases, an application for Child Tax Credit must have been made even if the application resulted in a nil award.