Housing Benefit


Housing benefit is for people on a low income to help them pay their rent. You may be able to get housing benefit if you are on other benefits, work part-time or full-time on a low income, you can check your entitlement by visiting the online benefits advisor. However, if you receive Universal Credit you cannot normally received Housing Benefit as your housing costs are included in your Universal Credit payments. Please see the Universal Credit Information.

You can claim if you have to pay rent for the property that you live in. You may be a council tenant, pay rent to a private landlord or to a housing association. You can also claim housing benefit if you rent a room or are a boarder. You can claim if you share a flat or a house and can get housing benefit as a joint tenant or sub-tenant. If you are a private tenant you can get find more details about the Local Housing Allowance by clicking here.

Housing benefit is payable in respect of the family, the term family includes single claimants, lone parents, married or un-married partners or civil partners with or without children. The family must occupy the property as their home and be liable to pay rent.

Claimants may only claim housing benefit for one property at a time except in special circumstance.

Housing benefit is assessed by comparing your household and personal circumstances with your income. It also takes into account any other adults in your household who are expected in some circumstances to contribute to these costs. More detailed information on this and other areas of housing benefit can be found on the Government's website.

 

Am I eligible?

All claims are subject to assessment.

You can't usually get Housing Benefit if:

  • you receive Universal Credit
  • you have savings of over £16,000, unless you are getting the 'guarantee credit' of Pension Credit
  • you live in the home of a close relative
  • you're a full-time student (unless you're disabled or have children)
  • you're an asylum seeker or are sponsored to be in the UK

 

How it gets paid

Housing Benefits Payments to Council Tenants

We will normally calculate Housing Benefit entitlement based on the rent that you are being charged by the Council. However, if you are of working age and you are under occupying your property, meaning that you have a spare bedroom, then an amount is deducted from the rent that can be used in the calculation as follows:

14% if you under-occupy by one bedroom
25% if you under-occupy by two or more bedrooms

Depending on your household composition, you will have a bedroom requirement. This is the amount of bedrooms you need as specified by the Housing Benefit Regulations.

The bedroom requirements are as follows:

• One room for each:
• Adult couple
• Two children under 16 years of the same sex
• Two children under 10 years regardless of sex
• Single person over 16 years
• A child that would normally share but is either an only child or shared bedrooms are already taken, for example you have three children
• Children that cannot share because they have a disability or medical condition which prevents them from sharing with another child. You will need to provide medical evidence for this
• A non-resident overnight carer for you or your partner, but only if they sleep there overnight. You will need to provide medical evidence that overnight care is required and that overnight care is provided on a regular basis
• An approved foster carer who is either between placements or is waiting for their first placement (but only for a maximum 52 week period) 

Rooms used by members of the armed or reserve forces or by students will not be counted as spare as long as they intend to return home, unless they have secured permanent accommodation/ rented accommodation elsewhere.

Housing Benefit payments are paid weekly directly to your rent account. If you are having any difficulty paying your rent, please contact your Housing Officer. 

It should be noted that the Government is changing Housing Benefit for Council Tenants from April 2018. If your tenancy began after 1 April 2016 and you claim Housing Benefit after 1 April 2018, your Housing Benefit could be restricted if your rent is higher than the Local Housing Allowance rate which is used for calculating Housing Benefit for private sector tenants. At the moment, we expect this to only affect single under 35 year olds, although the Government is considering whether tenants in supported accommodation will also be affected.  

Housing Benefit payments to Housing Associations Tenants

Please note that if your landlord is not a registered provider of social housing, or you are being charged rent at a commercial market rent rate, this does not apply to you. Your Housing Benefit will be calculated the same as tenants with a private landlord.

We will normally calculate Housing Benefit entitlement based on the rent that you are being charged by the Housing Association. However, if you are of working age and you are under occupying your property, meaning that you have a spare bedroom, then an amount is deducted from the rent that can be used in the calculation as follows:

14% if you under-occupy by one bedroom
25% if you under-occupy by two or more bedrooms

Depending on your household composition, you will have a bedroom requirement. This is the amount of bedrooms you need as specified by the Housing Benefit Regulations.

The bedroom requirements are as follows:

• One room for each:
• Adult couple
• Two children under 16 years of the same sex
• Two children under 10 years regardless of sex
• Single person over 16 years
• A child that would normally share but is either an only child or shared bedrooms are already taken, for example you have three children
• Children that cannot share because they have a disability or medical condition which prevents them from sharing with another child. You will need to provide medical evidence for this
• A non-resident overnight carer for you or your partner, but only if they sleep there overnight. You will need to provide medical evidence that overnight care is required and that overnight care is provided on a regular basis
• An approved foster carer who is either between placements or is waiting for their first placement (but only for a maximum 52 week period) 

Rooms used by members of the armed or reserve forces or by students will not be counted as spare as long as they intend to return home, unless they have secured permanent accommodation/ rented accommodation elsewhere.

Housing Benefit payments are normally paid by BACS to the claimant. These payments are made every 2 weeks in arrears.

If you want us to pay your Housing Benefit directly to your Housing Association, please let us know in writing.  These payments are made every 4 weeks in arrears.

It should be noted that the Government is changing Housing Benefit for social sector tenants from April 2018. If your tenancy began after 1 April 2016 and you claim Housing Benefit after 1 April 2018, your Housing Benefit could be restricted if your rent is higher than the Local Housing Allowance rate which is used for calculating Housing Benefit for private sector tenants. The Government is considering whether tenants in supported accommodation will be affected by this change.  

Housing benefit payments to Tenants of Private Sector Landlords

Your benefit is usually paid to you and not to your landlord. You cannot choose to have it paid directly to your landlord. However, in very special cases, we may pay it to your landlord and it is paid 4 weeks in arrears

Housing Benefit paid to private tenants is normally paid 2 weeks in arrears

We will pay your Housing Benefit directly into your bank account. Let us know the sort code and account number and we will arrange to pay your Housing Benefit into your account.

If you don't have an account you may want to open one. See the information in the link below

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/basic-bank-accounts

 

 

More benefit information

Discretionary Housing Payments

In special circumstances you may be able to receive a Discretionary Housing payment if you have a shortfall between the amount of Housing benefit paid and your contractual rent.

  • We will look at your financial and personal circumstances before we decide to grant further financial assistance for your council tax.
  • In order to receive a Discretionary Housing Payment, you will have to demonstrate that your circumstances are exceptional. This means there would not be many other people whose circumstances are the same as yours. You will also need to demonstrate that you would be suffering severe financial hardship if you did not receive the extra help.
  • Discretionary Housing Payments are made from a limited amount of money the Council has each financial year, and there is no right to a Discretionary Housing Payment in law.

If you would like to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment you will need to complete the application form available here

Benefit Cap

There is a limit on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called the benefit cap.

The cap means that the Government will add up how much money you get in total each week from a range of State Benefits. If the total is more than the cap, your Housing Benefit payments will be reduced.

The current benefit cap amounts are:


£20,000 per year (£384.62 per week) for couples and single parents.

£13,400 per year (£257.69 per week) for single people without children.


The benefit cap applies to the amount that you get from the following benefits:

  • bereavement allowance / widowed parent’s / mother’s allowance
  • carer’s allowance
  • child benefit
  • child tax credit
  • employment support allowance (except where the support element has been awarded)
  • guardians allowance
  • housing benefit
  • incapacity benefit
  • income support
  • jobseekers allowance
  • maternity allowance
  • severe disablement allowance
  • widow’s pension. 

Example 

A single person with 4 children.


Weekly income            Child Benefit             £61.80

                                    Child Tax Credits      £184.43

                                    Income Support        £73.10

                              Total income             £319.33

 

Weekly Housing Benefit                               £104.49

 

The weekly income plus the weekly Housing Benefit is £423.82 which is £39.20 above the £384.62 cap. The £39.20 is then deducted from the Housing Benefit so the weekly Housing Benefit would reduce to £65.29.


You will not be affected by the cap if anyone in your household gets any of the following benefits:

  • working tax credit
  • attendance allowance
  • support component of employment support allowance
  • war widow / widower’s pension
  • disability living allowance
  • personal independence payment
  • industrial injuries benefit
  • armed forces compensation scheme payment
  • war pension scheme payments.

For more information about the benefit cap, please visit www.gov.uk/benefit-cap

Backdating Housing Benefit/ Local Council Tax Support

Your Housing Benefit/Local Council Tax Support will usually start either:

• From the Monday after we receive your form
• Or the Monday after you first contacted us asking to make a claim, providing that you return your completed form to us within a month of first contacting us
• Or the Monday following the start date of your entitlement to JSA (IB), ESA(IR), IS or Guaranteed Pension Credit, providing that you send a completed form to us within a month of making that claim
• Or, if you receive JSA(IB), ESA(IR), IS or Guaranteed Pension Credit, the date that you moved into a new property (or the Monday following if you have a weekly rent liability), providing that you send a completed form to us within a month of moving in

If you think you might be entitled, make a claim as soon as possible so you don't lose out.

Sometimes we can pay benefit from an earlier date if there is a continuous good cause (reason) why you did not claim from that date. The maximum we can backdate your Housing Benefit claim is up to 1 month if you are under pension age (or 3 months for backdated Local Council Tax Support). If you are over pension age we can go back up to 3 months.

To allow an award for a backdated period, you must be able to show that you have a continuous ‘good cause’ for failing to make a claim at the correct time. This means that you will have to explain why the Council didn’t receive a form from you and you will also need to demonstrate why you were unable for some reason to complete a form and sent it to the Council. This ‘good cause’ must exist for every day from the date you wish to claim from, up to the date the claim for backdating was actually made.

Each case is considered on its merit. ‘Good cause’ for one claimant may not be considered ‘good cause’ for another. Amongst other things, your health condition (both physical and mental), household emergencies (such as bereavement), language needs, support available to you and any incorrect advice you may have received at the time is all taken into account in making our decision.

Ignorance of the benefit system is not good cause and we cannot award backdated Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Support just because you did not understand the scheme. It may be a factor in the request but you will also have to have other reasons.

If you want us to consider paying your benefit from an earlier date, tell us when you want benefit paid from and why you did not claim earlier. Please provide any evidence to support your reasons for not making a claim on time. If your health was the reason why you were unable to make a claim, you should provide a health worker or doctor’s letter and/or any evidence of treatment that you were undergoing at that time.

Essential Living Fund

Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants are two parts of the social fund that are no longer available from The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

From 2nd April 2013 a scheme called the Essential Living Fund replaced Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants. Essex County Council is responsible for the new scheme. Individual applications are administered by Southend-On-Sea Borough Council for the whole of Essex.

What is the scheme?

The Essential Living Fund may be able to provide you with essential items in an emergency such as:

• Furniture & Furnishings
• White goods
• Household equipment
• Fuel connection or re-Connection charges
• Clothing and footwear
• General Living Expenses

The Essential Living Fund is operated as a grant system and if awarded, it will be paid by goods or vouchers.

To be considered for support you must be:

• Aged 16 or over
• In receipt of state benefits or on a low income
• Permanently live in Essex

How do I apply?

You can make an application online or by phone:

Phone: 0300 790 0124 - this number is Freephone from any number including mobiles. Opening hours: 8.45am to 5.15pm
Online: www.southend.gov.uk/elfforessex

You will be asked questions about your income, earnings and savings. You will also be required to provide proof of your financial situation.

Exceptional Hardship Payments

In special circumstances you may be able to receive a Exceptional Hardship payment if you have a shortfall between the amount of local council tax support paid and your council tax liability.

  • We will look at your financial and personal circumstances before we decide to grant further financial assistance for your council tax.
  • In order to receive a Exceptional Hardship Payment, you will have to demonstrate that your circumstances are exceptional. This means there would not be many other people whose circumstances are the same as yours. You will also need to demonstrate that you would be suffering severe financial hardship if you did not receive the extra help.
  • Exceptional Hardship Payments are made from a limited amount of money the Council has each financial year, and there is no right to a Exceptional Hardship Payment in law.

If you would like to apply for a Exceptional Hardship Payment  you will need to complete the application form available here.

Appeals

Housing Benefit

If you want to appeal against a Housing Benefit decision, you must do so in writing within one month of the date on the decision letter. An appeal must be signed by the claimant and contain the grounds for appeal, ie. you need to tell us what decision you disagree with and the reasons why you disagree with the decision. You should provide any supporting evidence if you have it. If we are unable to change our decision, we will prepare a response to HM Courts & Tribunals Service. A copy of the response will also be sent to you if you are the claimant and your representative if you have one. 

Once you have submitted an appeal, if you want to withdraw it, you will need to do so in writing.

Local Council Tax Support

If you want to appeal against a Local Council Tax Support decision, you must appeal to us in writing and tell us what decision you disagree with and the reasons why you disagree with the decision. We will consider your appeal and if we cannot change the decision and you still disagree, or if we do not respond to you within 2 months, you can appeal directly to the Valuation Tribunal Service. Their website is www.valuationtribunal.gov.uk  


Phone Contact us....


 

Please telephone 01992 564156/564157 and select one of the following options

  1. For a general enquiry
  2. For a specific enquiry about your claim with the Surname A-K
  3. For a specific enquiry about your claim with the Surname L-Z

Email: Benefits

Or you can write to us at:
Benefits Division, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex, CM16 4BZ

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