Housing Benefit - Frequently Asked QuestionsLast updated: 07 May 2013 14:03 UK
These are the Housing Benefit questions that Portsmouth City Council is most often asked.
For further information, follow the link to the Housing Benefit team on the contact us page.
What is Housing Benefit?Housing Benefit is to help people on a low income who pay rent for where they live. Housing benefit is a means-tested benefit.
Who can claim Housing Benefit?
Almost everyone with a low income who pays rent. You don't have to receive income support or job seekers allowance to claim.
You can apply whether you’re unemployed or working, and whether you rent from the council, a housing association or a private landlord.
Who can't claim Housing Benefit?
Some people aren't eligible for Housing Benefit. You are ineligible if you:
- don't pay rent
- rent a former joint home from your ex-partner (there are exceptions)
- rent from a close relative who lives in the same home as you
- are the parent or guardian of your landlord's child
- live in your home as part of your job
- live in a care home, such as a nursing home or old peoples' home
- your partner, or both of you together have more than £16,000 in savings (except for some pensioners).
Some students can't claim Housing Benefit.
For further information, follow the link to the Housing Benefit team on the contact us page.
How do I claim Housing Benefit?
Let us know as soon as you can that you intend to make a claim, because housing benefit is considered from the day we receive your initial phone call, email or letter. All you need to tell us at this stage is your name, contact details and national insurance number.
Then you'll need to complete a detailed form and provide supporting evidence. If you're claiming council tax support as well as Housing Benefit, you can do this on the same Housing Benefit and council tax support form, downloadable from the bottom of this page.
The forms are also available from one of our Housing Offices listed on the contact us page. If you'd like some help filling in the form, contact the Housing Benefit Support Team. All questions relating to your housing benefit and council tax support claim should be answered truthfully. Fraud occurs when a person gets more housing benefit than they are entitled to by knowingly withholding or falsifying information related to their claim.
How is Housing Benefit calculated?
It is a means-tested benefit, which means that how much you get depends on your income and circumstances, who lives with you, any other benefits you receive and any savings you have. If you have a partner, your combined income and savings will be taken into account. Housing Benefit should pay for part or all your rent, not for other costs, for example fuel or meals. Any adults living with you can affect how much Housing Benefit you receive. There's more information about this in the leaflet below - Non-dependent deductions 2013/14.
How is Housing Benefit paid?
We pay Housing Benefit direct into a bank account. If you don't have a bank account, you'll need to open one with a bank or building society. Take with you proof of your identity and address, such as a passport or household bill, such as gas, electricity, or water.
If you are a council tenant your benefit will be paid fortnightly to your rent account.
If you are a housing association tenant your benefit will be paid fortnightly in arrears directly into your bank or building society account or by cheque.
What if I rent from a private landlord?
If you rent from a private landlord, we pay your benefit direct to you, but calculate it differently. Follow the link for more information about how we calculate rents for private tenants using local housing allowance.
The Housing Benefit application form asks for details of the account you want to use. You can write to ask that your Housing Benefit be paid direct to your landlord every four weeks in arrears.
If you're living in the property, Housing Benefit is usually paid from the Monday after the claim form is received. If we receive the claim form the same week the tenancy starts, we'll pay Housing Benefit from the start of the tenancy. It's only ever paid before you move into a property in exceptional circumstances, for example if you can't move in because the new home is being adapted to meet the specific needs of a disabled family member.
How long will it take to process my claim?
It takes on average 24 days to assess a claim for Housing Benefit, and it can take up to a further seven days for you to receive your first Housing Benefit payment.
It will take longer if you haven't included all the supporting evidence we asked for, or if we need to contact you again to provide more evidence.
If you have an outstanding claim and are experiencing difficulties with your tenancy follow the link to the Housing Benefit team on the contact us page.
Can I backdate my Housing Benefit claim?
If you or your partner are of qualifying age for pension credit, you don't need to ask for your Housing Benefit to be backdated, it is automatically paid retrospectively for a maximum of three months prior to the date you make your claim, subject to meeting the income and capital criteria.
If you are of working age, you can request a claim be backdated for maximum of six months from the date we receive your request. We must be satisfied with the reasons you give for not claiming earlier, and satisfied that these reasons existed for the whole period for which backdating is requested. These reasons are known as 'good cause'. It's up to you to prove 'good cause', which means that any reasonable person of your age, experience or circumstances would also have failed to claim benefit.
Some examples of 'good cause' are if you:
- did not claim benefit while in hospital or within a reasonable time after leaving hospital
- were ill and had no-one to make a claim on your behalf
- did not understand that you could claim benefit - perhaps because of age, inexperience or language difficulties
- suffered a recent family bereavement
The more information and evidence you give in support of your claim the quicker a decision can be made. Sometimes we may need to write to you for more information or evidence, or ask you to come in to discuss your claim in more detail.
We'll write to let you know our decision. If we decide that we cannot backdate your claim, we'll explain the reasons in the letter. You have the right to appeal against a decision not to backdate your claim.
I think I've been paid too much Housing Benefit - what should I do?
There are several ways you can pay back overpaid Housing Benefit:
- If you're still receiving Housing Benefit, we could reduce this each week by a certain amount. If you feel that the amount we suggest reducing your Housing Benefit by would cause you hardship, please contact us at the Housing Benefit Overpayment Debt Recovery Team.
- If you stop receiving Housing Benefit, we may send you an invoice. You can pay this invoice with a credit or debit card anytime online, using our automated phone payment service on 0845 6066243 or contact us at the Housing Benefit Overpayment Debt Recovery Team. Have ready the reference number shown on your invoice.
- You can pay by cheque, payable to Portsmouth City Council. Post cheques to: Revenues & Benefits, Benefits, Civic Offices, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, PO1 2BE. Please don't send cash through the post. Please write the reference number from your bill or invoice on the back of the cheque and, if you need a receipt, enclose your bill or invoice with your payment.
- You can pay by cash or cheque in person at one of the Housing Benefit offices listed on our contact us page.
- If your landlord receives your Housing Benefit directly, in certain circumstances we may ask him to repay us.
Fraud occurs when a person gets more housing benefit than they are entitled to, by knowingly withholding or falsifying information related to their claim, such as not telling us about savings or money you or your partner have coming in, or failing to declare a non-dependant or partner living in your household.
Our counter fraud team may recover the money from you.
Can I complain about a Housing Benefit decision?
If you're unhappy with the outcome of your Housing Benefit claim decision, you may be able to ask for the decision to be reviewed. For more information read Housing Benefit appeals procedure.
I have a carer. Will this affect my Housing Benefit?
It depends whether your carer is resident or non-resident. Follow this link to find out more about how your Housing Benefit is affected by a non-resident carer. Or contact us to discuss your particular situation.
Can I still get Housing Benefit if I'm not in the house?
Housing Benefit is usually paid for the accommodation you live in. If you are temporarily away from your home, Housing Benefit can sometimes still be paid, but only in certain circumstances. Follow the link to find out more about 'Temporary absences'.
Will under-occupancy affect my Housing Benefit?
Under-occupancy (also known as the 'social sector size criteria') may affect your Housing Benefit. It refers to living in accomodation rented to you by the council, a registered housing association or other registered provider, with more bedrooms than your houshold circumstances require. If you under-occupy your home by a single bedroom your rent may be reduced by 14%. The reduction will be 25% for under-occupying two bedrooms or more. Housing benefit regulations allow one bedroom for:
- every adult couple (married or unmarried)
- any other adult aged 16 or over
- an adult child who is a deployed member of the armed forces as long as they intend to return home to live (if an extra bedroom is available)
- any two children of the same sex aged under 16
- any two children aged under 10 any other child, foster child or foster children (if an extra bedroom is available)
- carer (or team of carers) who do not live with you but provide you or your partner with overnight care (if an extra bedroom is available). Follow the link for more information about non-resident carers.
The under-occupancy rules don't apply if you:
- are over state pension credit age or have a partner over state pension credit age
- pay mooring charges for house boats and site charges for caravans and mobile homes as well as various 'excluded tenancies'
- have been accepted as homeless under homelessness legislation of the Housing Act 1996 and placed in temporary accommodation by the local authority
- part own/part rent your home
- live in a property run by housing associations or charities which provide care/support or supervision
I'm moving, can I claim Housing Benefit on both homes?
If you move from one home to another, rent might be payable on both houses at the same time. You may be able to claim Housing Benefit for both homes for a maximum of four weeks if:
- the move from one home to another is permanent and your claim will cover an unavoidable liability of rent for overlapping tenancies,
- you can't move into a new home because it is being adapted to meet the disablement needs of yourself or a member of your family who lives with you
- you had to leave your home for fear of violence and intend to return (maximum absence of 52 weeks)
- your family is so large that the local authority has had to house your family in two properties (no time limit)
- you or your partner is a student studying away from home and needs to claim benefit elsewhere. You would need to prove that it is unavoidable and that it is reasonable to pay benefit on both homes (no time limit)
If you need to apply for Housing Benefit on two homes, there's a form to complete below. And let us know about your change in circumstance by following the link to Housing Benefit on the contact us page.