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FAQ - housing benefit

Housing benefit is intended to help people on a low income with the cost of their rent. This is only a brief guide to housing benefit. It does not cover every aspect of the scheme and it is not a full statement of the law. Independent advice can be obtained from advice agencies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau (139-144 Lichfield Street, Walsall. Telephone 01922 700600).

Can I claim housing benefit?

You can claim housing benefit if you have to pay rent in order to live in your home. Housing benefit is based on your and your partner's income, savings and circumstances and the amount of rent you have to pay. You cannot get housing benefit if:

  • You or your partner have joint savings and investments of more than £16,000, unless you are in receipt of guaranteed Pension Credit.
  • You pay rent to a close relative who lives in the same home as you.
  • You own the place where you live.

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Can I claim housing benefit if I work?

Yes, you can claim housing benefit if you work and receive a low income. We will need to see evidence of your earnings. You will need to provide:

  • Your last five payslips, if you are paid weekly
  • Your last two payslips, if you are paid monthly
  • If you have only recently started work and not yet been paid, ask your employer to provide an estimate of your gross earnings, tax and National Insurance deductions. We will use this information to calculate your housing benefit until you receive actual details of your earnings

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Can I claim housing benefit if I am self-employed?

Yes, you can claim housing benefit if you are self-employed and receive a low income from your business. You will need to send us your most recent accounts with your claim form. We will send you a self-employed information form to complete.

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What do I need to provide as evidence of rent?

You need to send us evidence of rent, which confirms the following information:-

  • Your name and address
  • Your landlord's and agent's name and business address
  • The date your tenancy started
  • The amount of rent you are charged
  • What is included in your rent, for example, fuel, water, meals and other services
  • How often your rent is due

You may need to provide more than one type of evidence of rent, for example, if your tenancy agreement does not contain the above information we need a letter from your landlord to confirm the details.

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Does the amount of capital/savings I have affect my housing benefit claim?

It will depend on the amount of capital/savings you and your partner have as to whether it will affect your benefit entitlement.

  • If you and your partner have joint capital of more than £16,000 you will not normally be able to get housing benefit entitlement
  • If you or your partner are of state pension age or over you can have up to £10,000 capital before it affects your benefit entitlement
  • Income of £1 for every £500 between £10,000 and £16,000 is taken into account when we work out entitlement to benefit
  • •If you and your partner are below state pensionage you can have up to £6,000 capital before it affects your benefit entitlement
  • •Income of £1 for every £250 between £6,000 and £16,000 is taken into account when we work out entitlement to benefit
  • Capital includes cash, current accounts, other bank/building society/post office accounts, unit trusts, ISAs, TESSAs, National Savings Certificates, shares, premium bonds and property (other than the home you live in) or land you own.

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What happens if I have somebody aged 18 or over other than my partner living with me?

Your benefit may be reduced if you have somebody else aged over 18 other than your partner living with you, such as a grown up son or daughter. The amount that will be deducted will depend on their income and circumstances.

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When will housing benefit be paid from?

Your benefit will usually start from the Monday after we receive your claim form. It is important that you return your claim form to us as soon as possible as any delay may result in you losing benefit.

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Can my housing benefit claim be backdated?

If you are of Pension Credit age your claim can be automatically backdated for up to 3 months. If you are of working age you can ask for your claim to be backdated for up to 6 months from the date you make the request, which must be in writing. You must have a good reason for not applying earlier and you must be able to show this throughout the period in question. You can request backdated benefit on the benefit claim form or you can write to us with your details.

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What rent will you use to work out my housing benefit?

If you are a tenant of a housing association we will normally base your housing benefit entitlement on the rent that you are charged (apart from services that are not covered by housing benefit, for example, water rates).

If you live in privately rented property, the Rent Service, which is independent of the council; will decide the level of rent used to work out your housing benefit entitlement.

If you are single and under 35 years old your rent will normally be restricted to a figure set by the Rent Service for a single room rent.

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How long is housing benefit paid for?

Housing benefit will be awarded for as long as entitlement remains. From time to time we will need to confirm certain details of your claim and we will contact you where this is necessary or we may arrange to visit you.

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How will housing benefit be paid?

You can either ask us to pay benefit direct to you or you can ask us to pay your landlord.

If you have rent arrears of eight weeks or more we usually have to make payments to your landlord.

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What happens when you receive my housing benefit claim?

When we receive your claim form we will check the form and the evidence that you have provided.

If we have all of the information we need to decide your claim we will process your claim as quickly as possible and inform you of the outcome of your claim.

If we need you to provide more information we will write to you again. You will have a calendar month to provide us with any additional information that we request or for you to advise us when the information will be available.

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What happens if I do not agree with your decision about my housing benefit?

When we have decided your claim we will send you a notification letter, which will advise you of the outcome. The letter will advise you of all of the details we have used to work out your benefit entitlement and it is important that you check that the information is correct. You must let us know within one month if you do not agree with the decision we have made in your case. See our benefits - your rights page.

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What happens if my circumstances change?

It is very important that you let us know immediately if you have a change in your circumstances as you may receive too little or too much benefit.

It is an offence not to tell us about any change of circumstance that affects your benefit. We may take legal action against you and if we pay you too much benefit, you will probably have to pay it back.

You can tell us about any changes by phoning the Benefits Service on 0300 555 2855, writing to the Benefit Service at the address shown or using  a change of circumstances form. You can also tell us of your changes by using our reporting changes for benefits online form.It is important that you provide details of the change, the date that the change occurred and evidence where appropriate.

Examples of the type of changes that you need to report are as follows:

  • If you change your address
  • If your rent changes
  • If you or your partner go into hospital
  • If you or your partner’s income or savings increase or decrease
  • If Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance stops
  • Starting work or changing employer
  • If the amount or type of state benefit changes
  • If wages increase or decrease
  • If private pension increases
  • If a Tax Credit is awarded or the amount of award changes
  • Changes affecting people who live with you eg:
    • If someone comes to live with you or if someone leaves your household
    • If the income or circumstances of someone living with you changes (e.g. they start work or their Income Support ends)
    • If you stop getting Child Benefit for someone

This list only provides some examples of the type of changes that may occur. It is not exhaustive. It is important that you check with the Benefit Service if you are unsure if a change will affect your entitlement to benefit. If in doubt, tell us!

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I have started work, what do I need to do?

If you are receiving Income Support or Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance you should notify the date you started work to both the Department for Work and Pensions and the Benefit Service.

Extended payment – if you have been unemployed for 6 months or more and you were receiving Income Support or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance immediately before starting work you may be entitled to an Extended Payment of housing benefit.

This means that for the first 4 weeks after you start work you will continue to receive the same amount of housing benefit that was in payment before starting work.

The DWP should tell us if you satisfy the conditions for extended payments. If you think you are entitled contact us without delay.

Making a further claim for housing benefit after starting work

You may still be entitled to housing benefit after you start work if you have a low income. You will need to fill in a new housing benefit claim form providing details of your new circumstances.

Where you have not yet received your first wage from your new employer you will need to ask them to provide us with details of your likely gross earnings and tax and national insurance deductions so that we can estimate your earnings to calculate your housing benefit entitlement.

When you have received your first wage slips you will need to send them to the Benefits Service so that we can check details of your actual earnings and we may have to amend your claim again.

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Can I get any extra help in paying my rent?

If you do not qualify for full housing benefit, it may mean that you have to pay something towards your rent.

You could apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to help towards these payments.

If you think that you may qualify for extra help, please put your reasons in writing to us and we will consider your case.

You will need to provide us with full details of why you feel you should get extra, for example, details of any medical conditions and family circumstances you think should be taken into account.

We may need to ask you to provide additional information and/or evidence to support your application.

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How can I report suspected benefit fraud?

The council is committed to ensuring that people receive their correct entitlement to council tax benefit and/or housing benefit and every effort will be made to deal with claims as quickly as possible.

However, it is important that people who are claiming benefit to which they are not entitled are reported to the Benefits Service so that the appropriate action can be taken against them.

If you know that somebody is, or think that somebody may be claiming benefit fraudulently, check out what to do on our fraud page. Any information provided will be treated in confidence.

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Where can I find out more about housing benefit rules?

If you would like more information about the Government‘s housing benefit/council tax benefit regulations you can see a copy of the regulations at Walsall Council’s reception or at the Central Library. Other benefit information is available on the Directgov website – and you have a choice of information about the range of welfare benefits.

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