Housing benefit FAQs

Housing benefit can be confusing. Here are some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) that we're asked.

Can I claim housing benefit?

You can claim housing benefit if you are a council tenant, private tenant, housing association tenant, sub-tenant or lodger.

The amount you will receive will be based on your income and circumstances.

You cannot get housing benefit if:

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

How do I make a claim?

  • Online - The easiest way to make a new claim for housing and or council tax benefit is to do it online.
  • By phone - If you can not make a claim online you can make your claim by phone. Telephone 0161 793 2500 to make an appointment and we will phone you back at a pre-arranged time so that you can make your claim. We will advise you of any information you need to provide to support your claim and where to take this information. The quicker you provide this information and sign your claim the quicker we can pay your benefit.
  • By appointment - If you can not make a claim by phone you can make an appointment with one of our customer advisors and they will assist you with your claim. Telephone 0161 793 2500 to make an appointment. We will advise you what information you need to bring with you to your appointment. If you bring everything that we need with you to the appointment we can process your claim quicker.
  • By home visit - If you are unable to make a claim by phone or visit one of our customer advice centres because you are unable to leave your home, we can arrange for one of our staff to visit you in your home to assist you to make a claim. Telephone 0161 793 2500 to request a home visit.

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 proof of your earnings and capital/assets. You will need to provide:

  • your last five pay slips, if you are paid weekly
  • your last three pay slips if you are paid fortnightly
  • your last two pay slips, 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, Income Tax and National Insurance deductions. We will use this information to calculate your housing benefit until you receive actual details of your earnings. The employers form is included with the housing benefit application package, or you can call us to request one on 0161 793 2500
  • most recent bank statements (covering most recent two months)

Can I claim 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 if possible, and we will also send you our self-employed information sheet to complete. If this is a new business we will require a figure of projected earnings over a 13 week period. You will also need to provide your last two months bank statements.

What other proof do I need to provide?

You need to provide proof of all income and capital in respect of yourself, your partner and anyone who lives with you who is aged 18 or over. You also need to provide proof of your identities and National Insurance numbers. The claim form will advise you what you can provide as proof.

What do I need to provide as proof of rent?

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

  • your name and address
  • your tenancy agreement
  • your landlord's or 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 support services
  • how often your rent is due

You may need to provide more than one type of proof of rent. For example, if your tenancy agreement does not contain the above information we may need a letter from your landlord to confirm the other information (on letter headed paper).

Does the amount of capital/assets I have affect my claim?

It will depend on the total amount of capital 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.
  • You can have up to £6,000 capital before it affects your benefit entitlement.
  • Under 60 years of age: A tariff of £1 will be applied for every £250 between £6,000 and £16,000 when we work out entitlement to benefit. For every £250 above £6,000 we say you have an extra £1 of income per week.
  • Over 60 years of age: A tariff of £1 for every £500 between £6,000 and £16,000 is taken into account when we work out entitlement to benefit. For every £500 above £6,000 we say you have an extra £1 of income per week.
  • 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.

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

Non-dependants are usually adult sons, daughters, other relatives or friends who live in the person claiming housing benefit's household on a non-commercial basis.

Housing benefit will normally be reduced if a non-dependant lives in the household.

There is an expectation that non-dependants will make a contribution towards their costs including rent, council tax and food, etc.

The amount they pay towards the above is not taken in to account and instead standard deductions are made from the housing benefit entitlement.

The government set standard non-dependant deductions which normally increase each April.

Cases where a non-dependant deduction is not made

No non-dependant deductions will be made if the claimant or their partner:

  • is blind or has recently regained their sight
  • receives the care component of disability living allowance payable at any rate
  • receives attendance allowance payable at any rate

Also no deduction is made where the non-dependant:

  • is aged under 18 years of age
  • is aged under 25 years old an getting Jobseekers Allowance (income based) or Income Support
  • is aged under 25 years old and in receipt of Universal Credit only 
  • is in the assessment phase of Employment and Support Allowance (income related)
  • is receiving Pension Credit
  • is a student
  • is a youth trainee
  • is in prison
  • has been in hospital for 52 weeks or more
Non-dependant deductions housing benefit April 2016 deductions
Aged under 25 and in receipt of Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance (Income based), Universal Credit only or Employment and support Allowance (Income Related) which does not include an amount for the support component or work related activity component. Nil
In receipt of Pension Credit Nil
Aged 25 or over and on IS or JSA (I/B) £14.65
Aged 18 or over and in receipt of Main phase ESA (I/R) £14.65
Aged 18 or over, not in remunerative work AND does not claim the benefits stated in the first two fields £14.65
Aged 18 or over and in remunerative work:  
Gross income: less than £133 £14.65
Gross income: £133 to £194.99 £33.65
Gross income: £195 to £252.99 £46.20
Gross income: £253 to £337.99 £75.60
Gross income: £338 to £419.99 £86.10
Gross income: £420 and above £94.50

When will 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. Please don't wait until you have all the proof needed to support your claim.

Can my claim be backdated?

Under pension credit qualifying age:

You will need to submit your request for backdate in writing, and be able to show that there was a good reason why you did not make your claim earlier. You can request backdated benefit on the housing benefit claim form, apply online or you can download the form below. Alternatively, you can request a backdate form from one of our customer service centres or by telephoning 0161 793 2500, or by writing to us with your details.

From 1 April 2016, any requests for backdated benefit (under pension credit qualifying age) may only be awarded up to one month earlier.

Over pension credit qualifying age:

If you claim housing benefit and/or council tax reduction we would normally start your benefit up to three months before the date you made your claim. We can only do this if you have to pay rent or council tax for this period and are entitled to claim. If this is the case, we will write to you to ask for further details if we do not have them.

What rent will you use to work out my benefit? (private tenants only)

Further information about local housing allowance.

a) Housing associations (including City West and Salix Homes) and Pendleton Together tenants - the rent we will use to work out your housing benefit entitlement will depend on the following:

  • If you or your partner have reached the qualifying age for pension credit (61.5 years as at April 2013) your eligible rent for housing benefit purposes will be the amount charged by your landlord excluding any service charges that are not eligible to be covered by housing benefit.
  • If you or your partner have not reached the qualifying age for pension credit your eligible rent for housing benefit purposes will depend on whether you are considered to have any spare bedrooms.

b) People living in privately rented properties. If you live in private sector accommodation your eligible rent will be determined by the local housing allowance (LHA) rate which is appropriate to the size of your household and not the size of the property you live in. The LHA levels are set by the Rent Service who assesses the LHA for the area in which you live. You can find out LHA rates and more information.

How long is housing benefit paid for?

Housing benefit is awarded for as long as entitlement remains. From time to time we may need to confirm details of your claim and we will contact you where this is necessary or we may arrange to visit you. It is very important that you let us know of any changes to yours or your households circumstances eg changes in income (amount or type), someone moves in or out of the household etc as this could affect how much you are entitled to receive.

How will housing benefit be paid?

  • Salix Homes tenants - your benefit can be paid to your landlord from April 2015 or you can ask for it to be paid to you.
  • City West Housing Trust tenants - your benefit can be paid to you or your landlord.
  • Pendleton Together tenants your benefit will be paid to your rent account.
  • Tenants of housing associations - your benefit can be paid to you or your landlord.
  • Tenants living in privately rented properties - normally housing benefit will be paid directly to the claimant. Under the Local Housing Allowance rules, the tenant does not have the option to request that payments be made to their landlord, although the council may decide to do this if there is a good reason, eg if there are rent arrears or the customer would struggle to manage their rent payments.

What happens when you receive my claim?

When we receive your claim we will check the form and the proof that you have provided. If we have all of the information we need we will process your claim as quickly as possible and inform you of the outcome of your claim.

If we need any further information we will phone or write to you. You will have one calendar month to provide us with any additional information that we request or for you to advise us when the information will be available. Failure to do this may result in you losing benefit.

What happens if I don't agree with your decision?

When we have decided your claim we will send you a notification letter, which will advise you of the outcome. The letter will include all of the details we have used to work out your benefit entitlement so 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 how to appeal a decision page.

What happens if my circumstances change?

If your circumstances change, you need to let us know straight away. Otherwise 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. This must be done in writing. For more information, go to our change in circumstances page.

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

Notify us as soon as possible by calling 0161 793 2500, or use our benefits enquiry form or write to us at the address below.

If you have been on Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance for 26 weeks or more, immediately before starting work, you may be entitled to an Extended Payment of housing benefit.

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

Extended payment (EP): To claim your EP, you shouldn't need to do anything. If you've been in receipt of Income Support or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance as we can process your EP using the information from the Department for Work and Pensions when they tell us you have started work. If you are getting Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance and you make an in-work claim for housing benefit we will consider making an EP award. However, if you do not intend to make a claim when you start work and think you should get an EP award please contact us by calling 0161 793 2500.

You may also be able to get an extended payment of council tax reduction to cover council tax.

Making a further claim for housing benefit after starting work

If you or your partner start work and will receive a low wage you may still be entitled to housing benefit. You will need to complete a change of circumstances form giving details of change and provide proof of your earnings and other income.

Where you have not yet received your first wage from your new employer, we will need to determine what your likely weekly gross earnings, Income Tax and National Insurance deductions will be. You can download a change of circumstances form and estimated earnings certificate.

When you have received your first wage slips you need to send them to the benefit section so that we can check that we have used the correct information to work out your entitlement to housing benefit.

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 may be able to get a discretionary housing payment to help towards these payments.

Contacting the benefits service

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This page was last updated on 12 April 2017