Read our housing benefit guide

Housing benefit is a national welfare benefit that helps people on low income, or other state benefits, meet their rent costs.

1. Claiming benefit

You can claim if:

  • you pay rent to a private landlord, a housing association or for a council home
  • you pay Council Tax on your home
  • your savings are less than £16,000 (unless you receive Guarantee Credit)

Usually you won’t get Housing Benefit if:

  • your savings are over £16,000 - unless you get 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 residing in the UK as an European Economic Area jobseeker
  • you’re an asylum seeker or sponsored to be in the UK
  • you’re subject to immigration control and your granted leave states that you can’t claim public funds.

Universal Credit may include money towards your housing costs. You’ll have to arrange with your landlord to start paying your own rent, if you don’t do this already. Find out more about Universal Credit here.

If you wish to make a benefit claim, please click on the link below:

Claim online

If you apply late, and ask us to pay for a 'backdated' period, we might not be able to pay you for that period.

If you need help in completing the application form, or if you have a question about your claim, you can either:

  • email westminster.benefits@secure.capita.co.uk
  • call our Customer Services Helpline on 0800 072 0042
  • visit one of our Customer Services Offices on 101 Orchardson Street, London NW8 8EA or 180 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 1ER

If you are unable to visit one of our offices and would like us to come to your home to help you complete an application form, please phone 0800 072 0042.

If English is not your first language, we can translate our documents for you. Please contact us telling us which document you have received and which language you need. We aim to provide documents in plain English and in formats that everyone can use. If you would like information in large print, Braille or a different language or format, please contact us.

Our call centre operates a language line and we can arrange for interpreters to assist you at our offices.

2. Benefit amount

The amount of benefit you receive depends on your rent, Council Tax, income and whether you have other people living in your house, and when your claim is made.

Find out more information on Local Housing Allowance or read the current Local Housing Allowance rates.

Use our online benefits calculator to see if you are entitled to benefits.

Valuation Office Agency

The VOA is an executive agency of HM Revenue & Customs. It provides valuations for local authorities in England, for use in the assessment of claims for Housing Benefit where the tenant is renting from a private landlord. The VOA also sets the Local Housing Allowance.

The Local Housing Allowance rate will be decided by the following:

  • where you live
  • the age and number of people living with you

The rate of Local Housing Allowance set in the month you claim will apply to your claim for 12 months unless there is a change in the number of people living with you or you move house.

Current Local Housing Allowance rates

3. Your information

The Housing Benefit scheme is based on regulations set by the government. We need to know a lot of information about you and your household before we can work out how much benefit you are entitled to.

You will be asked for original documents to prove your:

  • identity
  • address
  • national insurance number
  • income and capital of £6,000 or more
  • rent liability

Find out more about providing proof.

Don't delay sending your claim form if the proof isn't available at the moment. You can send the information in later, but we cannot work out your benefit until we receive it.

If you give our customer service officer all the documents needed to support your new claim, we will try to assess and agree your claim within 48 hours.

4. How benefits are paid

If you qualify for Council Tax Support we will pay it straight into your Council Tax account. A new bill will show the amount you have to pay after the benefit has been deducted.

Council tenants

We will pay you a weekly rent rebate straight to your rent account, reducing the amount of rent you have to pay.

Housing association tenants

We usually pay a rent allowance to you, but sometimes we can pay it to your Housing Association or landlord. We usually pay it every 4 weeks, in arrears.

If you receive Local Housing Allowance we must pay this directly to you unless there are exceptional circumstances. We can only make payments to your landlord in specific circumstances and we have developed a set of criteria that help us make a decision on these cases; we call this our Safeguards Policy.

Payments

We normally pay benefit from the Monday after your claim form is received.

In some circumstances the date on which you are treated as making your claim is different to the date on which you hand in your claim. If you would like more information regarding the date  benefit is paid from please contact the Benefits Service.

5. Living with others

If you have friends, relatives or anyone over 18 living in your home, you may get less benefit. These people are called 'non-dependants' and a set amount may be taken out of your benefit each week for each non-dependant who lives in your home.

Non-dependants do not include:

  • your partner
  • a child you get Child Benefit for
  • people under 18 years old
  • people in full-time education

No money will be taken out of your benefit for non-dependants if:

  • you get Attendance Allowance
  • you get the care part of Disability Living Allowance
  • you get the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment
  • you are registered blind
  • the non-dependant is a paid carer provided by a charitable or voluntary body
  • the non-dependant is under 25 years old, and on Income Support, Income based Jobseeker's Allowance. or income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • the non-dependant is on state pension credit

 

6. Income and savings

Income

We count almost all income you receive. This includes things like:

  • social security benefits
  • private pensions
  • wages - we count the money you earn from work after money has been taken out for tax and national insurance contributions, plus half of any money you pay into a pension fund

Some types of income and benefits are ignored but we will advise you of this when we calculate your benefit. If you are not sure how much income you have, please declare it when you make your claim. Failure to do so could result in an overpayment of benefit and further action could be considered.

Savings

If you have savings or capital of more than £16,000, you cannot get Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support. If you or your partner are under 60 and have £6,000 or less, it will not affect your claim. However, if you or your partner have between £6,000 and £16,000, it does affect how much benefit you get. For every £250 (or part of £250) you have over £6,000, we add £1.00 to the money we count each week when working out your benefit. This is called 'tariff income'.

If you or your partner have reached pension age and have savings of £10,000 or less, it will not affect your claim.

Tariff income will only be used if you have between £10,000 and £16,000. For every £500 (or part of £500) you have over £10,000, we add £1.00 to the money we count each week when working out your benefit. This is called 'tariff income'. If you receive Guarantee Pension Credit no tariff income will be used in the calculation of your entitlement.

If you're not sure of your savings total, please declare it when you make your claim.

7. Backdating a claim

Sometimes we can pay benefit for a period before the date you have claimed. This is called 'backdating' your claim.

From 1st April 2016 the maximum that we can backdate a housing benefit claim made by someone of working age is one month and for council tax support the maximum is six months.

There has to be a good reason why your claim is late, this is known as 'good cause'.

By 'good cause' we mean things like:

  • if you were ill and had no-one to make the claim for you
  • if you could not reasonably have been expected to know your rights, for example, where there have been detailed changes in the law
  • if you did not understand that you could claim, perhaps because of age, language difficulties, difficulty in understanding technical documents, if you were wrongly advised by an official body that you were not entitled to benefit or if you were unable to manage your affairs and did not have an 'appointee' or someone to help you

If you think you have 'good cause' for making a late claim you should make a written request telling us the period you want to claim backdating, give full details and evidence of why your claim is late and supply all the evidence about your income as soon as possible.

We will then consider whether we can backdate your benefit and advise you in writing of our decision.

If you have reached pension age, benefit can be backdated for up to three months before the date of your claim, as long as you met the qualifying conditions during the backdating period.

8. If you think we're wrong

When we have dealt with your claim for benefit we will send you a decision letter. The letter shows the information we have used to work out your benefit and you should check it carefully.

Statement of reasons

You have the right to ask for a written statement of reason about your housing benefit decision. This will explain in detail the reasons for our decision. If you want a written statement of reasons you must ask us for one within one month of the date of the housing benefit decision letter.

If you think the decision about your Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support is wrong

If you think the decision about your housing benefit is wrong you should write to us and explain why. We must receive your letter within one calendar month of the date of the decision letter. A dispute can be made on your behalf but it must be made in writing and signed by you. You should say clearly in your letter if you wish to appeal against a decision you are disputing. If we agree that the original decision is wrong and the new decision is to your advantage we will send you a new decision and your appeal will stop. If you do not agree with the new decision you can appeal against it.

If we do not change our decision and you have made it clear that you wish to appeal we will send your appeal to the HM Courts and Tribunal Service. The HM Courts and Tribunal Service will arrange for an independent tribunal to hear your case. If you have not stated that you wish to appeal and we do not change our decision you will be given a further calendar month in which to make an appeal if you still think our decision is wrong.

If you think the decision about your Council Tax Support is wrong you should write to us and explain why. We will look at your Council Tax Support award again and write to you with our decision. If we do not respond to your appeal within two months, or if you are still not happy with our decision, you can appeal directly to the Valuation Tribunal.

 

9. Changes to your circumstances

The law says you must tell us if there is any change to the information we have used to calculate your Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support.

You should tell us immediately of any changes in your circumstances.

You need to tell us about any change that could affect your benefit, for example, if there is any change to your or your partner's:

  • benefits
  • income
  • capital or savings
  • rent or accommodation (if you are a council tenant you don't need to tell us about any rent changes)
  • tax credits
  • if anyone comes to live with you or moves out
  • someone who lives with you starts or stops work or there is any change in the income of someone who lives with you
  • a child leaves school

We cannot list all of the changes in circumstance that you should tell us about, but if you are not sure whether we need to know please contact us.

You must inform the Benefits Service immediately if any of the details you have reported in your claim change. Delays in reporting changes in circumstance can result in benefit being overpaid or being awarded a discount you are not entitled to.

10. If you leave home

Temporary absence from home and your Housing Benefit

If you know you are going to be away from home for 4 weeks or more,  please remember to tell the benefits team straightaway 

From 28 July 2016, the rules have changed. You can get Housing Benefit for:

up to 4 weeks if you are:

outside of Great Britain (includes England, Wales and Scotland) and your absence is not expected to exceed 4 weeks

up to 8 weeks if you are:

outside of Great Britain (includes England, Wales and Scotland) due to the death of

  • a partner, child or young person that you have responsibility for
  • you or your partner’s close relative or a close relative of a child or young person for whom you or your partner are responsible for.

and it is unreasonable to expect you to return within the first 4 weeks.

up to 13 weeks if you are:

  • on holiday in Great Britain (includes England, Wales and Scotland)
  • doing voluntary work
  • looking after a sick relative or friend
  • a convicted prisoner

but you must intend to return home within 13 weeks and you must not sublet your home. You must let the benefit team know when you decide to return home.

up to 26 weeks if you are:

  • a member of the armed forces away on operations
  • a mariner
  • a continental shelf worker

up to 52 weeks if you are:

  • in hospital
  • in fear of violence
  • receiving respite care in a residential care home (see below)
  • in custody/on remand (as soon as you are sentenced you will be assessed under the 13 week rules)

but you must intend to return home and you must not sublet your home. You must let the benefit team when you decide to return home.

Residential care homes

If you are in residential care in Great Britain on a trial basis to assess whether it is the right accommodation for you, you can continue to get your Housing Benefit for up to 13 weeks, so long as you intend to return home if the accommodation proves not to be suitable for you.

If you know you are going to be away from home, including starting a trial basis, please remember to tell the benefits team straightaway 

  • the reason why you will be away
  • how long you will be away for
  • if you intend to return to your home

Whilst you are way, please remember to tell us if

  • you sublet your property
  • If your circumstances change
  • you decide not to return home.

We will stop paying you benefit from the Monday following the date you decide not to return home.

For a detailed list of the differences between temporary absences within GB and outside GB please see this table.

11. Overpayments

Information about overpayments can be found here.

Use this form to request a payment arrangement to pay back a Housing Benefit overpayment.

Use this form if you have an existing recovery arrangement in place for a Housing Benefit overpayment and want to request a change to the amount of the instalment.

12. Benefit fraud

Instances of suspected Housing Benefit fraud are no longer investigated by the council. This function has been transferred to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

If you suspect that someone is committing Housing Benefit fraud you can report this to the DWP by calling 0800 854 440 or by visiting the DWP website.

 

13. Complaints

If you want to make a complaint, the Council has a simple two-stage complaints procedure.

If you are not satisfied with the benefits service, you can make a complaint to:

  • westminster.benefits@secure.capita.co.uk
  • Westminster Benefit Services, PO Box 82, Erith, DA8 1WJ
  • Phone: 0800 072 0042
  • Customer Services Offices: 101 Orchardson Street, London NW8 8EA or 180 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 1ER

Alternatively you can contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or other Advice Agency for assistance.

14. Universal Credit

Universal Credit will replace the following:

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Housing Benefit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support

If you’re already claiming benefits, your local Jobcentre Plus or Tax Credits office will tell you when you have to move to Universal Credit.

Universal Credit may include money towards your housing costs. You’ll have to arrange with your landlord to start paying your own rent, if you don’t do this already.

Find out more about Universal Credit here.

 


Last updated: 25 May 2017
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