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)

Special rules apply if you are:

  • a student
  • subject to immigration control
  • in hospital
  • a prisoner
  • in residential care or a nursing home
  • aged 16 to 17
  • someone who has 2 homes

If you fall into one of these categories, you should contact us for more information.

If you wish to make a 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 we receive your application form.

If you move into a new address we can start your claim on the date that you move in provided we receive the claim form before you move in or within the same week (for benefit purposes, a week begins on a Monday and ends on a Sunday).

If you are receiving specific state benefits and you move into a new address, your benefit will start on the date that you move in provided we receive a claim form within 4 weeks of that date.

If you claimed specific state benefits and you claimed Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support within 4 weeks, your benefit will start from the Monday after your other benefit starts.

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 are a couple and 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. If you have reached pension age the maximum that we can backdate a housing benefit or council tax support claim is three 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.

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.

If you think our decision is wrong you can ask us to look at our decision again or pass your case to an independent tribunal run by the Tribunals Service. You must write to us within one calendar month of the date of the decision letter. If you ask for this outside the one calendar month you must also inform us of the reasons for your delay.

We can explain our decision by sending you a 'Statement of Reasons' explaining how we have worked out your benefit. You can contact us by phone, in writing or you can call into one of our offices.  If you ask for a written Statement of Reasons you will have the one calendar month from the date of the decision letter plus the time we took to send you the Statement of Reasons.

 

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 should tell us within one month of the change happening. If you don't you could lose benefit.

If you don't report a change that you know to affect your benefit, and don't have a good reason for this, you are committing a criminal offence, just as if you gave us false information or concealed the truth.

10. If you leave home

Temporary leave

If you leave your home temporarily, tell us before you go. If you don't contact us your benefit may stop and you may have to make a new claim on your return.

If you contact us first, you are still entitled to receive Housing benefit for up to 13 weeks, although you must intend to return to the property and you must not charge somebody else rent for living in your accommodation whilst you are away.

If you stay away for longer than 13 weeks, we will not normally be able to pay you any benefit for the time you were away, even if you told us before you left.

We may be able to pay for housing benefit to be paid for up to 52 weeks if you have had to leave your home because of fear of domestic violence. If you are in a women's refuge and you feel unable to do so yourself, you should ask one of the refuge workers to contact us, even if the refuge is not in Westminster. We will not disclose your refuge address to anyone.

Hospital

If you go into hospital we can pay your benefit for up to 52 weeks, provided that you are expected to return home within that time. You do not need to contact us before you go into hospital to receive benefit for the time that you are there. But please ask a friend or relative, or a hospital social worker to let us know where you are as soon as possible.

Prison

If you are in prison as a remand prisoner you can still receive benefit for up to 52 weeks.

If during this time you are sentenced and committed to prison, your Housing Benefit will stop unless your sentence is for 6 months or less. You do not have to inform us before you go to prison to receive benefits, but you, a friend, a relative or a prison social worker should inform us of what has happened as soon as possible.

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.


Last updated: 15 February 2017
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