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FAQS - Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support

Who can claim for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support?

You can claim Housing Benefit, for help with your rent, as long as you are renting your home from either:

  • The council 
  • A private landlord or letting agent 
  • A housing association

You can also claim if you are a sub-tenant or lodger.

You can't claim Housing Benefit if you:

  • Rent your home from a close relative who lives in the same house
  • Own your home or have a mortgage, except for rent in cases of shared ownership.

You can claim Council Tax Support, for help with your Council Tax even if you own your home as long as you or your partner are responsible for paying the bill for your home.

In most cases, if you and any partner have joint savings or investments totalling more than £16,000 you will not be entitled to Housing or Council Tax Benefit.

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How do I claim?

Ifyou have recently made a claim for Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance, then the Jobcentre should send us a claim on your behalf.

Other ways to claim:

Downloading and filling in an application form

Contacting the Benefits Service

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How long will it be before I find out if I will receive it?

If we ask you to provide some further information then we cannot make a decision until we have everything we have asked for, so the sooner you provide any documents, the sooner we can make a decision. We would advise that you read the notes in the application form carefully and try to provide as much supporting papers as possible at the time of application.

Once we have all of the information we have asked for, or if we do not require further information, we will do our best to make a decision on how much you're entitled to within 14 days.

Payment is usually made on the next available payment run.

You can register to view your account online via our online services.

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What date will my Benefit start?

Benefit is usually awarded from the Monday after we receive the application.

In some circumstances, the claim can be paid from an earlier date. This is often referred to as 'backdating'.

If you would like your claim to be paid from an earlier date (backdated) you'll need to show us that there were good reasons why you weren't able to apply earlier. One of our team will then decide whether we can backdate your benefit and let you know our decision and our reasons for it.

If you are a pensioner who has never claimed before then the law enables us to automatically backdate your claim by up to 3 months if you would have been entitled to Housing Benefit Benefit or Council Tax Support during that time.

In order for us to do this we may ask you to provide some additional information when you claim.

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How much Housing Benefit can be paid?

The maximum amount that can be paid as Housing Benefit will depend on which Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate you fall into.  We take your household situation, income and savings into account before deciding how much Housing Benefit will be awarded.

This LHA rate will be used to work out your Housing Benefit for up to 12 months or until a change in your circumstances is received, which will affect which LHA rate you fall into.  After the 12 months or after the change in your circumstances we'll select a new LHA rate to work out your Housing Benefit for the next 12 months or until another change in your circumstances. From April 1st 2013 this rate is linked directly to the Consumer Price Index and is reviewed annually for all customers from april 1st.

The LHA rates are different across the country depending on which area you live in and are set based on market conditions within that area. 

We publish our  current  LHA rates and more information about LHA.

The rate is based on market rates so it can go down as well as up depending on the current rental market conditions.

We provide an on-line calculator that you can use to get an estimate of how much benefit you could be entitled to.

You'll just need to enter some simple details about:

  • The property you live in or are thinking about moving into
  • The people who live with you
  • Your own income and the income of other household members
  • The amount of rent you pay

The calculator will provide you with an estimate based on the information you've provided.

If you then make a claim, we'll request some more information from you and one of our team will work out how much you're actually going to get.

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How is benefit paid?

If you rent your home from a Housing Association you can have any Housing Benefit paid direct to the Housing Association every four weeks, in arrears.  Alternatively, Housing Association tenants can choose to have any Housing Benefit paid direct into their bank account every fortnight or four weekly in arrears. You are then responsible for ensuring that this money is used towards your rent.

If you rent your home from a private landlord or letting agency we will pay any Housing Benefit direct into your bank account every fortnight or four weekly, in arrears. You are then responsible for ensuring that this money is used towards your rent.

If you do not keep up with your rent payments your landlord can apply for any Housing Benefit to be paid direct to their bank account.

In some circumstances people are not in a position to take care of their own affairs for a short while when they first take on a tenancy. If, you feel this applies in your circumstances,  you can apply for Housing Benefit to be paid direct to your Landlord for up to six months from the start of the claim.

Housing Benefit is paid in multiples of weeks, either fortnightly or four weekly.

As Landlords often charge rent per calendar month you may have a shortfall to make up some months even if your housing benefit entitlement is equal to your full rent. This is because we pay 13 four-weekly payments or 26 fortnightly payments each year rather than 12 monthly payments each year.

For example a monthly rent of £500.00 equals a weekly amount of £115.38 calculated as follows:

Monthly rent x 12 months/52 weeks

Council Tax Benefit is credited to your Council tax Account to reduce your bill.

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Do I have to tell my Landlord I am claiming Housing Benefit?

There is no legal requirement for you to tell your Landlord you are claiming Housing Benefit and in most cases payments will be made to you.

However if you fall into 8 weeks arrears your landlord can request payment of Housing benefit to be made to them until the arrears are reduced.

Where payments are made direct to you we will not discuss your claims with your landlord unless you provide explicit consent for us to do so and we have a written record of this.

Where payments are made direct to a landlord we can share the following information:

  • Details about payments that have been, or will be, made to you
  • The period a payment or payments relate to
  • Details about any overpayments we ask you to repay

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Downloads

Contact us

Email
financialservices@poole.g
ov.uk

Telephone
01202 633114

Text Relay
18001 01202 633114

Address
Benefits Service
Financial Services
Civic Centre
Poole
BH15 2RU