Information about housing benefit and how to apply for it.
What is housing benefit?
Housing benefit is a welfare benefit paid by the council, to help people living in rented properties meet their rental payments.
Who can claim housing benefit?
Anyone with a low income who pays rent to the council or a private landlord for the home they normally live in can claim housing benefit.
Only the tenant, the tenant's partner or official appointee can claim housing benefit: a landlord cannot claim for them.
Who can't claim housing benefit?
Tenants cannot normally get housing benefit if they:
- live with and pay rent to a close relative
- are renting a former joint home from their ex-partner
- are responsible for the landlord's child
- rent from a trust of which they or a family member are trustees or beneficiaries
- rent from a company of which they or a member of their household is a director or employee
- previously owned the dwelling and it is less than 5 years since they ceased to own it
- occupy the property as a condition of their employment
- live in a care home
- are full time students (there are exceptions to this and you should contact the council if you would like further information).
This is NOT an exhaustive list.
How to claim housing benefit
If you are claiming for income support, job seeker's allowance (income based) or employment and support allowance (income related) you will be able to claim for housing benefit when you make your telephone claim with jobcentre plus.
They will send your completed claim to the council with confirmation that you are in receipt of income support, job seekers allowance (income based) or employment and support allowance (income related).
If you are claiming pension credit you will be able to claim housing benefit at the same time, during your telephone claim with the Pension Disability and Carers Service. They will send your completed claim to the council with confirmation that you are in receipt of pension credit.
If the above do not apply and you think that you are entitled to housing benefit you should obtain an application form from the benefits team, and complete and return it, with all relevant documentation.
You can obtain an application form:
- by telephone or email using the contact details below
- in person at Lancaster or Morecambe Town Hall between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Friday
- by downloading a claim form from the list of downloads at the right hand side of the page or
- by contacting us at the address below:
PO Box 4
What information do you need to work out my entitlement to housing benefit?
You must provide details of your family circumstances; who lives with you, what their income is and what savings and investments they have.
In addition, you must provide proof of:
- your identity and national insurance number and the identity and national insurance number of your partner, if you have one.
- income and capital for you and your partner. We need to see proof of capital if you hold over £6,000 and you are working age or over £10,000 if you are a pensioner.
- other family members circumstances.
If you are receiving income support, job seekers allowance (income based), employment and support allowance (income related) or pension credit, you do not need to provide proof of income and capital for you and your partner.
What proof of identity is needed?
At least one of the following must be provided for you and your partner:
- Bank statement (less than 4 weeks old)
- Birth certificate (full or short)
- Driving licence
- Letter from solicitor/social worker/probation officer or HM Revenue & Customs
- Marriage certificate
- Medical card
- Passport (current and valid)
- Utility bill for the last quarter/month
- Wage slips from current employer
Documents must be originals - photocopies cannot be accepted.
What proof of national insurance number is required?
At least one document must be provided which shows your national insurance number and at least one document that shows your partner's national insurance number. Documents must be originals, as photocopies cannot be accepted.
The following are documents that may contain a national insurance number:
- Wage slips, P45/P60
- Tax documents
- Letters from the Department for Work and Pensions
- National insurance number card
- Tax credit statement
When is housing benefit awarded from?
If you qualify for housing benefit it will normally be awarded from the Monday following the date you first contact the council for an application form, providing the form is returned within one month of the date it is issued. Otherwise it is paid from the Monday after the form is received by the council.
If you are in receipt of income support or job seekers allowance (income based) or employment and support allowance (income related) and you make a claim for housing benefit within one month of the date you claim any of these benefits, you will be awarded housing benefit from the date your income support or job seeker's allowance (income based) or employment and support allowance (income related) entitlement commences or the date your rental liability starts.
Can a claim be backdated?
Yes, you can request backdated benefit if there is a good reason why you did not claim earlier. You must be able to show continuous good cause from the date you are requesting that the benefit is paid from, to the date that the claim is made. You must state your reasons on the claim form or enclose a covering letter.
Backdating is limited to 3 months for pensioners and 6 months for working age customers.
What rent figure will be used to work out my entitlement to housing benefit?
The figure used will depend on your tenancy type and what the rent charge includes.
Housing benefit is calculated using your actual rent charge less any services, for example personal heating and support. Housing benefit is not paid for rent free weeks.
Registered Social Landlord (housing association) tenancies
In most cases housing benefit is calculated using your actual rent charge less any services, for example personal heating and support. Service charges for communal area (e.g. lighting of shared hallways) can usually be covered by housing benefit.
If your rent in unreasonably high or the property is overlarge for your household's needs then the council will request a determination from the Valuation Office Agency.
Privately rented tenancies
The amount of housing benefit that will be paid will depend on whether your contractual rent has been referred to the Valuation Office Agency for a rental determination or whether a local housing allowance rate applies.
A Valuation Office Agenct determination will apply if :
- you claimed housing benefit before 7 April 2008 and have continued to receive it at the same address without a break in your claim or
- you live in a caravan, mobile home, houseboat or board and lodging property where a significant part of the rental charge is for food
A local housing allowance rate will apply in all other cases except where:
- you rent from a registered social landlord (housing association)
- your tenancy is a regulated one
Valuation Office Agency determinations
The council is obliged by law to use the rental figure provided by the Valuation Office Agency when calculation housing benefit entitlement. This is called the maximum rent figure. The maximum rent figure will not include some services that are included in the rent charged, for example water rates, electricity, gas and personal care. Housing benefit cannot be paid for these.
Housing benefit may not therefore cover your full rent charge and you should pay any shortfall to your landlord.
The rental valuation is usually set for 52 weeks and a new valuation is obtained from the Valuation Office Agency every year. Click here to learn more about the Valuation Office Agency.
Local housing allowance scheme
Under this scheme we calculate housing benefit based on the LHA rate set for the number of bedrooms that you and your household need.
The LHA rates are set for the number of bedrooms a household needs and they are calculated by the Valuation Office Agency. The rates are updated every month and we publish them towards the end of each month ready for the following month. This can help you decide whether or not to take on a tenancy as you will know in advance which rate will be used to work out your entitlement to housing benefit.
For single people under the age of 25, housing benefit is calculated using the one bedroom shared accommodation rate, no matter what size accommodation is actually occupied. From January 2012 this will apply to single people up to the age of 35 as well.
Please click here to see the current LHA rates.
When the LHA rate is decided, it will be used for 12 months and will be reviewed every year on the anniversary of the claim.
Regulated rent tenancies
Regulated rents are tenancies that started before 15 January 1989. Housing benefit is usually calculated based on the rent charge less any services.
Also if the rent is registered by the Valuation Office Agency then you will have a rent registration certificate stating the amount the landlord can charge. The registered rent is binding for a minimum of two years and the landlord cannot legally charge a higher rent. Housing benefit is calculated based on the registered rent figure.
How much housing benefit will I receive?
Once the amount of benefit to be used in the housing benefit calculation is decided then the amount of housing benefit what will actually be paid will depend on:
- your income (joint income if you have a partner)
- your capital (joint capital if you have a partner) but only if you have capital over £6,000 and you are of working age, or have over £10,000 if you are a pensioner.
- your personal and family circumstances, for instance whether you are disabled and whether you have children.
- the income and circumstances of anyone who lives with you.
However, if you get income support, job seekers allowance (income based) employment and support allowance (income related) or guaranteed pension credit you will normally get the maximum benefit. This will be calculated based on the maximum rent figure less deductions for non-dependants. Non-dependants are people living in your household who are not dependent on you and who are expected to contribute to the housing costs.
If you are in receipt of income support or jobseeker's allowance (income based) you will receive maximum benefit (this may not be equal to the actual rent that you pay if the rent is considered high). Deductions for anyone who lives with you and who is not dependant on you may be made from your maximum entitlement.
You will always be notified in writing of the amount of benefit you are entitled to.
For an instant estimate of your housing benefit entitlement use the Online Benefits Calculator.
A claim form will bed to be completed in order that a full assessment can be done.
Single persons under the age of 35 - privately rented sector only
Housing benefit for single persons under the age of 35 will be based on the average cost of renting a single room with shared use of a living room, toilet and bathroom, and kitchen facilities.
If you are provided with any services by your landlord, e.g. meals, water rates, heating, lighting, hot water, support, personal or nursing care and you do not pay for them separately to your rent, an amount will be deducted from your housing benefit entitlement. This is because housing benefit cannot be paid for services that are provided to you and they should be paid by you. However, housing benefit can be paid for communal service charges, eg. lighting and heating of communal areas.
How is housing benefit paid?
If you are a council tenant, any housing benefit you are entitled to will be transferred direct to your housing account on a weekly basis.
If you are a private tenant then housing benefit is usually paid by BACS into your bank or building society account, fortnightly in arrears. To avoid delays in paying your housing benefit please complete your account details on your claim form. If you change your bank account in the future you will need to complete a new BACS form (click here to download a BACs form). If you experience any difficulties please contact the council for further advice on telephone number 01524 582965.
Housing benefit will only be paid to your landlord if you are likely to have difficulty managing your financial affairs or if it is unlikely you will pay your rent. For further information please refer to the Safeguard Policy under downloads at the right hand side of this page. If you think this applies then please contact the benefits team on 01524 582965 or download the form to request to pay landlord and the accompanying guidance notes, from the list of downloads at the right hand side of this page.
If you are in arrears of rent equivalent to 8 weeks or more than we will send the housing benefit to your landlord whether or not you have given consent.
If housing benefit is paid to your landlord then the payments will be issued by BACs four weekly in arrears.
What can I do if I think the decision about my housing benefit is wrong?
If you have received a decision about housing benefit and you think the decision is wrong, you can ask us to explain it or request a written statement of reasons. If you still think it is wrong after we have explained it to you, you can ask us to look at it again or you can appeal against some decisions. If you appeal, an independent tribunal will decide if the decision is wrong.
If you want us to look at the decision again or if you want to appeal against it, you must do so within one calendar month of the date on the decision letter.
A more detailed booklet on the dispute process is available on request from the benefits team.
Change of circumstances
Once you have claimed housing benefit you are under a duty to inform the benefits team within one calendar month of any changes in your income and circumstances and the income and circumstances of anyone else who lives with you (click here to download a change of circumstances form). If you move to a new address you must inform the council immediately. You may need to make a fresh claim for housing benefit.
If you are a private tenant and change your bank account you will need to complete a new BACS (click here to download a BACS form).
You may lose any increase in benefit that may be due to you if you do not tell us about changes of circumstance quickly.
You can report changes:
- by telephone or email using the contact details below or
- in person at Lancaster or Morecambe Town Hall from 9.00am to 5.00pm from Monday to Friday
- by downloading a change of circumstance form from the downloads list at the right hand side of this page.
An overpayment is where you have been paid more housing benefit than you are entitled to. Overpayments usually happen where there has been a change in circumstances for you or a member of your household.
You have a duty to report changes in circumstances. Methods of reporting changes are set out in the section above, ' Changes in circumstances'.
When an overpayment arises we will write to you with full details of the overpayment stating:
- the reason for the overpayment
- the amount of the overpayment
- the period it covers
- whether it will be recovered
- who we intend to recover it from
- what to do if you disagree with the overpayment
More information about Overpayments.
Discretionary Housing Payments
If your housing benefit does not cover your full rent charge and you are suffering from financial hardship, you may be entitled to a Discretionary Housing Payment.
More information about Discretionary Housing Payments