Housing Benefit is money to help you with your housing costs if you are on a low income. It can help with rent and some service charges. You could qualify for this help whether you are in or out of work.
Universal Credit is replacing Housing Benefit
As part of its welfare reforms the Government has introduced Universal Credit, a new benefit that replaces six existing benefits, including Housing Benefit, with a single monthly payment if you're out of work or on a low income. It applies to all working age customers in Lancaster City Council’s area from 27 July 2016.
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.
Tenants cannot normally get housing benefit if they live with and pay rent to a close relative.
How to claim housing benefit
If you are claiming for income support, job seeker's allowance (income based), employment and support allowance (income related) or pension credit, you will be able to claim for housing benefit when you make your telephone claim with jobcentre plus or the Pension Disability and Carers Service.
They will send your completed claim to us with confirmation of your income.
If the above do not apply and you think that you are entitled to housing benefit, please complete our online application:
If you rent from a private landlord or housing association we will require a landlord declaration form regarding the tenancy details and the tenancy agreement if you have one.
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 this entitlement commences or the date your rental liability starts.
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 three months for pensioners and six months for working age customers, but will be restricted to one month for working age customers from 1 April 2016.
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.
Council and housing association tenants may have their housing benefit reduced if they have more bedrooms than they need.
Local housing allowance (LHA) 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. LHA rates are calculated annually by the Valuation Office Agency. 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.
How much housing benefit will I receive?
For a quick estimate of your benefit entitlement use our online benefits calculator.
You will need to complete a benefit application form before a full assessment can be done.
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 directly into your bank or building society account, fortnightly in arrears. To avoid delays in paying your housing benefit please complete your bank account details on your claim form.
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. If you think this applies then please contact us or complete and return a request to pay landlord form.
If you are in arrears of rent equivalent to eight 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 bank transfer 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, look at it again, or appeal to an independent tribunal.
Change of circumstances
Once you have claimed housing benefit you are under a duty to inform us within one calendar month of any changes in your income and circumstances and the income and circumstances of anyone else who lives with you:
If you move to a new address you must inform us 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 bank details 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 also report changes:
- By telephone or email
- In person at Lancaster or Morecambe Town Hall from 9am to 1pm from Monday to Friday
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.
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.
Last updated: 10 May 2023