Benefits Explained


What is Housing Benefit ?


It is a national welfare benefit administered by Local Councils.

Housing Benefit is to help people on a low income to pay their rent.

For private tenants, this is known as the Local Housing Allowance.
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Who can claim?

You can claim Housing Benefit if:

You (or your partner) are liable to pay the rent on a property you are occupying as your home, and have less than £16000 in joint savings, unless you are in receipt of Pension Guarantee Credit.

Most full-time students cannot claim Housing Benefit unless they are also;g

  • getting Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance
  • a Lone Parent
  • disabled

Other special circumstances apply. If you are a student and not sure if you can claim, contact the Benefit Section.

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How do I apply for Housing Benefit?

To claim benefit you must fill in an application form and send it to the Benefits Section. You can either download the claim form, or contact us and we will send you one by post.

Make sure you complete and return the form immediately you realise you need help to pay your rent, as benefit is normally paid from the Monday after the first indication of a wish to claim. If you haven't got all the evidence we ask for in support of your claim, send whatever you have got to us with the form straightaway. You can send the rest in within one calendar month. We will write to you for any further information we need. Back to top

When does my benefit start and end?

Your benefit will normally start on the Monday following the first indication of your wish to claim, provided your completed claim form is received within one month of this date.

Other conditions apply to people getting Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based).

If you want your benefit to start from an earlier date, you can write and ask us to consider backdating your claim. However, backdated benefit is only awarded in very exceptional circumstances. Benefit cannot be backdated for a period more than one month prior to a claim being made view further information on backdating of benefit.

Your benefit ends when entitlement stops. You will normally be paid up to and including the Sunday following the date your circumstances changed.

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What if I am renting from a private landlord?

If you rent your home from a private landlord, please see the Local Housing Allowance section. If however, you are a boarder or lodger in someone else's home and receive board and attendance we have to send your details to an independent Rent Service for a decision on whether the rent you pay is reasonable. Back to top

How can I find out if the Rent Officer might restrict the level of rent I pay before I move in?

Most new claims from private tenants will fall under the Local Housing Allowance, where monthly rates are set. However, if you are thinking of renting a property from a private landlord who will provide board and attendance and you want to know what the Rent Officer's assessment will be before you move in, you can complete a form to request a Pre-Tenancy Determination. You will also need to get information from your prospective landlord, and he will have to sign the form as well.

Once you have filled in the form, you must send or bring it to the Benefits Section, which will forward it onto the Rent Officer for you. The Rent Officer will send you, the landlord and the Council a copy of his decision, normally within 7 days.
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Is there anything that Housing Benefit will not cover?

Under the Local Housing Allowance your benefit is based on a flat rate allowance. If you do not fall within the Local Housing Allowance Scheme you may have a reduction for services such as water, gas, electric, meals or laundry. This means that you will have to pay those charges yourself. Back to top

How is my Housing Benefit worked out and how much would I get?

  • All Councils work out benefit in the same way, using rules set by Government. The amount you get depends on four things:
  • How much money you have coming in. We add together your earnings and your partner's (if you have one) and any other income either of you receive.
  • How much savings you have. We add together your savings and your partner's. If you have savings of more than £16,000 you will not be able to get benefit unless you receive Pension Guarantee Credit.
  • The money you need to live on. This depends on your personal circumstances (for example, your age, how many children you have ). We use a weekly allowance called an Applicable Amount to work out how much you need to live on. This amount is set each year by Government.
  • The amount of rent you pay.

If you are on Income Support, Income based Job Seekers Allowance, Income based Employment Support Allowance or Pension Guarantee Credit, you are automatically entitled to receive maximum benefit.

If you are not receiving any of the above benefits, your benefit is calculated by comparing your Applicable Amount with the amount of money you have coming in each week.

If your income is equal to or less than the Applicable Amount then you will get maximum benefit.

If your income is more than the Applicable Amount then a further calculation is made.

For Housing Benefit we deduct 65% of your excess income from the rent eligible for benefit and you receive the difference.
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How and when will my benefit be paid?

If paid directly to you, your Housing Benefit will be paid directly into your bank every 2 weeks in arrears.

If paid to your landlord, it will be paid directly into your landlords bank every 4 weeks in arrears. Back to top

What if I want my Housing Benefit to be paid direct to my landlord?


If you are a Housing Association or Social Housing Tenant you can choose to have payment made to your landlord (refer to page 12 of the Housing Benefits Application Form). The landlord must also confirm this arrangement by signing the form.

If you are a private tenant there is a separate form to request direct payment (for this form Tel: 01276 707100 and request form LHA1 Direct Payment Request.) If agreed, payment to a landlord will be made every 4 weeks in arrears.

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What is a Non-Dependant deduction?

A non-dependant is a person over 18 years of age who normally lives with you. They are usually adult sons, daughters, other relatives or friends.

The Government assumes that the non-dependant should be making a contribution to the household expenses and therefore a deduction is made from your weekly Housing Benefit to take this contribution into account.
The amount of the deduction depends upon the non-dependant's circumstances, that is, their age and income.

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Housing benefit and Council Tax Reduction Decisions

When your claim is processed, there are a number of decisions made on it. For example, how much your income and capital is. This affects the amount of benefit / reduction you receive. If you think a decision is wrong, you must get in touch with us within one month of the date on your notification letter, otherwise we may not be able to consider any dispute. Using the PDF details form below, you can either:
  • ask for a written explanation of the decision;
  • ask us to look again at the decision and revise it;
  • appeal in writing and ask for an Appeal Tribunal.

What happens after a decision is looked at again?
If the original decision can be changed we will do so and send you a new decision. If we cannot change the decision, we will write to tell you why. If you still disagree you have one month to appeal in writing, from the date of our letter.

If you want to lodge an appeal
You must write to this office very clearly stating:

  • The decision you wish to appeal against and give your reasons why.
  • You will need to provide evidence and information in support of your appeal, and remember this should be done within one month of receiving the Benefits decision.

write to us at:

Benefits
Surrey Heath Borough Council, Surrey Heath House, Knoll Road, Camberley, Surrey GU15 3HD

Who can ask for a decision to be looked at again or make an appeal?
The benefit claimant and their partner
A person appointed to act for a claimant.
A landlord or agent where Housing Benefit is paid direct.

Making a late appeal
Sometimes the time limit for appeals may be extended. The extension must be requested in writing, providing the reasons for the request. Only the Tribunals Service for Social Security and Child Support can decide if a late appeal can be accepted.

The Appeal Tribunal
Disputes that go to the appeal stage will be heard locally by a Tribunal based in Aldershot.

You will be asked if you want to attend but you do not have to, because a decision can be made based on the paperwork provided. If you decide to go, your travel expenses will be paid by the Tribunals Service.

Download the Housing Benefit And Council Tax Reduction Appeals Service Form

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Backdating Of Housing Benefit

Sometimes Housing Benefit customers think we should pay their benefit from a date before we received their claim. This is what we call backdating.

When can we consider backdating?

Backdating is sometimes possible but it can only be done in limited circumstances. It is always best to make your claim as soon you think you may need help. For example don't delay your claim because you are not sure if you will get help. Send your claim to us and provide the evidence.

If you do need us to backdate your benefit, the rules about when we can backdate are different depending on the customers age:

Pension age customers (those who have reached qualifying age for State Pension)

We can sometimes backdate the start of your benefit for up to three months before the date you claimed. You do not need to tell us why you didn't claim sooner, we should look out for claims we can backdate, but let us know if you think we should have backdated your claim and haven't.

Working age customers (under the qualifying age for State Pension)

We can sometimes backdate the start of your benefit (but not education benefits) for up to one month before the date you claimed. You must have good reason for not claiming sooner throughout the period that you are asking for backdating for.
(Please note that this includes some men who are under 65 but over the qualifying age for State Pension whilst the pension age is being equalised for men and women.) Back to top

Discretionary Housing Payments

What are Discretionary Housing Payments and Council Tax Reduction Exceptional Hardship Payments?
They can help you if you already get Housing Benefit, Local Housing Allowance or Council Tax Reduction and

  • struggling to pay your rent or council tax and
  • you have unusual or extreme circumstances which are causing hardship or
  • you are having particular difficulty because of the effects of the under-occupation rules for housing association tenants.

There are no rules that give anyone a right to a payment. But we may be able to pay you if we believe that you need extra financial support.
See Surrey Heath's policy documents on Discretionary Housing Payments and Council Tax Reduction Exceptional Hardship Payments

Who can claim a Discretionary Payment?
You can claim one as long as you are already receiving Housing Benefit, Local Housing Allowance or Council Tax Reduction and your rent or council tax is not being met in full by your benefit award.
For example if your full rent is not being met by housing benefit you may get extra help - service charges however, cannot be covered.

How do I apply?
Complete the Discretionary Payment application form.

What happens next?

A panel of experienced officers will look at your application to see if additional help is needed. If they are satisfied that you are in need of further financial help for housing costs then you will be informed in writing of the extra weekly amount you will receive and the length of time the payments will continue.

Each application will be considered entirely on its own merits.

How much extra can I get?
This depends on your circumstances, but we cannot pay more than your eligible weekly rent or the full council tax.

What if I don't get any extra payments?
The Council has a limit to the amount of extra payments it can make and if the panel decides that you do not really need any additional help it will be because there are other people whose need is greater than yours. You will always be notified of the decision in writing.

What if I do not agree with the Decision?
As Discretionary Payments are not the same as benefit payments, the normal benefit rules on appeals do not apply.
You cannot ask for an Appeal Tribunal but you can ask the Council to have another look at your application. A more senior officer will then consider your application and you will be notified of the outcome in writing. This decision will be final.
Discretionary Payments will not be made for:

  • Certain elements of the rent e.g. heating, lighting, water charges and charges to cover meals;
  • Increases to the rent due to outstanding rent arrears;
  • Benefits Agency sanctions or suspensions where an amount of Income Support or Jobseeker's allowance is reduced, suspended or lost.
  • Settlement of a previous yeas council tax arrears
  • Reduce any Council Tax Support recoverable overpayment

Stopping Discretionary Payments
The Council may stop the extra payments if there has been a change of circumstances e.g. your finances improve as additional money comes into the household, or other household members leave.
Payments may also stop where the council decides someone has failed to disclose the truth about their circumstances, whether fraudulently or otherwise or if the payment was made in error. A resulting overpayment can be recovered by the Council.

If you have any further questions please call the Benefits Section for information and advice on 01276 707100 or visit the enquiry counter located in the Council Offices in Camberley. Alternatively, email revenues.benefits@surreyheath.gov.uk.

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Housing Benefit Overpayments

Housing Benefit overpayments occur if you have received too much benefit, maybe because your circumstances have changed.
We will inform you if there has been on overpayment and will normally ask you to pay the money back. We will take into account your circumstances and who we paid the money to.

Reducing an overpayment (underlying entitlement)

Underlying entitlement could help reduce the amount you need to pay back. If you did not inform us of a change in circumstances, we can look back over the period of the overpayment and review your entitlement. To do this you will need to provide evidence of all your income and savings for this period. We can then assess the amount of benefit you would have been entitled to if we had known your correct circumstances.
We can only use Underlying Entitlement to reduce an overpayment not to pay you any extra benefit.
You will need to provide evidence of your income and savings within one month of you being notified of the overpayment.

Paying back a Housing Benefit Overpayment

If you are still receiving benefit we can deduct money from your weekly benefit payments until the balance is cleared.

If you are no longer receiving benefit we will send you an invoice detailing the amount you need to pay back. You can make payment using the following methods:

  • Pay Online
  • By cheque or postal order made payable to Surrey Heath Borough Council
  • In person, at the kiosk within Surrey Heath Borough Council
  • By phone using our automated telephone service - 03300 884693. Please choose Option 3. You will need to quote your Invoice no.
  • Standing Order - please contact us to arrange this
  • From the Department of Work and Pensions from your other welfare benefits
  • Direct from your earnings - Part 6 of The Social Security (Overpayments and Recovery) Regulations 2013 allows local authorities to ask an employer to make deductions directly from a customer's earnings without having to go through the civil courts.

If you cannot pay all your overpayment at once, we can arrange instalments so please contact the Recovery and Overpayment team. Back to top

Other Adults Living With You

Find out how other adults in your home affect your claim

Do you have other adults living with you who are not your partner? If you do, you need to tell us. They may affect your claim.

Any other adults who live with you are often called 'non-dependants'. They could be your grown up son, daughter, relative or friend.

Boarders, lodgers and sub-tenants are not non dependants.

There will usually be a deduction from your weekly benefit for any non-dependants living with you. The amount of deduction will depend on their weekly gross income.

However, there are no deductions taken for any non-dependant if you or your partner is:

  • Registered Blind
  • In receipt of the Care component of Disability Living Allowance
  • In receipt of Attendance Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment, daily living component

Any non-dependant deduction will be shown on your benefit decision notice.


If a non dependant moves out, you need to tell us straight away, as we may not be paying you enough. If you delay telling us, we often can only take them off your claim once you have told us - meaning you have missed out on benefit you were entitled to.

There are individual deductions made in respect of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction. The current weekly amounts of deduction and when that deduction is applied are set out in Housing Benefit/Council Tax Reduction Non-Dependant Deductions 2016/17

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Housing Benefit Changes

The Government has introduced new rules to Housing Benefit for working age people renting from a local authority, a registered housing association or other Registered Provider.

Uprating

  • Working age benefits from April 2016 frozen for 4 years
  • Local Housing Allowance rates can’t increase until 2019/20. (They can decrease each April)
  • All Pensioner Assessed Income Periods (pension credit) being brought forward
  • New State Pensions start April 2016. 

Temporary Absence –  Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction

  • With effect from 28 July 2016
  • If the temporary absence is within Great Britain, existing rules apply i.e. 13/52 weeks
  • If the temporary absence is outside Great Britain the following rules apply:
  • 4 weeks only unless:
    • The temporary absence is in connection with the death of a partner or child who they are responsible for. Can then extend for a further 4 weeks at LA discretion
    • In Armed Forces on operation, a Mariner or Continental Shelf Worker – can be absent for up to 26 weeks
    • Claimant/partner/child in hospital or receiving medically approved care, can be absent for up to 26 weeks

Family Premium withdrawal –  Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction

  • With effect 1 May 2016
  • Loss of Family Premium for all new claims or new births (where there are no other children)
  • Will not be awarded for first child
  • Will not lose Family Premium until there’s a break in claim

Backdating

  • With effect 1 April 2016
  • No change to Pension Age claims
  • Working age Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction claims restricted to a maximum 1 month backdate

Benefit Cap

  • Expected to decrease to £20,000 outside London and £23,000 inside London in Autumn 2016

April 2017 changes

  • No Employment and Support Allowance work related component
  • 18/21 year olds may not be entitled to help with Housing costs
  • Allowances for maximum 2 children

Social Sector rents

  • In general Social Sector rents must be decreased by 1% for the next 4 years
  • One year exception for Supported Accommodation i.e. sheltered accommodation for the elderly, hostels for the homeless, extra care houses, accommodation for those with drug/alcohol problems or mental health issues

New Living Wage

  • With effect 1 April 2016
  • New Living Wage for over 25’s £7.20 per hour.  An increase of 50p per hour
  • Under 25’s, no change

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