Frequently Asked Questions - Housing Benefit
Housing Benefit is a national welfare scheme available for people on a low income or benefits, to help contribute towards their rent. This is paid by the local council and is dependant upon your own personal circumstances. If you own your own home then we cannot contribute towards your mortgage payments. In this case you will need to contact your local Department For Works and Pensions (DWP) office but we may still be able to help you with your council tax payments.
Changes to Housing Benefit from 1 April 2013 for those who live in Social Housing
In April 2013, Housing Benefit paid to working age tenants who have spare bedrooms in their home has reduced. This rule will apply to all tenants who rent from Social landlords and Housing Associations. In the news it has been described as the bedroom tax.
How can I work out how many bedrooms I need?
Size Criteria - One bedroom for each of the following:
- a couple
- a person who is not a child (aged 16 and over)
- two children of the same sex
- two children who are under 10
- any other child, (other than a child whose main home is elsewhere).
- a carer (or group of carers) providing overnight care
- An extra bedroom can be claimed for those children who are unable to share a bedroom because of severe disabilities
- a foster child or children of an approved foster carer
- armed forces personnel who are away from home on operations
How will I be affected if I have 1 spare room?
One spare room will apply a 14% reduction to the eligible rent
How will I be affected if I have more than 1 spare room?
More than one spare room will apply a 25% reduction to the eligible rent
To find out if you are affected by these reductions use our Room Restriction Calculator (MS Excel, 326KB).
How do I claim?
Complete a claim online straight away, any delay could mean you lose benefit.
What if I am claiming other benefits?
If you are claiming Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment Support Allowance or Pension Credit, then you should have made your application for benefit through either the Job Centre or the Pension Service. All of your income, savings and household details will have been checked and verified by the above. The Benefits department will then contact you if they require any further information.
What if I am claiming Universal Credit?
You should claim help with your rent via Universal Credit. You can no longer claim for help with your rent via Housing Benefit. You must still claim for help with your Council Tax from the Benefits Section at the Local Authority.
Will I qualify for benefit?
Visit Gov.uk and use their Benefit Calculator to determine whether you will qualify for Housing Benefit, you will need your Local Housing Allowance Rate , if you rent from a private Landlord. If you rent your house from a Social Landlord you will need to know if your rent has been restricted if you have any 'spare room/s'.
How much savings can I have to qualify for Housing Benefit?
Your capital/savings must be less than £16,000.00 in order to qualify for any housing benefit, unless you are receiving the guaranteed element of Pension Credit.
I'm a war pensioner - how will this affect my claim?
The Housing Benefit Benefit Regulations state only £10 of a War pension or War disablement pension should be disregarded, or the entire Pre-1973 War Widows Pension. Cheshire East disregards all of the war pensions in full and bears the cost of the extra benefit awarded.
Can I claim benefit if I am British and returning to the UK after living abroad?
If a person is moving back to the UK or moving to the UK for the first time then we have to establish if they pass or are exempt from the following tests. If any of these tests are failed then a person would not be able to claim Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support.
- The Immigration Status Test
- The Habitual Residence Test (2 parts)
- The Right To Reside
- The Habitual Test
- The Self sufficiency Test
If you are a UK or Irish National/Citizen then you will always be exempt from the Immigration Status Test and Part 1 of the Habitual Residence Test, ‘The Right to Reside’.
The second part of the Habitual Residence Test is to establish that the move back to the UK is a permanent one and not just a visit, as long as this can be established then you would be considered eligible to make a claim for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.
For further information regarding living and working abroad and for visitors to the UK please visit the UK Border Agency Website
How long will my claim take to be processed and a payment made?
We aim to process your claim within 14 days from when the claim is complete of all the information required. A payment will be issued shortly after this timescale, either by cheque or directly into your bank account. In some instances we can make payments direct to your landlord. Please complete our Direct payment to Landlord online form
If further information is requested this can make the process longer.
What is remunerative work?
Remunerative work is classed as anyone who is in paid employment and working over 16 hours per week.
What is a non-dependant?
A non-dependant is a member of your family/household aged 18 or over and not classed as being in full time education. The government expect that a non-dependant should contribute to the household financially; therefore a non-dependent deduction will be applied to your benefit entitlement according to the amount of their gross weekly income.
What qualifies as a ‘Change in Circumstances’?
It is your responsibility to inform the Benefits Department of any changes in your personal circumstances within one calendar month of the date of the change. Examples include:
- You go into hospital
- You are going abroad
- Increase/Decrease in wages or private pensions
- You go into residential care or a nursing home
- Changes to your income, benefits, tax credits etc
- Changes in your household members
- Rent changes
- Births or deaths of any household members
- Move out of the Cheshire East area
- Changes of address
- Changes to any income
- Changes to savings over £6000
How do I tell you about a change in my circumstances?
The quickest and easiest way to tell us about any type of change to your circumstances is to give us a call, you can ring us Monday to Friday between 8-45 - 5pm or you can complete our online change of circumstances form.
What else should I know before claiming Housing Benefit?
- Special rules apply if you are under the age of 35 from 1.1.2012 for Local Housing Allowance (LHA). You would not be eligible for Housing Benefit if you are living with a ‘close relative’ who is charging you rent. Examples of a ‘close relative’ are mother, father, stepmother, stepfather, brother or sister.
- If your landlord is a ‘close relative’ then we need to establish whether or not the tenancy is on a commercial basis before we consider paying any Housing Benefit. You cannot usually get Housing Benefit if you are a full time student, unless you are disabled, or have dependant children.
Where can I get help?
Please contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for further advice. They can help you to fill in forms or to write a letter.
Please contact Shelter which is the housing and homelessness charity or use their freephone number of 0808 8004444. They offer advice about money matters, homes and housing problems.