“Am I entitled to housing benefit?” Good questions, because you could be one of the 1.1 million people the Department of Work and Pensions revealed earlier this year have not yet claimed the housing benefits they’re entitled to. Could you be missing out?
...in some cases you could receive over £1,300 per month.
Hundreds of thousands of people across the UK have not claimed the housing benefit they are entitled to, which has led to a pot of £3.1bn in unclaimed housing benefit.
The benefit is there to help people on a low income pay all or part of their rent, which means that in some cases you could receive over £1,300 per month. Finding out if you’re eligible isn’t as hard as it may seem, and you could start to get payments through in as little as a few weeks.
A family member of mine was surprised and relieved when I told him a few months ago that he was entitled to several benefits, including housing benefit. He's now started receiving £16,000 in benefits per year, including nearly £8,000 in housing benefit.
It's worth checking out if you're entitled to the benefit. Use the break-down below to find out if you qualify, how much you could receive and how to apply.
Am I entitled to housing benefit?
You're unlikely to be eligible for housing benefit if:
- You live in a close relative's house
- You have more than £16,000 in savings, unless you're also receiving the guarantee credit part of the Pension Credit
- You're earning a high income*
Council and private tenants could be eligible for housing benefit if:
- You have a low income*, including some benefits
- You're a part-time student
- Your partner is a full-time student
- You're a full-time student and you're a lone parent or disabled
- You're in a couple and both of you are full-time students and have children
*There is no clear-cut income level that determines how much housing benefit you are entitled to. This is because entitlement depends on more than just your income, for example what other benefits you receive, whether you are single or in a partnership, and how many children you have. However, as an example of 'low income', a couple earning less than £5,800 per year, and a lone-parent earning less than £3,700 per year, could be entitled to full housing benefit. These limits can go up in some circumstances, such as if you're over 60 or you receive the carer's allowance.
Low earners with an income above those limits will still receive housing benefit, but an ever-shrinking amount.
How much housing benefit am I entitled to?
You could have some or all of your rent paid through housing benefit depending on your rent, your income, savings, and other benefits that you're receiving, as well as the limits to your local council's Local Housing Allowance.
Most people living in the London Borough of Sutton Council, for example, could receive up to £670 per month if they have one bedroom, or £1,350 per month if they have four bedrooms.
You won't be able to claim the full benefit if you have more bedrooms than you need, and the council will expect two children under 16 to share a room.
Your benefit will be reduced if you have non-dependant adults, including adult children, in the house and the benefit will not pay your water and heating costs, even if you pay that through your rent.
Housing benefit is not taxable and claiming it doesn't usually reduce the amount of other benefits you receive. However, that's not the same the other way round: some benefits you receive – although not child benefit – could reduce the amount of housing benefit you get.
How do I claim housing benefit?
Use the Government's online benefits adviser tool to see whether you're entitled to housing benefit, and other benefits, and how much you can expect.
Next, if you're entitled to income-related benefits such as employment and support allowance or jobseeker's allowance, you can apply for those benefits along with housing benefit through Job Centre Plus by calling 0800 055 6688.
If you're claiming pension-related benefits, you can claim the housing benefit at the same time when you contact The Pension Service on 0800 991 234.
If you're not claiming other benefits, contact your local council. You can find the contact details for local councils throughout the United Kingdom through Directgov.
You'll need to provide:
- Proof of identity
- Proof of whatever income you have (or lack of it), including other benefits
- Proof of income from other adults living with you
- Unless you're a council tenant, you also need to supply evidence of the rent you pay
The council will help you if you don't know what to send. Once you have supplied the evidence, provided there are no extra delays, it could be two to four weeks before your claim is processed and you start receiving the benefit.
My family member I mentioned earlier experienced a couple of extra weeks' delay because he needed evidence of rent from his landlord, who was on holiday.
Benefits will be back-dated to the week after you submitted your claim. They could be backdated by as much as half a year if you prove you have an excellent reason, but simply not knowing you could claim doesn't count.
Which changes in circumstances should I report?
If you move, if your income or other benefits change, if the number of non-dependant adults in the property changes, if your rent changes, or if anything else that might be significant happens, get in touch with your local council to ensure you're receiving the right amount, or you could be convicted of benefit fraud.
Ignorance probably won't be a valid defence, so always get in touch about changes if you're not sure.
Take a look at MyFamilyClub’s guide to benefits for a simple break-down of what other benefits you may be entitled to. You might also want to check out our simple guides to child benefit, the sure start maternity grant, maternity pay, and help with healthcare costs.