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Home / Advice & Benefits / Benefits / Claiming Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Reduction

Claiming Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Reduction

 

What is Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Reduction ?|

Can I claim either?|

How do you calculate my income?|

What do you mean by “capital”?|

How much will I get?|

When should I claim?|

Why can’t it start from an earlier date?|

How do I claim?|

Why can’t I give you photocopies of my evidence?|

Can you help me find a place?|

Can you help with a deposit?|

I’ve heard you don’t pay the full rent, why not?|

I have an overnight carer, can they have a bedroom?|

Why can’t you get the information from the Jobcentre or my landlord?|

When are payments sent?|

Why can’t you pay my landlord direct?|

I’m not from England, can I still claim?|

 

 

What is Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Reduction?

Housing Benefit and Local Council Tax Reduction are national welfare benefits administered by Local Authorities. The purpose of Housing Benefit is to help people receiving state benefits or on low incomes pay their rent and Local Council Tax Reduction to pay their Council Tax.

These benefits are means tested and so how much you receive is dependent on your income and circumstances. Whilst we may be able to pay up to 100% of your Council Tax bill, we may not be able to be up to 100% of your rent. This is because if you’re in private rented accommodation the amount of Housing Benefit payable is based on a flat rate allowance and is not directly related to the amount of rent due. View more information on  | Local Housing Allowance Rates|. If you’re in social or council housing, the rent may include costs we cannot pay for (for example food).

View more information about the Council Tax charge and the current valuation bands.| 

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Can I claim either?

Yes, but to be entitled to Housing Benefit you must be liable to make payments in respect of a dwelling which you occupy as a home (pay rent). You will not be entitled to Housing Benefit if you live with, and have to pay rent to, a close relative or in-law such as a parent, step-parent, son, daughter, stepson, step-daughter or their partners.

Owner-occupiers, long lease holders (over 21 years), most full-time students and many residents in private & voluntary registered residential care and nursing homes are, amongst others, not eligible to receive Housing Benefit. However, if you are in any doubt, please contact us, as you may be one of the ones fitting the eligible criteria.

To be entitled to Local Council Tax Reduction you must be liable for the Council Tax charge at the property you live in. If you do not live there, you are not entitled to receive Local Council Tax Reduction. Residents under the age of 18, a tenant in a ‘house of multiple occupation (i.e. bedsits) and most full time students are also unable to claim Local Council Tax Reduction.

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How do you calculate my income?

Your income is any money you or your partner, receive on a regular basis. This can either be a state benefit, such as Income Support, Tax Credits or Jobseekers Allowance, or money you have earned through employment.

We take every effort to ensure the calculation of your income is correct and are allowed to disregard (ignore) certain expenses you may incur. These are:

  1. Child care expenses. There are certain circumstances in which you can offset up to a maximum of £300.00 per week (dependent upon certain qualifying conditions). You need only give details for this if your child/children are under the age of 15, attend a registered Nursery; out of school scheme or childminder and you (and your partner) are in full time work (over 16 hours per week). If only one member of the couple work and the other is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance or Incapacity Benefit, you may also qualify for this expense as a deduction - contact the Benefits Office for more information.
  2. Private Pension. If you pay into a private pension scheme, half of your contributions may be disregarded. You will need to provide original documentation to confirm the amount you pay.
  3. Payment towards the upkeep of a student.

We are also allowed to disregard (ignore) any Child Benefit or child maintenance you receive. However, you must still tell us about these incomes and provide evidence.

In order for us to achieve an accurate assessment of your income, it is important that we see evidence of the income.

So if you or your partner receives a state benefit, we will need the most recent award letter you were sent. Whereas if you earned the income, we would need your last 5 weeks, or 2 months payslips. We can’t accept handwritten slips, but can provide a Certificate of Earnings form which your employer can complete. The Certificate of Earnings is available to download.|  

If you are self employed we would need to see your most recent accounts, or an estimate of your earnings. Because assessing a self employed person for Housing Benefit or  Local Council Tax Reduction is complex, an additional Self Employed Earnings form will need completing. The Self Employed Earnings form is available to download.|

We cannot list every type of income document, but whatever you provide will need to be the original document, not a photocopy. You will receive the originals back.

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What do you mean by “capital”?

The Benefit Regulations state that capital is any savings you have. This can be in the form of land, property (other than the home you live in), stocks and shares, premium bonds, cash and money held in bank or building society accounts.

However, if you’re of working age, we can disregard (ignore) the first £6,000 of your capital. For each part or full £250 above £6,000, we must add £1.00 to your weekly income. If you’re pensionable age it is increased to £10,000, but £1.00 is added to your weekly income for every part of full £500 above £10,000.

If you have over £16,000 in capital, you will not be eligible to claim Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Reduction, unless this money was from a compensation or POW payment.

The table below shows how any capital above £6,000 (but below the £16,000 limit for Housing and Council Tax Benefit) is converted to a weekly “Tariff Income”.

Tariff Income Table for Working Age Claimants

Capital Held    Tariff
 Between and  
 £6,000.01  £6,250.00  =  £1.00
 £6,250.01  £6,500.00  =  £2.00
 £6,500.01  £6,750.00  =  £3.00
 £6,750.01  £7,000.00  =  £4.00
 £7,000.01  £7,250.00  =  £5.00
 £7,250.01  £7,500.00  =  £6.00
 £7,500.01  £7,750.00 =  £7.00
 £7,750.01  £8,000.00  =  £8.00
 £8,000.01  £8,250.00  =  £9.00
 £8,250.01  £8,500.00  =  £10.00
 £8,500.01  £8,750.00  =  £11.00
 £8,750.01  £9,000.00  =  £12.00
 And so on up to £16,000.00 

Whilst we are able to disregard (ignore) capital below the £6,000 limit (or £10,000 if your of pensionable age), you must tell us about all your capital. It is an offence to withhold details of accounts you hold, even if you are below the capital limit.

We may ask for evidence of the capital held and this must be original documentation, not photocopies.

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How much will I get?

How much you receive is dependent on many factors

  • How many people are in your household
  • What your weekly income is
  • How much your rent is
  • The size of your property

Without obtaining all of this information, we would be unable to give you an exact figure.

 

On-Line Calculator

To find out how much you may be entitled to, you can use the Benefit Calculator| to calculate your possible entitlement to benefits, including Housing and Local Council Tax Reduction.

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When should I claim?

Your benefit will normally start on the Monday after we receive your claim request. So if you ask to claim on a Tuesday, your claim can start the Monday afterwards. This is providing we receive all the supporting documentation from you within a month.

If you receive Income Support (IS), income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA-IB) or income related Employment & Support Allowance (ESA-IR), and you make a claim within one calendar month of your application for IS, JSA-IB or ESA (IR), your benefit claim will normally start on the Monday after IS, JSA-IB or ESA-IR is awarded.

We will only consider backdating your claim for benefit if you can show us you had good reasons for not claiming benefit earlier and that good reasons continued up to the time that you made your claim. Not knowing that you could claim will not normally be considered as a "good reason". However, not claiming because you were in hospital or had severe health problems or a close relative had died would be considered as "good reason".

If you know where you are moving to, or know of a change that will bring you into benefit, you can make a claim up to 13 weeks (working age) or 17 weeks (pensionable age)  before you move in or the change happens. Obviously your actual claim will only be able to start when you’ve moved in or the change happens, but it allows your claim to be processed early and should avoid delays in payments.

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Why can’t it start from an earlier date?

There are strict rules on the start dates of Housing Benefit, if you wanted your claim to start from an earlier date; you have to prove a good reason for not claiming earlier.

For working age claimants we will not automatically backdate benefit. However, if you can show you had good reasons for not claiming benefit earlier, we may backdate your benefit, but only up to 6 months from the date we receive your request for backdating.

For claimants who are of pensionable age, we can automatically backdate benefit for up to 3 months, or the date you became of pensionable age, whichever is later.

What do you consider to be good reasons?

Unfortunately, the benefit regulations do not say what are, and what are not, 'good reasons' so we must consider each case individually. Before we can backdate benefit, we must be satisfied that anyone else of the same age and with the same health and experience as you would probably also not have been able to claim.

Not knowing that you could claim benefit earlier will not normally be considered as a 'good reason'. However, not claiming because you were in hospital or had severe health problems, or a close relative had died, could be considered as 'good reasons'. The 'good reason' must apply for the whole period you're asking us to backdate your benefit for.

How do I apply for backdating?

If you want to ask us to backdate your Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Reduction, you need to put this in writing, explaining why you want it backdated and the reasons for not applying earlier. For ease, a downloadable Application Form to Backdate Benefit is available.|

When you return the application form should include relevant supporting evidence, for example, a doctor's letter. Unfortunately failure to do so will delay us considering your request.

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How do I claim?

You can claim online| or you can complete a paper form. A downloadable application form is available| or a form can be collected from our Benefits Office|, or you can call us on (01202) 451592 to request a form to be posted to you.

Depending on your circumstances, it may be necessary to complete various other forms to support your claim. Some of these forms are available to |download|.

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Why can’t I give you photocopies of my evidence?

Originals are needed because they are clearer and than a photocopy. This means there is less chance of us mistaking the details. In addition to this, by requesting original documentation, it is a useful deterrent against fraud. If you can’t obtain the originals, such as bank statements, you may be able to get duplicates issued to you. If you are really stuck it may be best to ring us on 01202 451592 for advice.

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Can you help me find a place to live?

We can’t within the Benefits Department, but our colleagues in the Housing Department have produced a guidance document for someone looking for private rented accommodation, which is available to download.|

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Can you help with a deposit?

No, the Benefits Department can only assist with the actual rent or Council Tax. However, our Housing Department operate a Rent Deposit Loan Scheme, but you must meet the criteria to be eligible. More information is available about the Rent Deposit Loan Scheme|.

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I’ve heard you don’t pay the full rent, why not?

If you rent from a private landlord (not a Housing Association or the Council), the maximum amount of Housing Benefit we can pay is based on the size of your household. It is not directly related to the amount of rent you are being charged, so it may be higher or lower than your contractual rent. This scheme is called Local Housing Allowance|In addition to this, Housing Benefit and Local Council Tax Reduction are means tested (based on your income). Therefore the amount of your income is directly related to how much benefit we can pay. If your income increases, your benefit decreases (but by a lesser amount than your increase).

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I have an overnight carer, can they have a bedroom?

It must be you or you partner that needs a carer to stay overnight in your home. The overnight care must be provided by someone who doesn’t live in your home (as part of your household) and you have a separate room for them to sleep in. Providing this is the case, we may be able to take the additional bedroom into account, but you will still need to meet the criteria below

  • you must have a non-resident carer or a team of carers who provides overnight care for you or your partner in your home
  • the carer must regularly stay overnight at the property to provide the care
  • there must be a bedroom that is solely used by the carer for this purpose.
  • you or your partner must be in receipt of Attendance Allowance or the care component of Disability Living Allowance at the highest or middle rate
  • If you do not receive Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance you may still be entitled if you can satisfy the Housing Benefit office that you need regular overnight care by providing evidence such as medical certificates, letter from your medical practitioner, care plans, invoices for care fees or a letter from your Social Worker.

Let the Benefits Department know you have a carer stay overnight. If they don’t already have the details, they will provide you with a very short form to complete.

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Why can’t you get the information from the Jobcentre or my landlord?

In certain circumstances we may be able to obtain information we need from other parties, but this may not always be possible. As the claim for benefit is yours, it remains your responsibility to provide any supporting evidence, not ours to collect it. If evidence is not received, we cannot pay benefit, which will only affect you as the claimant. In view of this, it’s probably always best for you to obtain the information to support your claim.

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When are payments sent?

You can decide on the frequency of your payments, every fortnight or every 4 weeks. We prefer to pay by Bankers Automated Clearing Services (BACS), as this is directly into your bank account so you don’t have to wait for a cheque to clear. Cheques can also go missing in the post.  View our 4 weekly payment schedule|

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Why can’t you pay my landlord direct?

If your claim is assessed under the Local Housing Allowance scheme, we are not allowed to voluntarily pay the landlord direct. However, we acknowledge that some tenants may struggle with the responsibility of budgeting for and paying their rent and so have put certain safeguards in place to secure your accommodation. Therefore our Safeguard Policy (which is Dorset wide) stipulates that we can pay the landlord where

  • The tenant is 8 or more weeks in arrears
  • The tenant is unlikely to pay the rent
  • The tenant is unable to pay their rent
  • To safeguard the provision of a tenancy

More information about our Safeguard Policy and a downloadable copy of the policy is available|.

 

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I’m not from England, can I still claim?

We would always encourage you to claim. Your eligibility to receive benefit depends on many different factors, such as which country you are originally from. For more information about this please contact us.|

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Related Information

 

Postal Address Customer Services Centre,
St Stephens Road, Bournemouth, Dorset
BH2 6EB
Telephone 01202 451451
Minicom 01202 454974
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