Sheffield Benefits Service

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1 Sheffield Benefits Service April 2013 Housing Benefit & Council Tax Support for people of working age

2 Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support Housing Benefit is a national welfare benefit, administered by Local Authorities, that helps people pay the rent for the home they live in. Council Tax Support is a local Council Tax reduction scheme, administered by Local Authorities, which help people pay the Council Tax for the home they live in. You need to have a liability to pay rent to be entitled to Housing Benefit. Housing Benefit can be paid to anyone who rents in the private sector, or from a Housing Association or from the Council through Sheffield Homes. To be entitled to Council Tax Support you need to have a liability to pay Council Tax. Who can claim Housing Benefit? You can make a claim for Housing Benefit if: You pay rent to Sheffield Homes. You pay rent to a private landlord. You pay rent to a Housing Association. You are a boarder whose rent includes meals. You live in a Hostel. You live in a mobile home or houseboat. You are renting under a shared ownership arrangement. If you are a joint tenant we can help pay your share of the rent. You will not be entitled to any Housing Benefit if: You own your home or have a mortgage on your home. However you may still be entitled to Council Tax Support. You and / or your partner have more than 16,000 in savings. You are not responsible for paying the rent. However, in certain circumstances you can be treated as responsible, even if your name is not on the tenancy agreement. You pay rent to a close relative who lives with you. You live in a care home, such as a nursing home or elderly persons' home. 2 P age

3 You rent from your ex-partner and you both used to live there. You are the parent or guardian of your landlord's child. You live in the home as part of your job. You are an asylum seeker, unless you've been given refugee status or leave to remain in the United Kingdom. You have been admitted to the United Kingdom on the condition that you have no recourse to public funds. This means that you must not claim benefits. You are a sponsored immigrant and have lived here for less than five years. You are in the United Kingdom illegally or your permission to stay has run out. You may not get Housing Benefit if any of the following apply: You used to live with your landlord as a family member, relative or friend, and now pay that person rent. You used to own the property which you now rent. There may be exceptions to this, and each case will be looked at individually before any decision is made. You live in a property run by a religious order and you are a member of that religious order. You rent from a trust and you are also a trustee or beneficiary. You rent the property from a company and you are a director or employee of the company. You are a student (most full-time students don't qualify, but some do). Please see our Students leaflet for more information. You are temporarily living away from your usual home. Who can claim Council Tax Support? You can make a claim for Council Tax Support if: You own your home (either outright or you have a mortgage). You are the person whose name is on the Council Tax Bill. If you are jointly responsible for Council Tax we can help pay your share of the bill. 3 P age

4 You will not be entitled to any Council Tax Support if: You are not responsible for paying the Council Tax bill. You and / or your partner have more than 16,000 in savings. You are an asylum seeker, unless you've been given refugee status or leave to remain in the United Kingdom. You have been admitted to the United Kingdom on the condition that you have no recourse to public funds. You are a sponsored immigrant and have lived here for less than five years. You are in the United Kingdom illegally or your permission to stay has run out. How to claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support If you make a new or repeat claim for Income Support (IS), Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), Incapacity Benefit (IB) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you will make your claim for Housing Benefit at the Jobcentre Plus at the same time. You will also be able to tell them that you would like to make a claim for Council Tax Support Jobcentre Plus will then tell us and we will contact you to confirm that you wish to claim. Once Jobcentre Plus has dealt with your claim for IS, JSA, IB or ESA, they will send us your details. Before your claim for Housing and/or Council Tax Support can be processed, we may need to write out to you for more information, such as proof of your rent. If you are already claiming IS, JSA, IB or ESA, or are in receipt of other income, such as earned income (including self-employed earnings), you must claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support directly from Sheffield Benefits Service. To claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support you will need to complete an online claim form on our website In all cases you should claim as soon as possible. We can usually backdate your benefit for up to 6 months from when you make your claim. You can submit any proofs and supporting evidence in person at First Point Reception in Howden House, or at any Area Housing Office. If you supply the proofs in person will we photocopy them and give you the originals back. 4 P age

5 How you calculate my entitlement Your entitlement to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support depends on a number of factors. If you are in receipt of a passported benefit, you will normally be able to get all of your eligible weekly rent paid by Housing Benefit. Passported benefits are: Income Support Jobseeker's Allowance (income-based) Employment and Support Allowance (income-related) You will also normally be able to get all of your eligible Council Tax paid by Council Tax Support. Your eligible Council Tax is restricted to 77% of your Council Tax liability. Other household members can have an effect on your claim. You may get less than the maximum amount if you have any non-dependants sharing your home. If you are not in receipt of a passported benefit or you earn an income, we will compare your weekly income, including any added amount for your capital, with a standard amount which is set by the Government. This standard amount is called an Applicable Amount. The Applicable Amount is different for every person. It depends on a variety of factors, for example: your age whether or not you have a partner or children whether anyone in your household is disabled It is made up of Personal Allowances for general needs, and Premiums for special needs. Your Applicable Amount, and how it has been calculated, is shown on your decision letter. If your weekly income is less than, or the same as, your Applicable Amount, we pay the maximum benefit, less amounts for any Non-dependants. If your weekly income is more than your Applicable Amount we take 65p off your maximum Housing Benefit and 20p off your maximum Council Tax Support for each 1 your income is more than your Applicable Amount. Whilst the minimum Housing Benefit payable is 50p per week, there is no minimum Council Tax Support. 5 P age

6 Household Members Other people who live in your home may affect the amount of Housing and Council Tax Support we give you. When you fill in a benefit claim form, we ask you various questions about the people who live with you. Your Partner A partner is defined as - A person you are married to or a person you live with as if you are married to them, or A civil partner or a person you live with as if you are civil partners Your Dependants A Dependant is any member of your household whom you receive Child Benefit for. These are usually your own children, but could in certain circumstances be your brother or sister, niece, nephew or grandchildren. We can take child care costs into account if the child care is provided by a registered child-minder, nursery or after-school club. You will need to provide us with proof of your child care costs, including the registration number of the child care provider. You must tell us as soon as you stop receiving Child Benefit for any member of your household. If you don t tell us you may be overpaid benefit. Your Non-dependants A non-dependant is usually a person over 18 years old who normally lives with you but who is not: Your partner Someone whom you receive Child Benefit for Still in full or part time education A joint tenant or joint owner A sub-tenant A boarder (a person who pays rent to you and who receives meals) Non-dependants will usually be your adult children, relatives or friends, but can also include foster children, 16 to 18 year olds who aren t in further education and children of non-dependants. The Government assumes that the non-dependant should make a contribution to the household expenses. Therefore, we must make a deduction from any Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support we may award you to take this contribution into account. This is known as a Non-dependant Deduction. We do not treat money paid by a non-dependant for their keep as your income. Instead we 6 P age

7 make a fixed deduction from Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support based on the non-dependant s weekly income before any deductions such as income tax, national insurance, etc. The amount of the deduction depends upon the non-dependant s circumstances, for example their age and income. The income of non-dependant couples in a household is added together to establish what non-dependant deduction is applied. We must have all the non-dependant s income details so we can work out the correct amount of benefit / support we can award to you. If you cannot get all the information we need, please contact us straight away and explain the problem, as we may take the highest non-dependant deduction to avoid paying you too much benefit / support. There are certain circumstances where we will not reduce your benefit / support even though you have non-dependants living with you. These are if you or your partner: Receive Attendance Allowance Get the care component of Disability Living Allowance Get the Daily Living component of Personal Independence Payment Are registered blind In addition, we will not make a deduction if the non-dependant: Is under 18 Is under 25 and receiving Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance Is under 25 and in the assessment phase of Employment and Support Allowance Is a full time student, during their period of study Is in legal custody Has been in hospital for 52 weeks or more Receives a training allowance paid in connection with a youth training scheme Normally lives elsewhere All the non-dependants we know about in your household are listed on the notification letter, along with the amounts we have taken off your benefit for each one. Non-Dependant Deductions for Housing Benefit for For Non-dependants over the age of 18 who are working 16 hours or more per week, who have a gross weekly income of: Under to to to to and above For Non-dependants on Income Support or Income Based Job Seekers Allowance: Aged 25 or over P age

8 Aged under For Non-dependents on income related Employment and Support Allowance: Aged 25 or over Aged under 25 (assessment phase) 0.00 Aged under 25 (main phase) For Non-dependants working less than 16 hours per week, on maternity leave, paternity leave or sick leave, who are neither working nor on Income Support or Income Based Job Seekers Allowance (regardless of the level of their income) or who are receiving contribution based Employment and Support Allowance: For Non-dependants in receipt of Pension Credits: 0.00 Non-Dependant Deductions for Council Tax Support for For Non-dependants over the age of 18 who are working 16 hours or more per week, who have a gross weekly income of: Under to to and above For Non-dependants on Income Support, Income Based Job Seekers Allowance, or income related Employment and Support Allowance: 0.00 For Non-dependants working less than 16 hours per week, on maternity, paternity leave or sick leave, or who are neither working nor on Income Support or Income Based Job Seekers Allowance or who are receiving contribution based Employment and Support Allowance: 3.65 For Non-dependants in receipt of Pension Credits: 0.00 Your Weekly Income This section lets you know what we count as income when we work out your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support. It also tells you what evidence we'll need from you and how you can provide it. The money we count as income includes: earnings tax credits pensions other benefits capital over P age

9 If you have a partner sharing your home, we count your joint incomes and savings together. If you are getting Income Support, income-based Job Seeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, you will automatically get the maximum Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support we can pay based on your circumstances, less any charges for other people living with you and sharing your home. If you are not getting Income Support, income-based Job Seeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance we need to calculate your weekly income for benefit purposes. To do this we add together: any salary or wages you and your partner earn (we take off Income Tax, National Insurance contributions and half any private pension contributions first); plus any other income, benefits or allowances that you and your partner get. e.g. Employment and Support Allowance (Contributory), Tax Credits, etc.; plus an extra amount for any savings between 6,000 and 16,000, that you and your partner have. Your Capital You can still claim benefit / support from the council if you have savings or investments (we call this money capital) as long as you don't have more than 16,000. If you have a partner, your joint capital must be less than 16,000 to claim. If your capital is more than 6,000 but less than 16,000, your benefit / support may be affected. We add 1 to your weekly income figure for each 250 or part of 250 you have over 6,000. Any amount we have added in this way is shown on your letter. If you have less than 6,000 savings or you are getting Income Support or Income Based Job Seekers Allowance we ignore any savings when we work out your benefit / support. Your Weekly Rent If you live in a Council house we work out how much benefit you are entitled to by using the rent you are charged. If you rent from a Housing Association, we usually work out how much benefit you are entitled to by using the rent you are charged. If there are services included in your rent, some of these may not be eligible for benefit From April 2013, the Government will reduce the amount of Housing Benefit for working age Council or Housing Association tenants living in homes that are classed as too big for them, if they have spare bedrooms. 9 P age

10 Under these new national Housing Benefit rules you will be allowed 1 bedroom for: Each adult couple Any other person aged 16 or over 2 children of the same sex under the age of 16 2 children under the age of 10 regardless of their sex Any other child A carer (who does not normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care A child who is unable to share with another due to a disability If your house has more bedrooms than you are allowed under these new rules, then your Housing Benefit will be reduced. If you have 1 bedroom too many, then your Housing Benefit will be reduced by 14% of your weekly rent If you have 2 or more bedrooms too many, then your Housing Benefit will be reduced by 25% of your weekly rent If you are a tenant of a private landlord, in most cases your entitlement is worked out using Local Housing Allowance (LHA). Under LHA, your entitlement to Housing Benefit is based on the number of bedrooms you and your household needs up to a maximum of 4 bedrooms. The amount of rent we use in your benefit calculation is the lower of your actual rent or the LHA rate appropriate to your circumstances. The Rent Service set the LHA rates each year and you can find these on our website If the amount of rent used in your benefit calculation is lower than your actual rent then the difference cannot normally be covered by Benefit, but in certain cases of exceptional hardship you may be able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment. For more information, please see our Discretionary Housing Payment leaflet. If your rent is considered to be too high, the amount we have taken off will be shown on your letter. The part of the rent covered by Housing Benefit is called your Maximum Eligible Rent. Your Council Tax Council Tax Support is paid based on the weekly amount of Council Tax you have to pay. It is awarded for the entire financial year until the following April. Council Tax Discounts You may also be eligible for certain discounts to help with paying Council Tax on your home. It is very important to remember that if the amount of Housing Benefit we are paying does not cover all your rent, you are responsible for ensuring that your rent and is paid in full. 10 P age

11 If the Council Tax Support we re paying doesn't cover all your Council Tax, you are also responsible for ensuring that your Council Tax is paid in full. How Benefit or Support will be paid If you are a Sheffield Homes tenant, Housing Benefit will be paid directly to your rent account. If you rent your home from a private landlord, or a Housing Association, Housing Benefit can be paid either directly to yourself or to your landlord. The person who receives the payment is known as the payee. If your Housing Benefit is paid based on Local Housing Allowance, in almost all cases the benefit will be paid directly to you. If you have asked for Housing Benefit to be paid to you, we will usually pay directly into your bank account every two weeks in arrears. Although some claimants prefer to have their Housing Benefit paid to themselves, we usually have to pay your Housing Benefit straight to your landlord if you owe them eight weeks rent or more. In addition, we may decide that it is in your best interests to pay your Housing Benefit directly to your landlord. We pay Council Tax Support directly to your Council Tax account. Once the support has gone on to your account, the Council Tax department will send you a revised bill to show you how much Council Tax you still have to pay. What happens if my circumstances change? If your circumstances change, you should tell Sheffield Benefits Service about the changes as soon as possible. To make notifying us about changes easier, you can report changes online at For most changes in circumstances, we need you to report the change to us online, and supply supporting evidence. However, we may be able to take some changes over the telephone. These include: the award or end of a DWP benefit, or if the amount you receive changes the award or end of Tax Credits, or if the amount you receive changes some changes in payee details confirmation of the date that you moved into, or out of a property confirmation of a non dependant moving into, or out of your property notification that you wish to end your claim, or withdraw your claim if we haven't yet made a decision If you wish to report one of these changes, please contact the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support Helpline on P age

12 If you do not tell us about a change of circumstances within one calendar month of the change, you could be losing out - the change could result in an increase in your Housing Benefit. Similarly, if you do not tell us about changes in your circumstances, you may have to repay any Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support which you should not have received. The following list gives examples of changes you need to tell us about - A change to where you live. A change to who lives with you. If you start work. A change in your wages, private pension or any other income you receive. A change to the amount of rent you pay. If you start or stop receiving Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance. If you start or stop receiving any other benefit. If your capital, such as savings and investments, alters. Temporary absence from home. This is not an exhaustive list, these are only examples of changes you need to tell us about. If you are not sure whether a change will affect your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support tell us anyway. Temporary Absence from Home We can normally only pay you Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support if you are living at your property. However, there are certain special circumstances where Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support can still be paid, even if you are not currently living in your home but have a good reason for the absence and intend to return. This is called a temporary absence from home, and could apply for many reasons such as an extended holiday, or because you have to travel abroad for medical reasons. There are two rules that apply in cases of temporary absence from home. The 13-week rule Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support can continue to be paid for up to 13 weeks from when your absence from home begins, providing that: You intend to return to live in the property. The property has not been let or sub-let. You are unlikely to be absent for longer than 13 weeks. 12 P age

13 The 52-week rule Under this rule Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support can continue to be paid if you are absent from your home for longer than 13 weeks but less than 52 weeks providing that: You intend to return to the property. The property is not let or sub-let. You are unlikely to be absent for longer than 52 weeks. You are a prisoner on remand (not sentenced). You are a hospital in-patient. You, your partner or a dependant child are receiving medical treatment or convalescence away from home. You are providing medical care to someone away from your home. You are caring for a child whose parent or guardian is receiving medical treatment or care. You are on an approved training course. You are a student and would be eligible for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support if you were not absent from your home. You are under threat of violence if you remain at home. You are receiving care in a residential accommodation but only on a trial basis. Extended Payments / Reduction Although starting work can be a very positive change in your circumstances, it can also lead to some short-term practical problems, particularly if you have to wait for period of time before you receive any wages. If you were receiving Income Support, Jobseeker s Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance or Severe Disablement Allowance before you started work you may be able to claim up to 4 weeks Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support at the same rate you were claiming before. This is known as an Extended Payment / Reduction. Starting work after being in receipt of Income Based Jobseeker s Allowance (JSA(IB)), Income Related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA(IR)) or Income Support (IS) There are special rules governing who can claim an Extended Payment / Reduction, however, if you or your partner fulfil all the following criteria, you may be able to apply: You or your partner have started work, or increased your hours of work to at least 16 hours per week (24 hours in the case of your partner), or increased your earnings sufficiently to take you off IS/JSA(IB)/ESA(IR). You have been continuously entitled to and in receipt of IS/JSA(IB)/ESA(IR) or a combination of those benefits for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks before the day on which the entitlement to a qualifying income-related benefit ceased. Periods of Contribution based Jobseeker s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance will count towards the 26 weeks, however, you must be in receipt of either IS,JSA(IB) or ESA(IR) at the point you or your partner start work or increase your hours/earnings. 13 P age

14 Your new job or increase in hours/earnings must be expected to last for at least five weeks. You must be liable for rent and/or Council Tax, immediately before IS or JSA(IB) ended, and for the whole of the Extended Payment / Reduction period. Starting work after being in receipt of Incapacity (IB) or Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA), can I get an Extended Payment / Reduction? As above there are special rules governing who can claim an Extended Payment / Reduction, however, if you or your partner fulfil all the following criteria, you may be able to apply: You or your partner are receiving IB, ESA(C) or SDA which ceases due to you starting work as an employed or self-employed earner, increasing your hours of work, or increasing your earnings from your current employment. You have been continuously in receipt of IB, ESA(C) or SDA for at least 26 weeks immediately before IB/ESA(C)/SDA ceases (note: IS must not have been in payment during this period). Your new employment, or increase in hours or earnings is expected to last for at least 5 weeks. You must be liable for rent and/or Council Tax immediately before your claim for IB or SDA ceases. How do I claim an Extended Payment / Reduction? You must inform us within one calendar month of you or your partner starting working or increasing the hours that you work. We will then check to make sure that you meet the qualifying conditions. We will amend your benefit / support claim to continue to pay for up to 4 weeks from the Monday your JSA, IS, IB, ESA or SDA stopped. You will be paid at the same rate you already receive. We will write to you confirming this. At the end of the Extended Payment / Reduction period, if your income is low you may still be eligible to receive some Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support. You must also remember to tell your Department for Work and Pensions office or Jobcentre Plus that you have started work. What can I do if I think your decision is wrong? When you make a claim we work out how much Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support we can pay you based on the information and evidence that you provide with your claim form. When we have processed your claim we send you a Decision Letter, which tells you how much Benefit / Support we can pay you and how we have worked it out. We have produced a leaflet to tell you what to do if you disagree with our decision, or you would like further information about the decisions we have made. Please see our Appeals leaflet for more information. 14 P age

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