Claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit

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1 Claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit Hammersmith & Fulham Council

2 What are housing benefit and council tax benefit? Housing benefit and council tax benefit are means tested benefits designed to help you pay for your eligible rent or council tax if you are on a low income. They can be claimed whether you (or your partner) are working or claiming state benefits. What is eligible rent? This is your rental liability whether you pay it to a private landlord, a housing association or for a council property. Your eligible rent does not include personal service charges like heating and hot water, water rates, lighting, meals, care and support. These are not covered by housing benefit. Do I qualify? You will not be entitled to housing benefit or council tax benefit if any of the following criteria apply to you: If you have savings of over 16,000 (unless you are receiving guaranteed pension credit) If you live in the home of a close relative If you re a full time student (unless you are disabled or have children) If you re an asylum seeker or do not usually live in the UK: Housing benefit cannot be used to pay a mortgage. 2

3 How much housing and council tax benefit could I get? When we calculate how much housing and council tax benefit you are entitled to, we must take into account the following factors: Your income Your capital Your savings and investments The amount of rent you pay The amount of council tax you pay Your personal circumstances, such as your age and whether you have a disability The composition of your household, such as a partner and/ or dependant children If you receive job seeker's allowance (income based), income support, employment and support allowance (income related) or guaranteed pension credit, we may be able to pay your eligible rent in full or your whole council tax bill. Find out how much housing and council tax benefit you could get by using our online benefit calculator on Claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit 3

4 Second adult rebate If you do not receive main council tax benefit, you may be entitled to a Second Adult Rebate. This applies if you share your home with someone on a low income, who is not your partner, and who does not pay you rent. Second Adult Rebate is always based on the other person s circumstances so we don t need to know about your income and savings. Childcare costs If you pay childcare costs, we can take these into account when calculating your housing and council tax benefit entitlement. We can ignore up to 175 of your weekly income if you pay childcare costs for one child. This could increase to 300 a week if you pay costs for two or more children, so this means that your benefit award may go up. How do I claim? You can make a claim online. Find out if you qualify for benefit by using our online benefit calculator first. If you find you are entitled, complete and submit the online form. When should I make my claim? Straight away. We usually pay benefit from the Monday after we receive your claim form. If we receive your form within the same week you move in, we will pay you from the date you moved in. Our benefit week begins on a Monday and ends on a Sunday. If you get jobseeker s allowance (income-based), income support or guaranteed pension credit, we will pay you from the date you moved in, but only if you claim within a month of moving in. If you are a pensioner, we will automatically pay you from 13 weeks before the date we receive your form. 4

5 What information do I need to supply for my benefit claim? We will ask you to provide proof of your identity and National Insurance number. We must also see evidence of your rent and income (such as wage slips and state benefits). Depending on your circumstances, we may also ask you to provide proof of all your capital over 6,000 (such as bank/building society accounts) and any investments. All documents we request must be originals. We do not accept photocopies. What if I delay in claiming? You can ask for your benefit to be backdated for a maximum of 26 weeks before the date you make a claim (13 weeks if you are a pensioner). Before we can award any backdated benefit, you must have a good reason why you did not claim on time. You must write to us explaining the period you want your claim backdated for and provide full details and supporting evidence of why you delayed to claim benefit. We will consider whether we can backdate your claim and notify you in writing of our decision. Claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit 5

6 What if there are other people living with me? Friends, relatives or anyone over 18 living in your home (except for your partner) are known as 'nondependants. A fixed deduction may be taken from your weekly benefit entitlement for each non-dependant living with you depending on their age and circumstances. If you have a non-dependant living with you who is under 25 and receiving income support or job seeker s allowance (income based), a deduction will not be taken from your weekly benefit award. This also applies if your non-dependant is a fulltime student. If you have a non-dependant living with you who works, a deduction will be made from your weekly benefit award depending on how much their gross weekly income is. The amount of this deduction is set yearly by the government. 6

7 How will I be notified of any benefit award? We will send you a benefit award letter by post. This will detail your award start date, the amount of benefit awarded, how it will be paid, its frequency and a breakdown of how we calculated your award. To help you understand your benefit letter in more detail, please take a look at Once your benefit claim is processed, you will be able to check your benefit details online via My Account What is My Account myaccount? This is a secure online service available to all our benefit claimants. Create an account with us at and you can log in with your own password at any time. If you require details of your current award, payments, basic information used to work out your benefit award or details of an outstanding overpayment, My Account is the quickest way to find out. My Account also allows you to check your council tax account, renew a parking permit etc. Claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit 7

8 Do you rent accommodation from a private landlord? If you rent from a private landlord and make a new claim for benefit, the amount you receive may be restricted depending on the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) that applies to your household. The Local Housing Allowance rates are now set by the Rent Service once a year running from April to March en/diol1/doitonline/dg_ The weekly LHA rate in any area cannot be more than: 250 for a one bedroom property 290 for a two bedroom property 340 for a three bedroom property 400 for a four bedroom property The LHA rate is decided by where you live and the age and number of people living with you. The rate that applies to you will last for 12 months (unless the number of people who live with you changes or you move house). The current LHA rates for Hammersmith & Fulham can be found at under Local Housing Allowance. If you are single and under 35 years old, the amount of housing benefit you receive may be restricted to the amount for a room in shared accommodation. 8

9 How will my housing and council tax benefit be paid? If you are a council tenant, we will pay housing benefit directly into your rent account. If you rent from a housing association, we will pay your benefit directly to them by bank transfer or if requested, into your bank account. If you are more than eight weeks behind with your rent, we may pay your landlord even if you ask us to pay you. For new claims from a private landlord, benefit will be paid into your bank account unless we decide you are vulnerable or where it will help you to obtain or keep a tenancy. In this case, we may be able to pay your landlord directly. Further details on our vulnerability procedure can be found at under Local Housing Allowance. If you are awarded council tax benefit, we will pay this directly into your account. Claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit 9

10 Do you have a shortfall in your rent or council tax? The Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) scheme can help you with further financial assistance with your housing costs and council tax. You must complete a DHP application form which is available to download online. As we are allocated a limited budget by central government, we will look closely at your personal circumstances and your finances and may award a DHP if you are suffering hardship. This award may not cover the full shortfall in your rent or council tax. As this is a discretionary payment, there is no formal right of appeal but you can have the decision looked at independently within a month of the date of our letter. If you disagree with our decision If you are refused housing or council tax benefit or are unhappy with our decision, you can ask us to look at our decision again. You must do this in writing within a month of the date of our decision. If you are still dissatisfied with the outcome, you can appeal to the independent Tribunals Service: 10

11 If you need to contact us Using our website helps the council save money and keeps council tax levels down so we encourage you to go online: create an account for details of an existing housing or council tax benefit claim For more detailed information, please refer to our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ s) at Alternatively you may: Telephone: Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm A or B C to F G to L M to R S to Z For addresses beginning with: address: In person by appointment only: h&f Direct Centre 1st floor Town Hall Extension King Street London, W6 9JU You can book an appointment online by going to our Contact us link under Typetalk: Fax: Write to us: h&f Direct 1st floor Town Hall Extension King Street London, W6 9JU Claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit 11

12 If you would like any part of this document produced in large print or Braille, please telephone July File: Bk.HSR Claiming Housing and Council Tax Benefit.

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