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Guide to housing benefit

Guide to housing benefit

1. What housing benefit is

Housing benefit helps you pay part or all of your rent if you’re on a low income.

With some exceptions, housing benefit is being replaced by a new benefit called Universal Credit. For many people, Universal Credit covers housing costs, so you don’t have to make a separate housing benefit claim. 

Universal Credit in Bristol

Universal Credit is being introduced across Bristol by postcode area from June to October 2018. 

Check your postcode to see when Universal Credit will affect you. If you’re not affected yet, you may still be able to claim housing benefit.

By October 2018, all postcode areas in Bristol will be covered by Universal Credit and only a limited number of working age people will be able to apply for housing benefit from that date.
 

2. Who can get housing benefit

If Universal Credit has started in your area

You should apply for housing benefit if you’re in one of the following groups:

  • you live in a refuge, hostel or supported accommodation
  • you or your partner are old enough to get state pension  
  • you have three or more children 

If Universal Credit hasn’t started in your area

To claim housing benefit you must be either a:

  • council tenant or private tenant 
  •  sub-tenant or lodger

Check if you’re eligible to claim Housing Benefit

Before you apply, use our benefits calculator to check you’re entitled to claim housing benefit.

3. Who can’t claim housing benefit

Usually, you won’t get housing benefit if:

  • you rent your home from a close relative who lives in the same house
  • you own the property you're claiming benefit for, or have a mortgage on that property
  • you and your partner have joint savings or investments of more than £16,000
  • you're a foreign national subject to immigration control
  • you're getting or are eligible to claim Universal Credit
     

4. Apply for housing benefit

Supporting documents for your claim

You and your partner must provide proof of identification, such as a passport or driver’s licence.

You may also need to send us other supporting evidence. After you’ve submitted the online form, we’ll contact you if we need more information. 

You can upload more documents after you submit your claim. 

Before you apply, check if Universal Credit has been introduced in your area.

Apply for housing benefit

If you’ve started a claim and have your citizen access key code, you can continue filling in the online form.

5. How we make a decision about your claim

How long we take to process your claim

We’ll contact you within 21 working days to tell you if you’re entitled to housing benefit.

We’ll send you a benefit decision letter by post or email when your claim has been decided. 

How much you get depends on:

  • your household income, including benefits and pensions
  • savings and investments over £6,000 for those of working age and over £10,000 for those old enough to get state pension
  • your circumstances, for example the age of people in the house, or if someone has a disability

If you’re a council or housing association tenant how much you get also depends on:

  • your eligible rent, which is the maximum amount of rent your housing benefit can cover, can be less than your actual rent and cannot cover service charges, such as water rates
  • the number of spare bedrooms you have if you’re under pension age

If you rent from a private landlord, how much you get depends on the Local Housing Allowance. The amount of Local Housing Allowance may be lower than your actual rent. 
 

6. How we pay your housing benefit

Council tenants

If you're a council tenant, we'll pay your benefit direct to your rent account.

Housing association tenants

Usually, we'll pay your benefit direct to your landlord every four weeks in arrears. 

If you've asked us to, we can pay your benefit direct to your bank account every two weeks in arrears. This means the two weeks that have just passed.

Private tenants

If you’re a private tenant, we pay housing benefit directly into your bank account every two weeks in arrears. The date we pay you might be different to the date your rent is due. 

It’s your responsibility to manage your finances and pay your landlord.

Payments direct to landlords

Sometimes we'll pay your benefit direct to the landlord.  Examples of when we do this include if you're:

  • more than eight weeks behind with your rent
  • having or have had problems paying your rent 
     

7. Claim backdated benefit

If you’re older than state pension age

If you’re older than state pension age, we’ll automatically backdate your claim by up to three months if you qualify based on your circumstances at the time: 

  • if you were of pension age throughout or within the three months
  • you reached pension age within the three months

If you’re under state pension age

If you’re under pension age, you must let us know if you want your claim to be backdated when you fill in the form.

We can sometimes backdate your claim for up to one month from the date we get your written request for backdating. You'll need to tell us why you didn’t make your claim earlier. For example, you were seriously ill and nobody could make your claim for you.

We may ask you to provide extra information about your reasons for not claiming sooner.
 

8. Other help you may be entitled to

Council tax reduction

If you don't pay rent, but your name appears on the council tax bill you may be eligible for council tax reduction.

Extra help towards your rent

You may be able to apply for a short-term discretionary housing payment if you’ve been awarded housing benefit or universal credit and need help with paying your full eligible rent.