How much benefit can I claim?

If you rent from a private landlord, Housing Benefit is worked out by using the Local Housing Allowance rate for you and your family, the rent
charged, whichever is lower and the income for you and your household.

If your rent is higher than the Local Housing Allowance rate for you and
your household you will have to make up the shortfall in your rent.

Housing Benefit awarded not using Local Housing Allowance can be
granted for up to 100% of your rent less

  • any deductions we make for other adults living with you. These people are called non-dependants (see section Non-Dependant Deductions);
  • heating, lighting, meals, water charges or insurance payments

The minimum amount of benefit paid is 50 pence per week.

You may be able to get help with the shortfall in your rent in certain
circumstances; this is known as a Discretionary Housing Payment. More information.

If you have savings or capital over £16,000 you will not be entitled to
Housing Benefit, unless you or your partner is in receipt of Guaranteed
Pension Credit. Some capital, including all capital under £6,000 is ignored.
For people who have reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit, all
capital under £10,000 is ignored.

What size property can I claim Housing Benefit for?

If you rent your property from a private landlord and claim for help with
your rent payments, your Housing Benefit will be worked out using Local
Housing Allowance.

How are the Local Housing Allowance rates worked out?

The Local Housing Allowance rates will be based on;

  • the Broad Rental Market Area you live in, and
  • the number of people who live in the household

The Valuation Service update the Local Housing Allowance rate figures for each area.

If you are moving to a new home you can find out the rate we will use to
work out your Housing Benefit, from our website.

Number of bedrooms your household needs

The general rule is one bedroom for each of the following:

  • a single claimant or every adult couple
  • any other single adult aged 16 or over
  • any two children under age 10
  • any two children of the same sex aged up to 15
  • any other child
  • a non resident carer

A bedroom is allowed for a carer who stays overnight on a regular basis
to look after you or your partner, or a non-dependant disabled adult or
disabled child, who lives with you, or if you are unable to share a bedroom with your partner because of a physical, medical disability. They must also be in receipt of one of the following:

  • middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), or
  • Attendance Allowance (AA), or
  • the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), or
  • the Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP).

There must be a spare bedroom available for them to use. Where you have more than one disabled person living in your household, you will only be allowed one bedroom to be used by the carer. In these circumstances you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment if you are still affected by the under occupancy rules and have a shortfall in your rent. See more information on Discretionary Housing Payments.

A room is allowed for a foster child, provided there is a spare room
available and you or your partner are approved foster carers. Sons,
daughters, step-sons and step-daughters in the armed forces who live with their parents will still continue to have a room allocation if they are away from home when deployed on operations.

The maximum bedroom allowance for Local Housing Allowance is 4
bedrooms, even if you need 5 bedrooms or more.

We only count children who normally live at the property and you also get Child Benefit for. The number of living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms is ignored. Children aged 10 or over of different sexes are not expected to share a bedroom.

If you live in private rented accommodation and occupy one room and
share some facilities with other people, for example a kitchen or bathroom, there is a shared room rate which will be used to calculate your claim.

If you are under 35 and live alone, in most cases your claim will be
calculated using the shared accommodation rate.

There are some claimants under 35 who live alone who are exempt from
being assessed using the shared accommodation rate, they include:-

  • anyone who receives the care component of Disability Living Allowance at the middle or highest rate or the Daily Living Allowance of Personal Independence Payments and no-on receives Carers Allowance for looking after them
  • people under the age of 22 who were previously under the care of the local authority as children
  • ex-offenders aged 25 to 34 who are subject to Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA)
  • people aged 25 to 34 who have stayed in homeless hostels providing support, for any time that adds up to 3 months or more

If you live in Registered Social Housing and are of working age your Housing Benefit will be reduced if you under occupy your home.

Will I be affected?

Yes if you are:

  • single or a couple below pensionable age and
  • you receive Housing Benefit and
  • you have a spare bedroom in your property

How will this affect my Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit will be restricted to the number of bedrooms you need,
the same rules as Local Housing Allowance (see number of bedrooms your household needs). For every spare bedroom you have, a reduction will be made to your full eligible rent before your Housing Benefit is worked out.

There are two levels of reduction - see below how much your full eligible
rent will be reduced by if you have a spare bedroom(s).

  • 14% reduction for one spare bed room and
  • 25% reduction for two or more spare bed rooms

It is important to notify us if anyone moves in or out of your property as this may affect the amount of benefit you receive.

Are all social housing tenants affected?

No. The following will not be affected if they under occupy their home:

  • single claimants who have reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit
  • couples where one or both have reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit
  • anyone who pays rent as part of a shared ownership property
  • people living in temporary accommodation as part of homeless provision

What information will I have to give?

When you make a claim online, you will be sent an email with a link to send us any documents we have asked for. Alternatively, you can upload it from the website.

How is my benefit worked out?

Your benefit is worked out by comparing your total net weekly income with your applicable amount. This is the allowance set by the Government to take account of your individual or family’s needs. If your income is less than or the same as your applicable amount, you will get the full amount of eligible Housing Benefit less any non-dependant deductions. If your income is more than your applicable amount then your Housing Benefit will be reduced by 65p for each £1.00 that your income is over your applicable amount and by any non-dependant deductions.

What income is used?

We use net income; this is what is left after tax, National Insurance and
half your pension contribution is taken out. Before your benefit is worked
out we allow you certain disregards from your wages.

  • Single Claimants £5.00
  • Couples £10.00
  • Disabled Claimants and Carers £20.00
  • Lone Parents £25.00

In addition there is an earnings disregard of £17.10 if you or your partner is
working over 30 hours each week, or over 16 hours for certain people.

We also look at other types of income including most state benefits, Tax
Credits, and occupational or private pensions. We also take an income
from any savings, investments or capital you or your partner may have over £6,000, for people of working age and over £10,000 for people of
pensionable age.

Certain types of income, although they need to be declared, are not taken
into account in the calculation of your Housing Benefit. These include:

• Child Benefit
• Disability Living Allowance (care and mobility components)
• Personal Independence Payment
• Attendance Allowance
• War Widows Pension
• War Disablement Pension
• Voluntary Payments
• Child maintenance you receive
• Permitted Work (i.e. earnings allowed by the Jobcentre Plus for people
receiving certain sickness benefits.)

If you pay for childcare to a registered childminder, an approved provider
such as a local authority holiday scheme, or nursery, we may allow you up to £175 per week for one child or £300 per week for two or more children in approved childcare.

Non-dependant deductions

The following non-dependant deductions are made for other adults aged 18 or over that live with you, for example grown up sons or daughters.

£15.60 per week  for those who have gross income of less than £143 per week.
£35.85 per week for those who have gross income of £143 to £208.99
per week.
£49.20 per week for those who have gross income of £209 to £271.99
per week.
£80.55 per week for those who have gross income of £272 to £362.99
per week.
£91.70 per week for those who have gross income of £363 to £450.99
per week.
£100.65 per week for those who have gross income of £451 or more
per week.
£15.60 per week aged 25 or over and on Income Support or income based
Jobseeker’s Allowance, Contribution-based
Employment and Support Allowance, income-related or Employment and Support Allowance Main Phase
from week 14, or Universal Credit without earnings.
£15.60 per week For all others, aged 18 or over (Including those who
work for less than 16 hours per week).

There is no deduction taken for non dependants who are getting Pension
Credits, or who are under 25 and getting, Income Support, income-based
Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support
Allowance in the assessment phase up to week 13, or Universal Credit
without earnings.

We do not take non-dependant deductions from your benefit if you or your partner are registered blind, are receiving Attendance Allowance, or the Care Component of Disability Living Allowance, or Personal Independence Payment.

How is it paid?

If your Housing Benefit is worked out using Local Housing Allowance you will have it paid direct into your bank or building society account every two weeks. If you do not have one, see our website for further help.

You can only have it paid to your landlord in certain circumstances, if:

  • you are having difficulty managing your financial affairs
  • you are 8 weeks or more behind with your rent
  • you are having arrears of rent paid back to your landlord from certain social security benefits
  • you are unlikely to pay your rent
  • direct payments to your landlord will help you secure or keep a tenancy and your rent is affordable and comparable to your local housing allowance rate

We may ask you to provide us with reasons and evidence as to why we
should pay your landlord.

If you are renting from a Housing Association or Registered Social
Landlord, you have a choice of two ways:

  • directly to you every two weeks
  • directly to your landlord every four weeks

How soon will I be paid?

Payment should be made in 14 days if we have all the relevant information. If we do not have enough information to make a final decision then a payment on account may be made.

Why am I not getting all my rent paid?

This could be because:

  • your rent is higher than the Local Housing Allowance rate
  • the Rent Service had placed a restriction on how much would have been covered by Housing Benefit
  • your rent includes something which you cannot claim e.g. water rates, fuel charges
  • your income or capital (savings) is too high. If your capital is more than £16,000 you will not be entitled to benefit, unless you or your partner are in receipt of Guaranteed Pension Credit
  • you have someone over 18 living with you; this is known as a non-dependant deduction and varies with that person’s income and circumstances
  • your Housing Benefit is based on the maximum Local Housing Allowance of 4 bedrooms

When does my claim start from?

Your benefit will usually be awarded from the Monday after your claim has been received. Unless your form is received during the week in which you took up your tenancy, in which case benefit will be awarded from the day you moved in and became liable for rent. Your claim must be received within that week or within one month if you or your partner is in receipt of, either income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, or income-based Employment and Support Allowance.

In other cases benefit will be awarded from the Monday after you first
asked to claim, provided your claim form is received by the Benefit Service within a month of that date.

If, due to exceptional circumstances, you were unable to claim at the
correct time, it may be possible to backdate your benefit. If you think this
may apply to you:

  • put your request in writing
  • provide details of the date you wish to claim and the reason why you did not claim earlier. You should provide evidence to support your claim.

Claim backdated benefit.

We will then consider whether you have shown good cause for not claiming earlier. This can be paid for a maximum of 1 month for working age people. People who have reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit may have their claim treated as made earlier up to a maximum of 3 months, without having to show good cause.

Can I receive help towards rent before I move in?

This may be possible if:

  • your new home address needs to be adapted to accommodate a member of your family who has a disability
  • you get a disability premium or a disabled child premium included in your benefit calculation
  • you were a patient or in residential accommodation when you became liable to make payments

Also, you or your partner must not be liable to make payments for any
other property at the time of moving in.

You must apply as soon as you take the tenancy. You will only receive
payment once you have moved into the property and only for a maximum of four weeks.

What if I have to leave my home temporarily?

Housing Benefit can be paid for a maximum of 13 weeks during an absence from your home if:

  • you intend to return home
  • your home is not or sub-let during your period of absence, and
  • you expect your absence to be less than 13 weeks
  • if your absence is outside of Great Britain, in most cases we will only pay Housing Benefit for 4 weeks

In some circumstances, you may be temporarily absent for up to 52 weeks and still get benefit. For example, if you are:

  • a prisoner on remand
  • a vulnerable student
  • absent through fear of violence
  • a hospital in-patient
  • in a residential care home on a temporary basis
  • receiving medically approved treatment, care or convalescence.

What if my circumstances change?

If there is a change in your income or household circumstances you must let us know straightaway, or you may lose benefit. If the change gives you more benefit, but you did not tell us within a month of it happening, your benefit will increase from the Monday following the date you told us. You can do this online or by letter to: Benefits Service, Wirral Council, PO Box 290, Wallasey. CH27 9FQ.

It is an offence to fail to report a change in circumstances, which may lead to the issuing of a sanction. This could include a fine, prison sentence or a police record.

What if I change address?

If you get benefit you should tell us the date you moved and details of your new address in writing and details of any other changes in your circumstances.

A change of address form is available online.

If you are receiving any benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions, for example Income Support, you must also let them know you have moved.

What if I have a query?

You can visit our website for more information or email us at:
housingbenefits@wirral.gov.uk