Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support
What are Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support?
If your family, or someone who lives with you, is on a low income you may be able to receive help to pay your rent, or council tax. You do not have to be in receipt of another State Benefit to apply for these awards.Housing Benefit provides financial help for those on low incomes who have to rent their homes. It can cover both housing association rents and privately rented accommodation (though Housing Benefit payments do not meet all housing costs and you would be expected to pay for items such as fuel, water rates, or meals, if these types of services are included in your rent).
Council Tax Benefit was replaced by a scheme called Council Tax Support on 1st April 2013, and is awarded to those on low incomes, to help them pay their Council Tax.
Who can apply?
Generally, anyone with a low income treated as having a genuine legal responsibility for rent and/or anyone charged Council Tax on a property that they live in. If you are in any doubt that you may be able to claim, claim anyway. If the rules do not allow you to apply for either award, we will write to you and explain why.
If you have savings of £16,000 or more (and are not in receipt of the ‘guaranteed' element of ‘Pension Credit') you would not qualify for either Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support. The amount of your savings would not affect an award of ‘Second Adult Rebate'.
How can I apply?
Application forms are available by writing to the Benefits Office at South Worcestershire Revenues and Benefits Shared Services, PO Box 11, PERSHORE, WR10 1PU, telephone 03004 560560 or from one of our Customer Service Centres, alternatively you can apply online using the link below. Recognised applications for Housing Benefit can also be made via the Department for Work and Pensions, when certain state benefits are applied for.
Self Employed Earnings Form (only to be used if you are self employed, and do not have prepared accounts)
Do not delay sending in your application. The date you send in your application may establish when your entitlement will start. Further information can be sent in up to 1 month after you have submitted your application.
How will my application be calculated?
Basically, a claim is worked out by looking at the weekly amount of income and savings that you and your partner (if applicable) have, and comparing that total with your personal ‘applicable amount' (the figure the government uses to assess the basic needs of a family in your situation). The difference between these two figures acts as a starting point for the rest of the calculation (the bigger this amount is, the less the award).
The amount of Housing Benefit received would also be dependant on the rent that you are charged. If you rent from a private landlord we have to use figures set by the independent Rent Officer Service, which are based on the size of your home, and the area you live in. Housing Benefit for those cases is called Local Housing Allowance.
As Housing Benefit is paid for a benefit week (Monday through to Sunday), you should note that the rent that you are charged will be changed to a weekly figure before the award is worked out.
Council Tax Support is worked out after all the set discounts have been used to reduce your basic Council Tax bill (discounts automatically reduce your Council Tax bill if you meet certain conditions. Further information on these reductions can be found on the Council Tax web page).
Awards of Housing Benefit or Council Tax Suppoprt may also be reduced by set amounts taken for 'non-dependants' who live in the property (those over the age of 16 with no recognised legal responsibility to pay rent for living at the address, such as an adult son or daughter, elderly relatives or a friend). The amount of the deduction is determined by the age and income of the non-dependant.
Important information about the national minimum wage
From 1 April 2016 the minimum wage for over 25s is increasing from £6.70 an hour to £7.20 an hour. This may affect the amount of Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support you receive from us.
If you are affected by this change, please ensure that you tell us immediately and provide proof of your increased pay as soon as you receive it. If you do not tell us about this change, you may be overpaid Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support which you will have to pay back.
What information will I have to provide?
You will be required to provide proof of all recent income and savings for all the members of your family. You must provide evidence of all income even if that income is another State Benefit.
Employers Certificate of Earnings (only to be used when you do not receive proper payslips from your employer)
You will also need to provide evidence of identity for both you and your partner, to prove that you are who you claim to be, and that you are actually living at the address on your application form.
If you are renting from a private landlord you must provide evidence that you are being charged rent and that the arrangement is legally binding and has not been created specifically to obtain Housing Benefit.
Proof of Rent form (only to be used when you do not have a proper tenancy agreement)If you have a ‘non dependant', you are required to provide proof of their income as well.
All documents you provide must be original. We cannot accept photocopies. For this reason you are not advised to send original documents through the post. We would suggest that you personally take them to our offices in The Hive. They will then verify that the documents are genuine and copy them for your file.
I now receive Pension Credit - am I eligible for Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support?
Introduced in October 2003, Pension Credit is an award for those reaching the qualifying age on a low income. It guarantees a minimum income for everyone over this age. The Pension Service may be able to backdate Pension Credit up to a maximum of 3 months prior to the date you make your claim with them.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support are 'means tested' so income received from Pension Credit would affect the amount of Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support that is paid. We have to use the figures given to us by The Pension Service in relation to your income and savings, however there may be occasions when we ask you to provide information directly to us.
You should also note that if you have savings of £16,000 or more you would not qualify for either Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support (the only exception to this rule would be if you were to receive the ‘guaranteed' element of Pension Credit. If you receive this award it is possible to have more than £16,000 and still qualify for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support).
When will my entitlement start?
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support usually starts from the Monday following the date we receive a recognised application form. Sometimes the entitlement can run from an earlier date if you can demonstrate that you had a good reason for failing to submit the form (for example, you were in hospital at the time). This is called backdating. If agreed, the Council can only backdate a claim a maximum of
- 3 months if you are of pensionable age* or
- 1 month if you are of working age
* if you are a male between 60 and 64 years of age or have a partner who is of working age, different rules may apply to you. Please contact us for further advice.
What can I do if I don't agree with a Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support decision?
You can write in within 1 calendar month and ask us to look at your application again. You must identify clearly the decision in question and give full reasons why you disagree with it. A senior officer will then examine your case to ensure it has been dealt with correctly.
If we cannot change the decision in your favour, you can appeal. For Housing Benefit this must be done within 1 month of being notified of the original decision. An independent tribunal, arranged by the Appeals Service, would have to consider the dispute. You would then have an opportunity to present your case before a legally qualified panel. For Council Tax Support, there are no time limits on when you can appeal. You must appeal to us first, an if you are still not happy with the outcome, you can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal.
If you decide to appeal instead of asking the section to look at the application again, you would still have to identify the decision that you disagree with and give full reasons why you think it is incorrect.
We have a duty under law to administer a benefits service to people who qualify in our area. At the same time we are responsible for ensuring that payments are only made to those people who are actually entitled to receive them.
We constantly monitor benefit claims, looking for any suspicious circumstances or information, but no matter how much effort we put in to this, we cannot do it alone - we need your help.
If you suspect someone is committing Housing Benefit Fraud you can report this in three ways.
Contact the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440. Your call is free and confidential. You do not have to give your name or address. Lines are open Monday to Friday 8.00am to 6.00pm.
If you have speech or hearing problems you can use a text phone service on 0800 328 0512 or Welsh speakers can call on 0800 678 3722.
NBFH, PO Box 224, Preston, PR1 1GP
If you suspect someone is committing Council Tax Support Fraud you can contact the Council on 01386 565280. You do not have to give your name or address when you call. The information you provide would be treated in the strictest confidence.
Alternatively, you can write to Council Tax Support Investigations Team, South Worcestershire Revenues and Benefits Shared Services, PO Box 11, Pershore, Worcs, WR10 1PU.
You can also e-mail the investigations team: firstname.lastname@example.org
Types of Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support Fraud
- Claimants who are in receipt of Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support on the basis of entitlement to Job Seekers Allowance/Income Support and are in fact working.
- Failure to declare either savings/capital or the ownership of another property/land elsewhere (for which they may be receiving rent).
- Failure to declare all of their income knowing the non-declaration will increase their benefit award.
- Claimants on Income Support/Job Seekers Allowance failing to declare the presence of a partner who is working, knowing this would preclude their entitlement.
- Failure to declare the presence of other adults in the property in order to preserve or increase entitlement to benefit.
- Owners of properties falsely claiming that they are in fact paying rent for the property and inventing a fictitious landlord. In these circumstances false rent books, Tenancy Agreements are provided.
- Failure to declare that he/she has moved but continues to accept payments of Housing Benefit for the address.
- Claimants who claim for an address at which they are not in fact living. These types of offences may occur with the collusion of the landlord or other tenants.
- Landlords who continue to receive benefit and are aware that the claimant has left the premises. Where the landlord has access to more than one property there is the potential to move tenants around without informing the Local Authority.
How can I get in touch?
If you wish to speak to someone regarding your Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support please call 03004 560560.Please note calls may be recorded for training and monitoring purposes.
If you have a question regarding an invoice you have received for overpaid Housing Benefit you should call 03004 560560.
If you have any further comments, suggestions or complaints please feel free to write to us at South Worcestershire Revenues and Benefits Shared Services, PO Box 11, PERSHORE, WR10 1PU , alternatively, you can fax us on 01386 565580.
You should note that Council Tax enquiries should be directed to the Council Tax department and NOT the Benefits Section. See the contact details page.