Housing Benefit (HB)

Who is it for?
People who have a liability to pay rent (e.g. excludes people living with and renting from close relatives).

Who pays it?
The local authority (district or borough council in County authorities)

Which leaflet? And how is it claimed?
LAs have their own leaflets and provide application form on request. Special arrangements for Income Support and income based ESA/JSA cases (who use HCTB1 supplied with those claim forms) and pension credit claimants (who can make initial application over the phone when claiming PC).

What are the age limits?
None, but claimant must be old enough to be liable to pay rent.

National Insurance based?
No (but claimants and partners need National Insurance number).

Means tested?
Yes, £16,000 savings cut-off with tariff income starting after £10,000 for people aged over 60), after £6000 for everyone else. No savings limit if getting guarantee element of pension credit. For those aged 60+, tariff income will be £1 per £500 in savings over £10,000. For under-60’s tariff income is £1/£250 over £6,000  

How long does it last?
Normally until circumstances change. LA no longer review periodically but it is a weekly benefit so changes have to be reported as they occur. HB ‘runs on’ unaffected by earnings for 4 weeks for some if IS, JSA, ESA or Incapacity Benefit claimants who starts work and is then re-calculated on earnings..

What is effect on other benefits?

Is it taxable?

Increases for dependants?
Each dependant is taken into account in the calculations. Benefit often reduced if non-dependants (e.g. adult children) are present, unless claimant is on Attendance Allowance/DLA Care.

Payable if in EU or other?
Linked to liability for rent, and can be paid during periods of absence. But check with LA.

Points to watch
Get further advice on payments on two homes at once, payments beore moving in and use of discretion by LA. HB can be backdated for 13 weeks for pensioneres and 26 weeks for non-pensioners. Child care costs can be offset against income, and neither child support nor child benefit count as income either. Care and support costs are met by Supporting People grant from local authority .Claimants can take disputes to independent Tribunals Service. Local housing allowance (LHA) introduced nationwide from April 2008 for tenants in private housing to replace Rent element of HB calculation. LHA is based on a flat rate payment linked to family size and locality. Payment of LHA will be to claimant not landlord but can be paid to landlord in some cases e.g. vulnerability, debt etc.

The A-Z of Benefits 2009 was compiled by Gary Vaux and Community Care.

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