Frequently Asked Questions - Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit
- Can partly or completely pay the rent and council tax on your home;
- Can be paid to people of all ages on a low income;
- Can be claimed both at the same time or individually.
Am I entitled to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit?
You may be entitled to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit if:
- You work full or part time and receive a low wage;
- You receive Employment and Support Allowance, or other contribution-based state benefits;
- You receive Income Support or other income-based benefits such as Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit;
- You are retired and have a low income.
You probably won’t qualify for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit if:
- You have savings of more than £16,000;
- You are a student (unless you are disabled or have children);
- You pay rent to live with a close relative.
Another way to reduce the amount of Council Tax you pay:
There is another way to reduce the amount of Council Tax you pay. You may be eligible for Second Adult Rebate if you are liable for Council Tax and there is another adult living with you who is:
- Aged 18 or over
- Not your partner
- On a low income
- Not paying you rent
This benefit is based on the income of the second adult, rather than your own. You cannot get both Council Tax Benefit and Second Adult Rebate so we will check which of these benefits would be best for you.
Everyone’s circumstances are different so it is difficult to know how much Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit a person might receive until they have completed and submitted a claim form and provided original supporting documentation of all their income, capital and rent liability (if applicable). The information below will tell you if you are likely to be eligible and how we work out your entitlement. If after reading it, you think you may be entitled, pick up a claim form from Contact Wrexham, alternatively write, telephone or email us.
When we work out how much benefit you are entitled to we use the following information:
- how much rent and Council Tax you pay;
- how much money you, and your partner if you have one, receive each week;
- who lives with you;
- how much you, and your partner if you have one, have in capital assets.
Housing Benefit can be paid if you rent from the council, a Housing Association or a private landlord.
If you rent from the Council or a Housing Association, any benefit entitlement is calculated based on the amount of rent (less ineligible services) you are charged per week.
If you rent from a Private Landlord, your Housing Benefit is normally calculated using the Local Housing Allowance rate applicable to the month in which you claim benefit and takes into account the number of people living with you, their ages and the number of rooms you could reasonably require. There are some exceptions to this i.e. houseboats and caravans.
Some items, such as fuel charges for heating and lighting etc., or insurance payments, which are sometimes paid for in an inclusive rent, are not eligible for benefit.
We assess the money that your household receives in a week to work out your income for benefit purposes. This can be from full or part time work, a pension or from other benefits. Some items of income, such as Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance are not counted as income, but you must still tell us about all the money you receive so that we can carry out an accurate assessment. Income from capital, such as interest or dividends are not counted, but a standard amount may be added to your weekly income figure (see below).
Your assessed income figure is compared with a set of allowances the Government has set. The standard allowances are increased in certain circumstances, such as if you have dependant children or if you are disabled.
If your income is less than your allowance, you are entitled to maximum Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.
If you receive Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit), Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income-Based Employment Support Allowance you are entitled to maximum Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.
If your income exceeds your allowance, your entitlement is your maximum eligible rent/council tax reduced by a percentage of your excess income. So the more income you have, the less benefit you will get. If you, or your partner if you have one, receive Attendance Allowance or the care component of Disability Living Allowance this will be disregarded in any benefit calculation.
Who lives with you:
Your allowance is increased for each dependant child living with you. However, you may have some money deducted from your housing benefit and council tax benefit entitlement if you have any non-dependant adults over 18 living with you.
The amount we deduct has been set by Government and increases according to the income of the non-dependant person, so we have to ask you about this. In the absence of any details, the maximum deduction is applied.
The deduction is applied because it is reasonable to expect a person living in your home to contribute to the rent and council tax. You do not have to tell us about the actual amount you may receive from a non-dependant member of your household.
Your savings and investments:
The figures below are the same for a single person and for a couple.
If you have over £16,000 in capital assets, you will not qualify for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, unless you are over pension age and qualify for the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit;
If you are both under pension age and have under £6,000 in capital assets, your benefit entitlement will not be affected. If you are over pension age then this figure increases to £10,000.
If you have between £6,000/£10,000 and £16,000 we will assess an income from your capital and add it in to the income figure assessed.
Even if you know your capital assets will not affect your entitlement you must declare everything in your claim so that we can make an accurate assessment.
What happens if my circumstances change when I am claiming Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Benefit?
If you are entitled to benefit and your circumstances change you must inform us immediately. If you don’t, you may receive too much or too little Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. Some of the more common changes are listed below:
- Any changes in your (or your partner’s) income or the source of your income (such as if you stop getting one Social Security benefit and receive another, if your earnings increase or your hours at work reduce).
- Any change in the circumstances of people living in your home (such as starting work or leaving school).
- Changes in the number of people in your home (such as children leaving home or taking in a lodger).
If we pay you more Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit than you are entitled to because you did not tell us about a change in your circumstances straightaway, you will have to repay us the overpaid benefit.
If we pay you too little benefit because you did not tell us about a change in your circumstances straightaway, you may lose the right to the arrears of underpaid benefit.
If you are not sure if the change in your circumstances will affect your benefit, tell us about it straightaway.
To claim you will need to fill in a claim form and return it to us. You can pick this up at Contact Wrexham or any local Estate Office. Alternatively you can telephone the Benefit Section and we may be able to accept a telephone claim from you. We will discuss this with you when you call.
You may be entitled to Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Benefit now and be losing money if you have not applied. Benefit is usually paid from the start of the week following the receipt of your claim so do not delay making your claim. Even if you are not sure whether you are entitled, it is worthwhile applying so that we can check this for you.
When you submit a claim you will be asked to provide us with some original documents as verification. We need proof of your identity, National Insurance number, income, capital and if you rent from someone other than the council, we will need proof of your rent. Details of suitable documentation is specified within the claim form.
Even if you don’t have all the documents we need, don’t delay in submitting your claim form as this could result in a loss of benefit. Only one claim form is needed to see if you are eligible for Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and/or Second Adult rebate.
If you need assistance filling in your claim form, staff at Contact Wrexham will be pleased to help you. In exceptional circumstances a home visit may be arranged by telephoning the benefits section.
Other ways to claim
If you claim Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance or Incapacity Benefit from the Jobcentre Plus, you usually make your claim for Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Benefit at the same time.
Call the Jobcentre Plus on 0845 600 3016 or visit www.direct.gov.uk
If you claim the Pension Credit, you usually make your claim for Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Benefit at the same time.
Call the Pension Service on 0800 99 1234 or visit www.direct.gov.uk
Reviewing your claim
From time to time, you will be sent a review form which you must complete and return in order to carry on getting benefit. This may be collected by a Visiting Officer, submitted in person or sent back by post – full instructions will be sent out with the review form.
Normally, benefit is paid from the Monday following the date you made your claim. If you have a good reason for not having applied earlier, the Council can consider back-dating your entitlement by up to 6 months for working aged claimants or 3 months for pensionable aged claimants.
What constitutes a good reason is not defined, but it is not usually sufficient to simply claim a lack of awareness of the availability of benefit.
For tenants of the Council, your Housing Benefit payments are credited to your rent account and you pay less rent.
For other tenants, Housing Benefit payments are normally paid at 2 or 4 weekly intervals into your bank account depending on whether we pay direct to yourself or your landlord.
Council Tax Benefit payments are credited to your Council Tax account and you pay less Council Tax.
What happens if I don’t understand the Council’s decision about Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit?
When we have dealt with your claim for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit we will send you a letter explaining our decision. You should check this letter carefully to make sure all your details are correct. If you do not understand this letter, you can contact us by letter, telephone or by calling into Contact Wrexham and we can explain it to you. You can also request a Statement of Reasons by writing to us; this will explain how we worked out your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit entitlement.
What happens if I disagree with the Council’s decision about Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit?
If we send you a decision about your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit and you disagree with it, you must write and tell us why you think your benefit decision is wrong. This must be received within one month of the date of the decision notice.
What happens next?
We will look through your claim again, taking into account any further information you provide in your letter. We will decide either to change the decision and pay you more or less benefit or not to change the decision. We will then write to you and tell you what we have decided.
If we decide not to change our decision or we decide to pay you less benefit and you remain dissatisfied you have one month to write and ask us to pass your case to the Appeals Service.
The Appeals Service
If your appeal is passed to the Appeals Service you will be sent a copy of the Council’s case which you should read carefully. If you do not understand it you can ask us to explain it to you or get help from an advice centre or a solicitor. You will also be sent a pre hearing enquiry form asking you whether you wish your appeal to be dealt with in writing or by attending in person. You have 14 days to return your pre-hearing form.
If you choose to attend the appeal hearing in person you can take someone with you to help you state your case such as a solicitor or a friend. There will usually be a person from the Council attending to state our case and the members of the Appeals Service may ask you questions about why you think the Council’s decision is wrong.
If you choose not to attend the hearing, the tribunal will make a decision about your appeal based on what you have written.
At both types of hearing, the members of the Tribunal will look at the evidence, the law and the circumstances at the time we made the decision you are appealing against. They will write to you and to the Council with their decision, and the Council will implement it straightaway.