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What is housing benefit? How does it affect you?

Housing benefit is as the name explains a benefit which supports those receiving low income in order to pay their rental payments. As it is a national welfare benefit all local councils will pay individuals in accordance with government rules and regulations. It cannot be used to pay with your mortgage repayments or rent that is due on business premises but if you do find yourself struggling with paying your mortgage help may be available in the form of income support. Speak to your local council for further information and advice. There are two forms of housing benefits, they are as follows:Rent Rebate - This is applicable to benefit paid to those council tenants. The monthly rent payment is reduced by the rebate value that is due to you.Rent Allowance - This makes reference to benefit that is made payable to a private tenant. You normally have the option to have payments made directly to you or paid direct to your landlord. It is easier for many people to have this paid directly to the housing association or other organisation.How is your housing benefit calculated? It takes into account all forms of incoming income including investment, employment income and savings but bear in mind that only the person responsible for paying the rent will be eligible for housing benefits. Rent payments must be payable to a private landlord, a housing association or most commonly the council. Any housing benefit that is paid to a private tenant is usually referred to as Local Housing Allowance.Anyone can apply for housing benefit by filling out an application available from your local council but bear in mind that if your income does not meet the necessary criteria you may not be eligible for housing benefit. In order to make a claim for “housing benefit” you will be asked a series of questions that will include personal information about your home, your finances, your family and any other relevant information to support your case. Original documentation such as utility bills and bank statements will be requested to support your application. It may sound obvious but housing benefit must only be used to pay for rent payments that are due and not are paid to include costs such as gardening, shared services or other personal services.

How will the housing benefit be paid?

Once your application has been processed and is successful your benefit will most often start the following Monday. If you are a council tenant any benefit will be credited once a week to your account. As previously advised if you are a tenant for a housing association or charity you can often have the option as to where the money will be sent. If however your rent is more than eight weeks in arrears the payment may be sent directly to the landlord without your consent. All housing benefit paid directly to you will need you to provide banking details.

Can my housing benefit be backdated?

Yes, it can be backdated but only if there is a good cause for it to be. Good causes are usually for those that are unable to contact the council sooner due to illness or disability. Ignorance unfortunately cannot be classed as a good cause. Please note housing benefit is being replaced by “universal credit”.