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Contact the Benefits Team

Questions - Housing and Council Tax Support

Questions

What is Housing Benefit?

Housing benefit is a means tested benefit to help you pay your rent. This means the amount you get depends on things like:

  • Your income
  • Your savings and investments
  • The amount of your rent
  • Other people who live with you

What is Council Tax Support?

Council Tax Support is a local Council Tax Discount means tested benefit to help you pay your Council Tax. This means the amount you get depends on things like:

  • Your income
  • Your savings and investments
  • The amount of your Council Tax
  • Other people who live with you

For more information view our Council Tax Support Scheme page.

Can I claim Housing Benefit / Council Tax Support?

You can claim Housing Benefit / Council Tax Support if you are on:

  • Pension Credit, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance (income related) or Job Seekers Allowance (income based); or
  • a low income.

Who can't claim Housing Benefit?

You can't claim Housing Benefit if:

  • You are not liable to pay rent
  • Either you or your partner, or both of you together, have more than £16,000 in savings
  • You live in a care home, such as a nursing home or old peoples home
  • You rent a former joint home from your ex-partner
  • You are the parent or guardian of your landlord's child
  • You live in your home as part of your job

Who can't claim Council Tax Support?

You can't claim Council Tax Support if:

  • You are not the resident liable person
  • Either you or your partner, or both of you together, have more than £16,000 in savings
  • You live in a care home, such as a nursing home or old peoples home

Where are the Benefit offices and when are they open?

Information about our office opening hours and office locations.

How do I claim Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support?

You can phone us on 01795 417555 we can make an appointment for you to come into your nearest district office. We will let you know the information you must bring with you to support your claim, or we can complete a claim form over the phone for you.

If you are claiming Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit or Job Seekers Allowance your claim for Housing Benefit will be completed at the same time as your Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit or Job Seekers Allowance claim. You will need to complete a claim form to claim Council Tax Support. However if you are already in receipt of Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit or Job Seekers Allowance and now wish to make a claim for Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support, you can make a claim directly by phoning us on 01795 417555.

What if I am unable to get into one of your offices?

If you are disabled or elderly please phone 01795 417555 and we can send out a visiting officer to help you complete your claim.

If you work full time we can post a form out to you for you to complete your self, or you can Download and Complete this Form.

How much Housing Benefit can I get?

Swale Borough Council provides an online benefits calculator, which you can use to estimate how much Housing Benefit that you may be entitled to claim.

You might be able to get all your rent paid, but we have to take into account things like:

  • Your income
  • Your partner's income
  • Who else lives with you
  • Any savings and investments you have
  • How much your rent is

If your rent includes an amount for things like heating, water rates, or meals, we have to reduce your benefit because we can't pay for services like these.

How is my Housing Benefit worked out?

If you get Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance (income-based), Employment and Support Allowance (income related) or guaranteed Pension Credit:

You will get the maximum amount of rent after we have taken off charges for:

  • Other people who live with you “ these are called non-dependants
  • Service charges
  • Any rent restrictions, that the rent officer has told us about, see How much of your rent can we pay?

In all other case:

  • We work out your benefit by comparing the money you get each week with your 'applicable amount'
  • Your applicable amount is what the Government says you and your family need to live on each week.
  • The applicable amount will be higher for some people “ for example if you are disabled or a one-parent family and is also based on your age.

When we have worked out what money you get each week, if it's less or the same as the applicable amount you will usually get the maximum benefit. But don't forget, if you have any non-dependants living with you we might have to make deductions from your benefit for them.

Also, the amount of Housing Benefit you get might be affected by the rate of Local Housing Allowance, if you are already claiming or you are a Housing Association tenant it may be affected by the amount of any service charges you have to pay or the size restriction criteria.

Please note:

If your income is less than, or the same as your 'applicable amount', you should claim Income Support, Job Seeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit if you or your partner are over 60 as you might be able to get more help.

You may also be able to claim other benefits “ i.e. Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

What proof do I need to give you?

If you are getting Pension Credit, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance (income related) or Job Seekers Allowance (income-based) we will need proof of:

  • The benefits you receive (We may be able to obtain this information, do not hold up your claim waiting for proof of your benefits)
  • Your rent (if applicable)
  • Income for any other adults who live with you

If you are on a low income we will need proof of:

  • You and your partner's Identity
  • You and your partner's National Insurance number
  • Any state benefits you or your family receive
  • Child Benefit
  • Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit
  • Bank accounts and any other savings and investments you or your partner hold
  • Private pensions and annuities
  • Childcare costs
  • Wage slips
  • Self-employed accounts
  • Rent (if applicable)
  • Income for any other adults who live with you

 

What about other money I have?

Small amounts of savings and investments may not affect your claim, but you must tell us about all your and your partner's savings and investments, including current bank accounts. You must tell us about all the bank and building society accounts that you have. Don't forget to tell us about any stocks and shares that you have too.
Please remember to tell us about all the different kinds of income you get. If you are not sure, just check with us.

Do you need proof of my rent?

Yes, we need proof of your rent. You should give us proof of how much you pay and what services are included in your rent. Services are things like heating, water rates and meals.

  • If you have a tenancy agreement, please provide us with a copy so we can use it to work out all the details we need to process your claim
  • If you do not have a tenancy agreement, please contact us for more advice.

What happens if there are other people living with me?

If you have friends, relatives or anyone over 18 living in your home, you may get less benefit. These people are called 'non-dependants'.

We may take an amount of your benefit for each non-dependant who lives in your home.

Non-dependants do not include:

  • Your partner
  • A child you get Child Benefit for
  • People under 18
  • People in full-time education
  • People on youth training schemes

We will not take any money out of your benefit for non-dependants if:

  • You get Attendance Allowance
  • You get the care part of Disability Living Allowance
  • You are registered blind
  • The non-dependant is a paid carer provided by a charitable or voluntary organisation
  • The non-dependant is under 25, and on Pension Credit, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance (income related), or Job Seekers Allowance (income based)

What money do you count when you work out my Benefit?

We count any money you have coming in. This includes things like:

  • State benefits
  • Private pensions and annuities
  • Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit

We count the money you earn from work after money has been taken out for:

  • Tax and National Insurance contributions; and,
  • Half of any money you pay into a pension fund.

If you work we will need to see:

  • Your last five pay slips if you are paid every week; or,
  • Your last two pay slips if you are paid every month.

From 02.11.09 Child Benefit is disregarded.

How will you pay me?

If you are an AmicusHorizon tenant we will pay your Housing Benefit directly to AmicusHorizon. Any other housing associations we normally pay directly to the landlord. The payments are sent to the housing associations every 4 weeks, for the previous 4 weeks.

All other tenants we normally pay direct to the tenant. The payments are sent out every 2 weeks for the previous 2 weeks. Payments are normally paid by BACS directly into your bank account. If you do not have a bank account please contact us for more advice.

When will my benefit start?

If you qualify, your benefit will normally start from the Monday following the date you make your claim.

If you move into a new address we can start your claim on the date that you move in provided we receive your claim form before you move in or within the same week (for benefit purposes a week begins on a Monday and ends on a Sunday). If you are receiving Income Support, income related Employment and Support Allowance or income based Job Seekers Allowance and you move into a new address your benefit will start on the date that you move in provided we receive a claim form within one month of that date.

What can I do if I don't agree with your decision?

If you don't agree with our decision you can ask us to look at it again. You must do this within 1 month of the date of the decision notice we send you. See 'What to do if you think we are wrong'.

What is a Second Adult Rebate?

Second Adult Rebate is Council Tax Support for people who may not have a partner but who share their home with someone who:

  • Is 18 years or over and
  • Is on a low income and
  • Does not pay them rent (not a lodger or a sub-tenant)

All three conditions must be met. Please contact us for further advice.

How is Council Tax Support awarded?

Council Tax Support is a discount that reduces your Council Tax. When your Council Tax Support is assessed, you will be sent a revised Council Tax bill showing a reduction in the amount you have to pay.

How long will it take you to work out my Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support?

We aim to deal with all claims as soon as possible, but it depends how quickly you give us the information. When we have all the information, we will work out your benefit and write to you to tell you how much benefit you will get. We will ring you to explain how we have worked out your entitlement. We are also able to give you an explanation of the decision we have made if you come back to one of district offices to collect your documents. In some cases we may be able to assess your claim whilst you wait.

What happens if I live with a close relative and they charge me rent?

If you live with one of the following and they are also your Landlord you cannot claim Housing Benefit?

A parent, step parent or parent in law; a brother or sister; a son, son in law, daughter, daughter in law, stepson, stepdaughter or partner of any of the previously mentioned people.

Can I claim backdated Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support?

If you are working age we may be able to backdate your claim by up to 6 months. If you wish to claim backdated Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support you will have to show "good cause" as to why you failed to claim earlier. If you are over 61 and you have not claimed Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support before we will automatically look at whether we can pay you Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support for the previous 3 months. Please contact us for more advice.

What are Discretionary Housing Payments?

If you are receiving Housing Benefit but are still having difficulties meeting your rent payments, you may be able to get help from the Discretionary Housing Payment Fund.

The fund has been made available by the Council, with assistance from the Government, to enable additional financial assistance to be provided to customers of Housing Benefit where they are not entitled to full benefit but are nonetheless experiencing financial difficulty paying their rent.

If you wish to be considered for a Discretionary Housing Payment you must complete a Discretionary Housing Benefit form, which is available from any of the district offices. See Discretionary Housing Payments.

What happens if I need to go away from home?

If you go away from home for longer than 3 weeks you should contact us before you go. If you do not contact us your Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support may stop and you may have to make a new claim on your return. If you contact us first you are still entitled to receive Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support for up to 13 weeks.

If you return after 13 weeks have gone past, we will not normally be able to pay you any Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support for the time you were away even if you told us before you left.

There are different rules for people who have to leave their home to go into hospital, or are fleeing domestic violence or are remand prisoners.

In all cases you must intend to return to the property within 13 weeks (or 52 weeks if in hospital, fleeing domestic violence or a prisoner on remand) and you must not charge somebody else rent for living in the accommodation whilst you are away.

What happens if I go into hospital?

If you go into hospital we can pay your Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support for up to 52 weeks provided that you are expected to return home within that time. However, the amount of benefit that we pay may decrease if you are in hospital for more than 4 weeks. If you are unable to let us know that you are going into hospital if possible you should ask a friend, or relative, or a hospital social worker to let us know where you are as soon as possible. We also need to know if your partner or a member of your household goes into hospital. Please contact us for more advice.

What happens if I leave home because I am at risk of violence?

It is possible for Housing Benefit to be paid for up to 52 weeks if you have had to leave your home because of fear of domestic violence. If you are in a woman's refuge you should ask one of the workers to contact us if you feel unable to do so your self, even if the refuge is not in the Swale area. We will not disclose your refuge address to anyone.

What happens if I go into prison?

If you are in prison as a remand prisoner you can still receive benefit for up to 52 weeks. If during this time you are sentenced and committed to prison your Housing Benefit will stop unless your sentence is for 13 weeks or less. You do not have to inform us before you go into prison to receive benefits. A friend or relative or a prison social worker should inform us of what has happened as soon as possible.

Can I claim Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support if I am self employed?

A. You can claim Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support if you are self employed. You will have to provide your trading accounts for the last financial year. If you have only recently set up the business and do not have a full year's accounts, we will give you a self employed declaration form to complete, we may need to see some other evidence of your income. You should not delay claiming until you have your trading accounts. Please contact us for more advice.

What can I do if I haven't saved my pay slips?

We can send you a Certificate Of Earnings for your employer to complete. You can also collect one from any of our district offices.

What if I can't provide everything straight away?

You must not delay in returning your form as you may lose benefit. If you are having a problem obtaining any information please contact us for more advice.

I'm a student - can I claim Housing Benefit?

A student can claim Housing Benefit but there are some important rules about this.

To apply for help with rent or Council Tax payments, or both, a student must be in one or more of the following categories:

  • currently receiving Income Support or income based Jobseekers Allowance (student's eligibility for I.S, ESA (IR) and JSA (IB) is also restricted).
  • all part-time students
  • under 19 not in higher education
  • aged 61 or more
  • responsible for a child or a young person
  • responsible for a foster child
  • qualify for a disability premium
  • students who have a UK grant which includes an allowance for deafness

Students who are single, with or without children, can claim help if they are in one of the groups listed above. If you are both students, at least one of you must be in the above groups.

A student is anyone attending a study course at an educational establishment. This means studies at all levels including: School-based study, full or part-time students, students receiving grants, studying at state or private colleges.

During term-time, students living in a hall of residence, or other accommodation managed by the college, cannot claim Housing Benefit. However, they may be able to get help if they live there during the summer holidays.

If you are from abroad, you should ask about possible help with rent and Council Tax payments. For students from overseas there is no automatic right to Housing Benefit. It will depend on a person's circumstances, please contact us for more advice.

When your benefit is worked out, your student loan is taken as income.

What should I do if my circumstances change?

Tell us straight away if:

  • Any of your children leaves school or leaves home; or
  • Anyone moves in or out of your home (including lodgers and subtenants); or
  • Your income or the income of anyone living with you, including earnings, private pensions, state benefits, tax credits changes; or
  • Your capital, savings or investments change; or
  • You or anyone living with you becomes a student; goes on a Youth Training Scheme; goes into hospital or a nursing home; goes into prison; or gets, changes or leaves a job; or
  • Your rent changes; or
  • You move house; or
  • You or your partner are going to be away from home for more than a month; or
  • You receive any decision from the Home Office; or
  • Anything you have told us about changes

You must tell us about these changes in writing, however so that we do not over pay you, you can phone us on 01795 417555 and report the change and we can tell you the information we will require to support the change. We will then ask you to send in a letter confirming the change. You can also report changes at any of our district offices. If you don't tell us about these changes, you may lose money you are entitled to or you may get too much benefit. Don't rely on someone else to pass on the message.

It is an offence not to tell us about any change of circumstance that affects your benefit. We may take court action against you. If we pay you too much benefit, you will probably have to pay it back.

What happens if I am under 35?

If you are single, under 35 and you rent from a private landlord, your maximum rent will be restricted to the Shared Room Rate. This figure is the general level of rent for a bedroom with shared use of kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities.

The exceptions to this are if:

  • You are under the age of 22 and you were formally in the care of social services under a care order
  • You have a dependant child/children
  • You have one or more non dependants living with you
  • You qualify for the severe disability premium

Please contact us for more advice.

What is Local Housing Allowance?

From April 2008 there was a change to the way we pay Housing Benefit to most private tenants. (This means you rent your property from a private landlord not a Housing Association).

What is Local Housing Allowance (LHA)?

The levels of LHA are not specific to individual properties. LHA is a standard amount that will be paid towards rent costs, based on the size and ages of the family, the size of dwelling appropriate to that family and the broad area in which they live.

LHA will generally be paid directly to the tenant, who is then responsible for paying the full rent to the landlord.

All new private tenant claims from April 2008 will receive LHA. Any existing customers that are private tenants who move house, or have a break in their claim after April 2008 will change to LHA.

Find out more information on Local Housing Allowance.

How do I pay back an overpayment of Housing Benefit?

An overpayment happens when we pay you or your landlord an amount of Housing Benefit which you weren’t entitled to. If we have paid you too much benefit, we will usually ask you to pay back the amount we have overpaid.

You need to tell us of any changes in your circumstances to help prevent an overpayment.

We will send you a letter giving you the full details of the overpayment. The letter will tell you why the overpayment happened, the amount you were overpaid and the period of the overpayment. It will also tell you how we intend to recover the overpayment and what to do if you disagree.

How is the overpayment paid back?

  • If you are still getting Housing Benefit, we may reduce your payments to recover the overpayment.
  • If we are not paying you Housing Benefit, we may send you an invoice and you should make arrangements to pay us.
  • If we paid your landlord your benefit then, in certain circumstances, we may ask the landlord to repay the overpayment.
  • We can ask the Department for Work and Pensions to take money out of other benefits you might receive to collect the overpayment.
  • In cases where you have moved out of the area, we can take money from any housing benefit paid to you by another council.
  • If you are working we may be able to ask your employer to set up a Direct Earnings Attachment. The full regulations can be found on the legislation website.
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