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Housing Benefit: Who can claim?

Buy to let: Its not as easy as it sounds

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Who can claim housing benefit?

If you are a rent payer on a low income or in receipt of certain benefits, the chances are you may be entitled to claim Housing Benefit. Housing Benefit is to help people who are either working or unemployed to meet their accommodation costs. It covers rental charges from councils, housing associations and other social and private landlords, although there is no set rate and how much you will get depends on a number of factors, such as your income and circumstances.

Extra costs are not covered by housing benefit

There are costs and services that are sometimes embedded in rental charges which Housing Benefit doesn’t cover, such as water, heating and lighting, so it’s worth bearing this in mind.

From April 2013 you may also be able to get extra help from your local council, called a ‘discretionary housing payment’, if the level of Housing Benefit set doesn’t cover your rent. For those who pay rent to a private landlord, the sum that can be covered is normally restricted to an amount set by a rent officer and based on factors such as prices for the area you live in.

If you are on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, then you should automatically be within the limits for Housing Benefit to cover all of your eligible rent.

To qualify for Housing Benefit you cannot have savings above a certain level, usually £16,000, and if you live with a partner it can only be awarded to one of you.

New bedroom tax

New rules introduced in April this year also take into account the number of unoccupied rooms in the house if you rent from the council or other social landlord, so that those deemed to have extra bedrooms will get a reduced rate of the eligible rent.

If you’re not in receipt of any of the benefits listed above, you still may be able to collect Housing Benefit to cover all or part of your rent but it cannot be claimed towards mortgage repayments.

housing benefit financial helpEligibility in this scenario will depend on your income and capital, and a Government formula works out how much money it thinks people need to live on each week.

Factors such as age, whether you have a partner or children, or care for a disabled person, will all be considered when setting rates of Housing Benefit.

Some types of income, such as child maintenance payments, are ignored when working out how much Housing Benefit you should get.

People who are unlikely to get this form of support include those with savings over £16,000, people who live in the home of a close relative, full-time students – unless they are disabled or have children – and asylum seekers.

Another change being introduced this year that could affect the level of entitlement, is the new benefit cap. This again varies depending upon circumstances and whether you receive certain other benefits, but will generally limit the amount of benefits households can get to between £350 and £500 a week.

Universal Credit will eventually replace other benefits

It’s also worth noting that from this year, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance and income-related Jobseeker’s Allowance are gradually being replaced by the new ‘Universal Credit’, which can include money to help with either rent or mortgage repayments.

If you are already in receipt of the other mentioned benefits, then Jobcentre Plus can send details of your claim for Housing Benefit to your local council.

People who are not claiming other benefits can get help from their local council which will be able to advise on eligibility and issue a claim form.

As part of your claim you may be asked about your background and identity and will need to provide some official documents such as passport, full birth certificate or full driving licence. Councils will usually deal with claims within two weeks of receiving the details they need.

If you are already renting when you make the claim, benefit will normally start the week after the local authority has decided you are entitled to it. Claims can sometimes be backdated. More help, either in the form of leaflets or face to face advice, is available at one of the Government’s local service information points based at various locations up and down the country.






About Linda Ram

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