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Housing benefit – what could you be claiming?

Posted 24 June 2015

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Could you be entitled to housing benefit, or more than you’re currently claiming?

If you’re under a bit of financial pressure at the moment, knowing that your priority bills, like your rent, are covered can be comforting. But what should you do if you’re struggling to make your rent each month?

Well, if you’re unemployed or on a low income you could find out if you’re entitled to housing benefit? It’s designed for people in a tight financial situation and can help with part, or all, of your rent. And, if you’re already claiming it, have you checked that you’re getting everything you’re entitled to? 

Let’s take a look at how much you could be claiming.

Who’s eligible?

If you’re unemployed, on a low income – even from self-employment – already in receipt of benefits and have savings below £16,000, you might be able to claim housing benefit. If you’re already claiming other benefits, and want to look into getting housing benefit, just pop down to your local Job Centre Plus or give them a call on 0800 055 6688 and ask.

And don’t forget, if you’re not already claiming benefits, why not contact your local council to see if you’re eligible.

If you’re in council or social housing, you might also be able to claim housing benefit. However, this will usually be paid directly to your landlord, so you won’t be able to spend it on anything else. If you’re a private renter, it can be a good idea to set up your housing benefit to go directly to the landlord if you want, so that you don’t struggle to budget for the payment.

Who’s not eligible?

You won’t usually be able to claim housing benefit if you’re a full-time student, unless you’re disabled or have children. You also probably won’t be able to claim if you’ve got savings of more than £16,000, as you’d be expected to put this money towards your rent. But if you’re getting the Guarantee credit part of Pension Credit, you might still be eligible. For more information on what Pension credit is have a look here.

Factors that affect housing benefit

It’s difficult to say how much housing benefit you might be entitled to, as it depends on lots of things and there’s no set amount. But what we can tell you is what affects the amount you’ll get if you’re entitled.  

Since the introduction of the benefits cap, how much housing benefit you’ll be able to claim will depend on how much you’re receiving in other benefits. If you live in council or social housing, having a spare bedroom may mean that you see a reduction in your benefit. You may have heard this being referred to as the “bedroom tax”, and put simply, it means that the Government has decided that if you have a spare bedroom then you could feasibly be living in a smaller property, which could be costing you less. Adult couples, two children of the same gender under 16 or two children of either gender under the age of 10 will be expected to share a room.

However, this is not true for all cases, and there are some exceptions to his rule. Have a look here to see whether the bedroom tax would affect you.

Remember, you could be eligible to claim more if someone in your house has a disability or if they’re deemed to be vulnerable, you’ll need to get in touch with your local authority to see if you’re eligible.

Further help with housing costs

If you are claiming all the housing benefit you’re currently entitled to and you’re still struggling with your rent payments, you might be able to apply for a discretionary housing payment as well. This is a payment on top of your housing benefit and it’s usually only given as a one-off. Again, it would be a case of contacting your local authority, explaining the situation and they would make a decision about whether they could help you in this way.

What about homeowners?

If you’re on benefits, but you’re a homeowner, you could get help from Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI). This will help to cover your interest payments and is paid directly to your mortgage lender.

We would always encourage you to investigate what benefits you’re entitled to and how they might ease your financial situation – they’re there to help people when they most need it. As housing benefit isn’t one fixed amount, it’s doubly important to make sure that you’re receiving the right amount. For even more information on how to manage your finances don’t hesitate to speak to one of our debt experts. 

by Shelley Bowers

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