Northumberland County Council > Housing > Housing benefits > Making a housing benefit claim

Making a housing benefit claim

also known as: Appeals.

Find out if you could get help with your rent and how to apply for housing benefit

Making a housing benefit claim

Housing benefit can help you pay your rent if you are on a low income. You can use our Benefits Calculator to give you an instant estimate of what you could claim (based on the information you supply).

You can claim housing benefit if:

  • you pay rent and your income and capital (savings and investments) are below a certain level
  • you are on Income Support, Job Seeker's Allowance, Employment Support Allowance
  • you receive Pension Credit

You could also qualify if you are out of work, or in work and earning a wage or self employed

The scheme applies to:

  • anyone paying rent
  • tenants living in council property
  • privately rented accommodation (the allowance for these tenants is knows as Local Housing Allowance and the rates are set separately)
  • hostels and housing association accommodation

You can use our online benefits calculator to give you an instant estimate of what you could claim (based on the information you supply). Please remember that the calculator is only an estimate and we can’t guarantee that this is the exact amount you would receive.

You will need to have the following information to hand:

  • Details of your income (eg wage slips or any benefits / pensions you receive).
  • Details of your capital (eg any bank accounts or savings accounts).
  • The amount of rent you pay.
  • The amount of council tax you pay.

If the calculator won’t let you answer a question, it may be because of a previous answer you have already given. You can go back and change your previous answers if you need to.

Please note: On 1 April 2013 the Government introduced size limit rules into housing benefit for working age people renting from a local authority, a registered provider of social housing, a registered housing association or other registered social landlord.

The new rules restrict the size of accommodation you can receive housing benefit for based on the number of people in your household. Find out more about this here.

Living in privately rented accommodation

If you live in privately rented accommodation, the allowance you could receive is called Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and the rates are set separately. LHA is based on how many bedrooms your household needs.

View the LHA rates for the Northumberland area (1 April 2014 - 31 March 2015) here or you can have a look at them in any of our Customer Information Centres.

More information on LHA is available here.

If you are already claiming benefits

  • If you claim Income Support, Job Seeker's Allowance or Employment Support Allowance, the Department for Work and Pensions will take details of your housing benefit claim and they will send the information to us.
  • If you claim Pension Credit, the Pension Service will take details of your claim for housing benefit and they will send details of your claim to us.

If you are not claiming any other benefits

You can apply for housing benefit in the following ways:

Please note: you will need to provide original documentary evidence to support your claim for benefit – we cannot accept photocopies and we need to see documents for both the claimant and their partner.

Help to complete your form

A visiting officer may be able to visit you in your home if you require assistance with your form – contact us to make an appointment. You can also visit a benefit officer in your local office.

When your benefit will start

If you qualify for housing benefit or council tax support (or both), we will normally pay your benefit on the Monday after you asked us for an application form (as long as you return the application form within one calendar month of contacting us).

Sometimes we can pay benefit for a period before the date you claimed. This is called backdating.

If there has been a reason which has prevented you from applying for housing benefit sooner, you can ask for your claim to be backdated so that it starts from an earlier date.

The law says we can backdate your benefit for up to 6 months. However, you must have a good reason why your claim is late. This is known as ‘good cause’.

What is considered to be ‘good cause’?

Good cause is a reason that prevented you from claiming benefit earlier and we will look at each case individually.

Good causes may include the following, depending on the circumstances:

  • You were ill and no-one else could claim for you.
  • You were waiting for a decision about another benefit.
  • You were given the wrong advice by an official organisation who said you were not entitled to Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support (or both).
  • You did not understand that you could claim, perhaps because:
    • of your age
    • you did not know how benefits work
    • you have language difficulties
    • you have difficulty understanding technical documents
    • some other reason
  • You did not claim immediately after leaving hospital, prison or long-term care.
  • You were not able to manage your own affairs and had no-one to help you.
  • A close relative died.

These examples are only a guide to help you. They are not a full list of all possible reasons. If you forgot to claim, or did not know you could claim, this would not be a good reason on its own.

How do I claim backdated benefit?

If you think you have good cause for making a late claim, you should tell us straightaway.

  • Download and complete the backdated request form or you can phone us on 0845 600 6400 or use one of our local numbers and we will send you a copy.
  • We will need to see proof of your income, savings and rent payments for the period you want to backdate your benefit for, and any proof to support your reasons (for example, medical certificates or hospital letters).

If you would like some help, please phone 0845 600 6400 or use one of our local numbers or visit any of our Customer Information Centres.

Our decision

We will decide if we can backdate your benefit based on the information you give us. We will write to you and tell you our decision. If we decide not to backdate your benefit, we will tell you why.

We may decide that your reasons are not good enough for us to backdate your benefit. If you do not agree with our decision, you should contact us and ask us to look at the decision again. You must do this within one month of the decision letter.

You can also ask for a written statement of our reasons for our decision which will give you more information. If you are still not satisfied, you can appeal to us in writing.

Please also have a look at our Backdating FAQ Leaflet

Appealing against the decision

When you apply for housing benefit, we will give you a decision in writing about your claim. If you disagree with our decision, you can ask us to look at it again.

There are different ways in which you can appeal.

You can:

  • ask us to explain our decision (this is a Statement of Reason)
  • ask us to look at your claim again (this is a Revision or Reconsideration)
  • appeal against our decision (known as an Appeal)

Only a person affected by our decision can appeal the decision. This includes:

  • the person making the claim (the claimant)
  • someone acting on behalf of the claimant who is appointed by the Courts
  • someone who the Council agrees is appointed to act on behalf of the claimant
  • a landlord - but only in matters relating to whom payment of Benefit is to be made
  • an agent - but only in matters relating to whom payment of Benefit is to be made
  • any person from whom, it is determined, an overpayment is to be recovered

This means that only the claimant can ask us to revise a decision concerning the calculation of a claimant's entitlement; and that the landlord or agent can only ask us to revise a decision about whether payment should be made to a landlord and whether the decision to recover an overpayment from a landlord or agent has been correctly made.

Please also have a look at our Appeals FAQ Leaflet.

Requesting a Statement of Reason

A person affected can ask us to provide a written Statement of Reason which will explain how we reached our decision. This should be requested within 1 month of the date of the decision notice. The Statement of Reasons does not affect your right of an appeal.

We aim to provide a statement within 14 days so far as this is practicable. The time taken for us to provide the statement may extend the time limit for requesting a revision or seeking an appeal to the Tribunal.

Requesting a revision or reconsideration

A request for a revision or reconsideration means that we will look again at the decision regarding a claim for benefit and make sure that it has been done correctly. Requests for revision are to be made either in writing or by completing a Revision Request form, and must be made within one month of the decision notice.

The decision will be checked by a different officer to the one who made the original decision, to see if it is correct. After reconsidering our decision, we will write to the person affected stating that the decision has been changed or that it will stay the same. We may request further information from the person affected before we make a final decision. The person must provide the information within one month of the request. We will aim to reply to all requests for a revision within 14 days so far as this is practicable.

Making an appeal

If you still do not agree with our decision, a person affected by a decision may be able to appeal to Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, who are independent of the council and The Department for Work and Pensions where a judge will look at your case and make a decision on it.

The request must be made in writing to us at the Benefit Section, Northumberland County Council, Wansbeck Square, Ashington, NE63 9XL and must be received by us within one month of the date on the decision notification letter.

What Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) will do

Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service will write to the person to tell them of the date, time and place of their hearing. They will also be asked if they want to attend or whether they would prefer the Tribunal to consider their case without them being present, this is called a 'paper hearing'.

If the council or the person affected feels that the decision of HMCTS is wrong in law they can seek leave to appeal to the Upper Tribunal.

IMPORTANT NOTE

The amount of benefit payable is a matter between the council and the claimant. Only the tenant can ask the council to review the amount of Benefit payable. If the council reduces a tenant's benefit to recover an overpayment in respect of a previous address, the current landlord cannot appeal against the decision to recover that overpayment.

Local Housing Allowance

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is used to work out claims for housing benefits for tenants renting accommodation from a private landlord. Find out more here.

Change of circumstances

It is very important that you tell us about any changes in your, or any member of your households, circumstances within one month of the change. If you don’t, you could lose money you are entitled to. More information is available here.

Reporting benefit fraud

People who deliberately claim benefits when they are not entitled to it are committing a criminal offence. If a landlord, who is paid housing benefit directly on behalf of their tenant, fails to notify the council that their tenant has left the property then they may be committing benefit fraud.

More information on benefit fraud is available here.

5Report benefit fraud here