Below are some common questions relating to Council Tax Support (CTS), Housing Benefit (HB) and Local Housing Allowance (LHA) along with the answers?
What is Housing Benefit (HB)?
HB can help you pay your rent if you are on a low income. You may claim where you are working for an employer, self-employed or receiving a benefit or allowance payable by Job Centre Plus where you have to pay rent for the property you live in. You may pay rent to a private landlord or to a Housing Association e.g. Dales Housing.
Housing Benefit is a means tested benefit which means that your personal and financial circumstances will determine how much help we can give you.
Note that the introduction of Universal Credit for working age claimants from 23rd November 2015 within the Derbyshire Dales will gradually see working age claimants stop receiving Housing Benefit and instead claim assistance with their housing costs with a single Universal Credit payment.
Someone who is of pensionable age can continue to claim Housing Benefit with the District Council.
What is Council Tax Support (CTS)?
Since 1st April 2013 every Council has been given the responsibility to design and implement its own Council Tax Support Scheme intended to give help to local people who are on low incomes pay the Council Tax on their home. As with Housing Benefit, CTS is a means tested entitlement and can be claimed where you are working full or part-time, self-employed, unemployed or retired.
All claimants have at least 8.5% of their annual council tax to pay but where this causes any budgeting problems you can contact the Benefits Section to see if additional discretionary help can be provided to reduce the amount you have to pay. Such an award will be made to your council tax account From the CTS Discretionary Fund. A written request is necessary explaining the reasons.
If you and/or your partner have more than £16,000 in savings and investments you cannot claim for HB and CTB (unless you are getting the Pension Credit Guaranteed Credit).
Second Adult Rebate can help a small number of households if you are a single person who is liable to pay the Council Tax, but have other adults who live with you who are on a low income. If you think you may qualify, or want more information, please speak to our officers who will advise you.
You cannot receive both Council Tax Benefit and Second Adult Rebate at the same time.
Housing Benefit: What is Local Housing Allowance (LHA)?
If you are a private tenant renting property or a room from a private commercial landlord and you are on a low income, you may be able to claim and receive LHA which is available from 7th April 2008. LHA is the newest way of calculating Housing Benefit and is based on the area in which the customer lives and the number of bedrooms required. It ensures that tenants in similar circumstances in the same area receive the same amount of financial support for their housing costs.
As the LHA is based on housing needs (rather than actual housing costs), the tenant can then decide if they want to rent a property where the rent is above or below than their LHA. Where the rent is more than their LHA, the tenant pays the difference between their assessed LHA and the actual rent.
How do I claim Housing Benefit and/ or Council Tax Support?
You must contact us for an application form or download one on from the 'Benefits' page on this website. You can visit us in person or telephone us for advice. Complete your application form and return it with all the relevant original documents as soon as possible. The claim form tells you exactly what you need to send us. You may also claim as part of another claim for a separate government benefit, allowance or Pension Credit.
For working age claimants – the introduction of Universal Credit will see the replacement of Housing Benefit with a Housing Cost Element payable within the Universal Credit. You will continue however to claim Council Tax Support with your District Council.
When should I claim?
You should claim HB, LHA or CTB as soon as you need to. If you have claimed Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based) your claim will start from the first Monday following your Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based) start date, providing you have returned the application form and supporting evidence within one month of this date.
If you receive Pension Credit you may also be entitled to automatic backdating of HB, LHA or CTB. In any other case the Benefit will start from the Monday following receipt of your application form. If we ask you for more information to go with your claim and you do not send it within one month of the receipt of your form, you could lose benefit. Sometimes, such as if you move house different rules apply.
Please contact us for more advice. HB, LHA and CTB cannot normally be backdated, so you could lose benefit if you delay in claiming. You can ask for a late claim to be backdated, this request must be in writing on the application form, or in a separate letter, but we will have to be sure that there is good cause for your delay in claiming.
How will my Housing Benefit be paid?
When we have worked out your benefit we will send you a letter telling you about it. If your claim is successful, your HB will be paid to you, or if you prefer, it can be paid directly to your landlord. HB is always paid in arrears at the end of each payment period. We may also pay your HB direct to your landlord if you are in arrears with your rent.
How will my Local Housing Allowance be paid?
The payment will normally be made straight to your bank or building society account (if you have one). Payment is not normally made to your landlord. If you do not already have a bank or building society account, you may want to set one up. That way you can also arrange to pay the rent to your landlord automatically by standing order. You can get advice about opening and running a bank account from any bank or building society. You can also get advice from organisations such as the Citizen's Advice Bureau (within the Town Hall). The Government has also set published a document to help with setting up bank accounts.
It is your responsibility to pay your rent to your landlord. If you don't pay your rent, you may be taken to court and evicted from the property.
If you are worried about managing your money, please let us know. We have a 'Safeguards Policy' document that explains that we may, in certain circumstances, pay your LHA direct to your landlord where you have difficulties managing your own financial affairs (see 'Related Documents' below).
How is my Council Tax Support paid?
When we have worked out your CTS, we will send you a letter telling you about it. If your claim is successful, we will send you a new Council Tax Bill showing the revised amount to pay.
How is my Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support worked out?
HB and CTS will be worked out at the same time, you only need to complete one form. The amount of Benefit you can receive depends on your family circumstances, your income and your savings. Your benefit will be calculated by comparing the amount of money the Government says you need to live on, (the applicable amount,) with the money you have coming in each week. If you receive an income related benefit from DWP (includes Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based), Guaranteed Pension Credit) or your income is less than the applicable amount, you will receive maximum Housing and Council Tax Support.
If your income is more than your applicable amount, the amount of HB and CTS you receive will reduce on a sliding scale. If you have other people living in your home (for example grown up children), your Benefit may be reduced according to their circumstances. This is because they are expected to pay towards your rent and council tax.
How is my Local Housing Allowance (LHA) worked out?
The Rent Service provides us with levels of LHA for accommodation linked to the number of bedrooms that are required in a property. The LHA rates are calculated for individual areas, known as Broad Rental Market Areas. Derbyshire Dales has 4 BRMAs:
- Peak and District
- East Staffordshire.
Visit the Valuation Office Agency website - where you can find out which BRMA your property is in and also view the LHA rates for any area and any month.
LHA rates are updated annually to reflect changes in the housing market. The amount you actually receive will be determined by where you live, the number of bedrooms your family requires, your financial circumstances and when you claim.
How will my income be assessed?
Your income will be the total amount you and/or your partner (including polygamous and same sex partners) have to live on each week from all sources, including savings and investments. Your income may be earned income, which is worked out by deducting your Tax and National Insurance Contributions and half of any contributions made to a pension scheme. Unearned income is all other income such as Child Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and any other Benefits or Pensions payable by Job Centre Plus or the Pension Service. Certain benefits are ignored for income purposes, e.g. Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance, but we still need to know that you are receiving them. Income from savings and investments includes; Bank; Building Society Accounts; Post Office Accounts; Stocks and Shares; Income Bonds etc. Income from savings and Investments: If you are aged 60 years or over and you have savings and investments between £6,000 and £16,000 we will add £1.00 for every £500 or part £500 on to your weekly income. If you are less than 60 years and have savings and investments between £3,000 and £16,000 we will add £1.00 for every £250 or part £250 on to your weekly income. If you have more than £16,000 we cannot give you any benefit.
What happens if my circumstances change?
It is important that you tell us about changes in your circumstances immediately
If the change means benefit has been overpaid you may be asked to repay this amount.
If you take more than a month to tell us of a change that may increase your benefit we may not be able to alter your benefit from the date of the change.
Examples of changes in income and family circumstances that could affect your HB, LHA or CTS:
- When Income Support or Job Seeker's Allowance stops or starts.
- A change of address.
- Changes in income or savings.
- When someone moves in or out of your home.
This list cannot cover everything. If you don't know if a change in your circumstances will alter your benefit, tell us anyway.
What if I disagree with the council's decision on Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance?
If you disagree with the decision you can ask us to look at your claim again. You must contact us within one month of the date on the decision letter. You can phone, write or visit us and ask us to explain the decision and/or request a written statement of reasons, which will show more information about the decision. If you are still dissatisfied, you can appeal. Please contact us and we will advise you further.
Note advice on how to challenge a decision on your entitlement to Council Tax Support is contained here. The arrangements are slightly different.
- If you require any further information then please contact our Benefits Section by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, by telephone on 01629 761188 or in person at Matlock Town Hall.