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Frequently Asked Questions


Q. What is Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction?

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reductions are both means-tested benefits providing help with paying rent and/or Council Tax to those on a low income.

You may qualify for benefit if you fall into one of these categories:

  • Pension age and receiving state benefits
  • Working age with low earnings
  • Working part time
  • Self employed on low income
  • Unable to work and receiving state benefits

If you are unsure about whether you can claim please contact us on 01707 357000.

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Q. What changes are being made to benefits from April 2013?

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Q. What income do you include when you calculate my benefit?

We take account of the following income:

  • Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, Job Seeker's Allowance (contribution based), State Pensions and benefits and pensions from past Employers.
  • All your earnings (after tax), National Insurance and half of any pension contributions you make. Your earnings include commission, bonuses, tips, overtime and part-time earnings.
  • Rent from sub-tenants and any other income.
  • If you are under pension age and have savings between £6,000 and £16,000 we have to add £1 a week to the income we use to work out your benefit for each £250 (or part of £250) of savings over £6,000
  • If you are over pension age the capital disregard is £10,000, for every £500 (or part of £500) we have to add £1 a week to the income we use to calculate your benefit entitlement For example, if you have £10,001 we will add £1 a week.

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Q. How do you calculate my entitlement?

We look at all the income you have as a household and compare this to your applicable amount. Your applicable amount is the amount the Government says you need to live on. We then calculate the difference between these two figures and take a percentage of this to calculate your entitlement to Housing and/or Council Tax Reduction.

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Q. How much benefit can I get?

We cannot give you any help towards water charges, heating charges and certain other charges such as those for washing your own clothes or cleaning your room or flat. You must pay these. If you have any other adults living with you, such as grown-up children, we may reduce the benefit we can pay you. This is called a non dependant deduction.

If you get Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance (income based), and are over 35 we will give you enough benefit to pay all your rent, less any amounts for charges we cannot pay (these are explained above). However, if your rent is too high we have to reduce the amount we pay. You will also get a reduction for the full Council Tax bill (after discounts and any other reduction for disability), less any amounts for other adults living with you.

If you do not get Income Support or Job Seeker's Allowance (income based),Employment Support Allowance or Guaranteed Pension Credit, the amount of benefit we can give you depends on the amount of income you have coming in every week, as well as other things such as:

  •  the amount of rent or Council Tax you pay;
  •  which rate of Local Housing Allowance applies to you
  •  whether you are single
  •  whether you are over pension age
  •  whether you are under 35
  •  whether you have a disability
  •  whether you have children.

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Q. How is benefit paid?

If you are a Council tenant any benefit entitlement will be credited directly to your rent account, the same will apply to your Council Tax Reduction, it will be credited to your council tax account and your bill will be adjusted accordingly.

If you are a private tenant (not including Housing Association tenants) we cannot normally pay benefit to your Landlord on your behalf. Any benefit entitlement must be paid directly to yourself. This will be paid on a fortnightly basis and paid in arrears, either by BACS transfer or by cheque.

If you rent from a Registered Social Landlord (a Housing Association) or rent privately and have been doing so continuously since before April 2008 then we can pay benefit to either yourself or your Landlord. Payment to your Landlord will be made every four weeks, in arrears, and payment to you will be made fortnightly in arrears.

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Q. What happens if I rent a property from a close relative / family member who does not live there?

If the relative from whom you rent does not live in the property with you, you can claim Housing Benefit provided that the tenancy is let on a commercial basis and wasn't created to take advantage of the Housing Benefit system.

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Q. What happens if I live with a close relative / family member and they charge me rent?


If you live with one of the following people 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, step-son, step-daughter
  • a partner of any of the above

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Q. What should I do if my circumstances change?

You must tell us immediately if any of your circumstances change. This can include:

  • a change to your income or your partner's income
  • if you start or stop getting Income Support or Job Seeker's Allowance or Employment Support Allowance
  • someone moves in or out of your home
  • the circumstances of anyone living with you change

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Q. What happens if I return to work?

You may be eligible for an extra four weeks of Housing and/or Council Tax Reduction. (These are known as "Extended Payments")

It is paid at the same rate that you were receiving prior to starting work or increasing your hours, even if do not normally qualify for further help because of your increased income.

You must tell the council about this change within 4 weeks of starting work or increasing your hours. If you delay you may lose your entitlement.

Who can get Extended Payments?

To receive an Extended Payment, your Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance (income based), Employment Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit must have stopped because:

  • You or your partner are starting work
  • You or your partner are going to work more hours
  • You or your partner's earnings are going to increase.
  • Your new job or extra hours must be expected to last at least 5 weeks.
  • You must be in receipt of Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance (income based), or Employment Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit at the time you find work or increase your hours - and for the past 26 weeks (without a break).
  • You must be liable to pay rent or Council Tax for at least another 5 weeks.
  • There are strict requirements to satisfy in order to qualify for extended payments. Please contact us on 01707 357000 or benefits@welhat.gov.uk or the Department of Work and Pensions for advice on whether you may qualify.

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Q. You have told me I have been overpaid. What should I do?

What should I do?If you do not agree with the overpayment and are disputing how it has arisen you should contact the benefit office on 01707 357000. If you wish to make an arrangement to repay the overpaid amount please contact our Overpayment section on 01707 357945 or 01707 357946 to make an arrange. You can pay back overpayments in various ways, by pay point card, standing order or we can take weekly deductions from any Housing Benefit you may still be entitled to.

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Q. When does my benefit start?

If you move into a new address we can start your claim on the date that you move in provided we receive the 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, or Job Seeker's Allowance (income based) or Employment Support 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 four weeks of that date.

If you are already living in a property your benefit will normally start on the Monday after you make your claim.

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Q. Can I claim backdated benefit?

If you wish to claim backdated benefit you will have to show 'good cause' as to why you failed to claim earlier. Normally 'good cause' would require you to be incapacitated in some way, such as being in hospital or mentally unable to deal with your own affairs. You will need to provide proof of this good cause in most instances. We can only backdate for a maximum of 1 months for people of working age and 3 months for pensioners.

See our backdating section.

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Q. What happens if I am absent from my home?

  • If you go away from your home for a week or more you should contact us before you go. If you do not contact us your benefit 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 for up to 13 weeks.
  • If you return after 13 weeks absence we will not normally be able to pay you any benefit 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, are fleeing domestic violence or are prisoners on remand.

In all cases you must have the intention to return to the property within either 13 to 52 weeks and you must not charge somebody else rent for living in your accommodation whilst you are away.

Imprisonment

If you are in prison as a remand prisoner you can 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 to prison to receive benefits for this period. However you or a friend, or relative , or a prison social worker should inform us as soon as possible. The prison will have the relevant papers.

Hospital Stays

If you go into hospital we can pay your benefit for up to 52 weeks provide you are expect to return home within that time. You do not need to contact us before you go into hospital to receive benefit for this period. However, 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.

Hertfordshire County Council's website provides further information what to claim if you are ill or disabled.

Fleeing domestic 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 women's refuge you should ask one of the workers to contact us, if you feel unable to do so yourself, even if the refuge is not in Welwyn Hatfield. We will not disclose your refuge address to anyone.

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Q. Who can help me fill out the form?

If you are having difficulties completing the form, there are a variety of ways to get help.

Telephone our office and a member of staff will be able to help you with your application form over the phone on 01707 357000.

Call in to one of our offices for face-to-face help; you do not need an appointment.

In some cases it may be possible for a Visiting Officer to call round to your home and help you. Please contact us if you'd like a Visiting Officer to visit you in your home.

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Q. Why are you making deductions for a non-dependant?

Because the income of every adult living in the household has to be taken into account when assessing a claim for housing benefit. This reflects the contribution that other adults living in the household would be able to make to the claimant's housing costs, whether they actually make them or not.

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Q. What happens if I am single and under 35?

If you are single and under 35 years of age and you rent your property from a private landlord the amount of benefit we can award you may be restricted. It is restricted to the rate of a room in the area, this is called a single room rent.

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Q. Where can I go for advice?

The Citizens Advice Bureau - 08444 111 444

Queensway House
Queensway
Hatfield
Hertfordshire
AL10 0LW

mail to: bureau.hatfieldcab@cabnet.org.uk

Job Centre Plus - 0800 055 6688

Black Horse House
Salisbury Square
Old Hatfield
Hertfordshire
AL9 5AF

Payment of LHA and the safeguard policy

Local Housing Allowance was introduced in April 2008, part of its introduction was to make tenants accountable for there own finances. This means that benefit will, in the majority of cases be paid direct to the benefit applicant. There are exceptions to these and those exceptions are to those people that fall into the safeguard policy.

 

You can also access information online at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/benefits .

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Q. How do I get my claim processed faster?

If you complete the claim form in full and provide all the information and evidence requested in the form we can 'fast track' your claim. The form and all evidence should be handed into the Benefit Offices at The Campus and any entitlement to benefit can be assessed while you wait.

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Q. How long will it take to assess my claim?

We aim to calculate your entitlement to benefit within 14 days of receiving all your supporting documentation.

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Q. What can I do if I disagree with the amount of benefit I have been given?

If you are not happy with the amount of benefit you have been awarded and believe it may have been calculated incorrectly you should write to the Benefit Office and explain in writing why you believe your benefit is incorrect. You should also provide proof/evidence of what you believe to be incorrect. Your claim can then be looked at again and we may be able to revise our decision regarding what to award you.

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Q. What if I am unable to provide all the information requested on the application?

You should provide as much information as you can when you submit your claim and the rest of the information as soon as it is available. A Benefit Officer will write to you to request any additional information we may need.

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