Housing Benefit is a government subsidy available to those with no or low incomes, who rent their home or part-rent it, as part of a shared ownership. The money helps to pay rent and cover some service charges, although it cannot be used to pay for water bills, support or care costs, heating charges, or mortgages. Recent statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions show that around 4.5 million people were in receipt of Housing Benefit in February 2018.
The Housing Benefit system was officially implemented in 1982. However, its roots can be traced back as far as 1919. In the early part of the 20th Century, subsidies were put into place to help tenants pay for council-rented accommodation. 53 years later, it became law that local authorities provide discounts for tenants and financial aid for those renting privately. Running the two systems simultaneously proved to be an administrative nightmare, and so they were amalgamated to create the beginnings of the Housing Benefit system.
Despite constant overhauls and appraisals, the Housing Benefit system is still not without its problems. One of the main concerns for claimants is that the money is typically paid four weeks in arrears. With most landlords requiring rent in advance, it makes it difficult for those reliant on the payment to find housing. Those that do are inevitably left with an amount outstanding before they’ve begun the rental process. Further complications can arise should a claimant find work. Even a few hours a week will mean that their status and claim must be reassessed, and the amount adjusted. Similarly, those living with their ex-partners or adult children may also have their benefits reduced.
What they offer – Services
To apply for Housing Benefit, claimants must reach certain criteria. You must either already be in receipt of benefits or on a low income. In addition, you must have savings of £16,000 or less, although the amount can be higher if you are claiming pension credits.
Local councils are responsible for the provision of Housing Benefit to residents and tenants in their area. The first step in applying is to either write, ring, or call your local council offices and explain your circumstances. However, if you are claiming Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance, you can make your claim through your local Jobcentre Plus. Those claiming Pension Credit can make applications through the Pension Service.
The Housing Benefit is notoriously slow and has often been accused of being disorganised. To ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible, it’s worth contacting the council to see that they have received your claim, whether you have applied through them, through the Jobcentre Plus, or via the Pension Service. If you wish to contact the Housing Benefit department, you can do so on 0871 244 9703. Ultimately, the council will oversee the processing of all applications.
If you are successful, your money will be paid directly into your rent account, if you rent from the council. For those who rent from a private landlord or the housing association, the money is paid directly to the claimant. However, you can ask to have the money paid directly to the landlord, and some private landlords who rent to tenants receiving housing benefits will ask for this to be done as part of the rental agreement.
Challenging a Housing Benefit Decision
Should you feel the need to challenge a Housing Benefit decision, use the details on the letter or email informing you of the decision. Begin by telling them why you believe the decision to be in error, as it may help to resolve the situation faster. Because there are time limits imposed on the length of time a challenge will be considered, it’s worth asking for an explanation of the decision that has been made. Should the decision still need challenging, you can ask for it to be reconsidered. However, if, after reconsideration, you still believe the decision to be wrong, you can launch an official appeal through your local Housing Authority. If you wish to talk to someone over the phone, it might be best to call the Housing Benefit telephone number (0871 244 9703).
Should you wish to make a complaint about the way the council has dealt with your application, you should first raise your issues with the council. Most councils have their own procedures for complaints and it’s likely that you’ll have to meet every step before yours is considered. If you feel your complaint has not been given credence or that the process is taking too long, you can contact your Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and begin an official procedure. To contact the Housing Benefit telephone number directly, call 0871 244 9703.
Where are they?
The head office for Housing Benefit is in London. Phone lines are open between 9am and 5pm, from Monday to Friday. To contact the Housing Benefit telephone number, call 0843-216-0034.
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