Housing benefit FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

 

 

  1. Can I claim housing benefit?
  2. How do I make a claim?
  3. Can I find out the rent you will use to work out my housing benefit if I am thinking about renting from a private landlord?
  4. Can I get housing benefit before I move into a property?
  5. How much benefit will you pay?
  6. What do you need to know when I claim benefit?
  7. What documents do I need to provide?
  8. Where can I take my documents to get them verified?
  9. What date will my benefit be paid from?
  10. How can I speed up my benefit claim?
  11. What if I don't agree with the amount of benefit awarded to me?
  12. How can I appeal?

 

1. Can I claim housing benefit?

You may qualify for housing benefit if you receive income support, jobseeker's allowance, pension credit or other state benefits or you are on a low income and pay rent.

If you are over 60 and receive Guaranteed State Pension Credit you may qualify for housing benefit or council tax benefit even if you have savings above £16,000.

You can find out if you are entitled by using our benefits calculator or ringing our contact centre on 0151 443 4042 and ask for a trial calculation. Remember, this will only give you an indication of your potential entitlement.

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2. How do I make a claim?

To apply for housing benefit, you must complete an application form. The form can also be used to claim council tax benefit. Application forms are available from any of our One Stop Shops and most registered social landlords and advice agencies or you can:

  • Download one from this website; or
  • Contact us on 0151 443 4042 and we will send you a form via post or arrange a home visit if you are elderly or have mobility problems.

It is important that you complete and return you application to us as soon as possible. The guidance notes will tell you what documents we need to see, but do not delay sending the form if you don't have all the documents to hand. Just let us know when you will be able to provide the rest of the information we have asked for. You may lose benefit if there is a delay in returning your application.

Send your completed application and supporting documents to Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Municipal Buildings, Cherryfield Drive, Kirkby, L33 1TX or hand it in to any of our One Stop Shops.

Please do not post any documents or items of value.

If your claim is complete

We aim to process your claim within 10 working days of receipt. You will then get a letter telling you how much housing and/or council tax benefit you are entitled to. When you get the letter please read it carefully and let us know right away if you think any of the information is wrong. Sometimes we may need some more information before we can process your claim, if we do need any more information we will telephone or write to you to tell you what we need.

If your claim is incomplete

You need to provide some more information before we can process your claim. The receipt you have been given tells you what you need to bring in. Remember - we can’t work out how much benefit you should get without this information. If you haven’t got the information we have asked for please tell us right away and we will try to help (see below for how to contact us).

Please bring the information in as soon as you can. We aim to process your claim within 10 working days of receiving all the information. If you don’t bring in all the information within a month you may not get any benefit and you will have to pay full rent and/or council tax.
Please Remember

You must tell us right away if anything changes that might mean your benefit is wrong. If you need to tell us about a change you can:-

  • Call into any of our One Stop Shops
  • Telephone us on 0151 443 4042
  • e-mail us at Benefits@knowsley.gov.uk
  • Write to us at Cherryfield Drive, Kirkby, L32 1TX

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3. Can I find out the rent you will use to work out my housing benefit if I am thinking about renting from a private landlord?

Since the introduction of the Local Housing Allowance the level of housing benefit we can pay depends on the size of the household occupying the property and the broad rental market area which the property is based.

Before deciding to move into a property, it is important that you find out what the maximum benefit we can pay for a particular property. To do this you need to establish how many bedrooms you require based on the size criteria below. You will need to count one bedroom for the following people.

  • Every adult couple
  • Any other adult aged 16 or over
  • Any 2 children of the same sex
  • Any 2 children regardless of sex under age 10
  • Any other child

The Rent Service no longer values individual properties. Instead they set monthly local housing allowance rates for different size properties within different areas based on the mid point of rent charged by private landlords.

These areas are called Broad Rental Market Areas (BRMA). Each local authority has at least one BRMA. There is no right to appeal against these rates.

Knowsley has 3 separate BRMAs:

  • Greater Liverpool - covers Huyton, Kirkby, Halewood and Knowsley Village
  • St Helens - covers Whiston and Prescot
  • North Cheshire - covers Cronton

It is important to understand that the figure given by the rent officer is not necessarily the amount of weekly entitlement we will pay. This will depend on your income and personal circumstances.

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4. Can I get housing benefit before I move into a property?

Only in certain circumstances. If you have to pay rent from your tenancy start date to the date you moved in, you may qualify for benefit before moving in. The delay in moving in must be for one of the following reasons:

  1. To adapt the house if you or a member of your family have a disability
  2. You are waiting for a social fund payment to meet a need arising from the move or in connection with setting up the home; a family member must be aged 5 or under, or your applicable amount includes one of the following premiums: pensioner, enhanced pensioner, higher pensioner, disability, severe disability or disable child premium
  3. You became liable to make payments in respect of the property while you were in hospital or a residential home.

However, even when the conditions are met for 2 or 3 above, we cannot pay benefit if you had to pay rent on a previous propery immediately before the start of the tenancy at your new address. To qualify you must apply to the council within four weeks of moving into your new home.

Slightly different criteria applies if you are a victim of domestic violence.

The rules about rent prior to occupation are complicated. Please contact us on 0151 443 4042 if you want to find out more.

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5. How much benefit will you pay?

It depends on your circumstances, such as:

  • The amount of rent and council tax you pay
  • Your income
  • Your savings
  • Who lives in your home and what their circumstances are.

If you would like to know how much rent or council tax you should pay while you are waiting for us to assess your claim then you can use the benefit calculator or contact us on 0151 443 4042 and ask for an estimate of your housing or council tax benefit. This is called a trial calculation. It does not guarantee exactly the amount of help you will receive but it will give you an idea of how much you should be paying until your assessment is received.

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6. What do you need to know when I claim benefit?

We need to confirm all of the information that you give us on the application form. In most cases we will need to see proof of your identity and National Insurance Number but we may also ask you for proof of income, savings and rent.

The guidance notes on the application form will tell you what you need to provide. We will only accept original documents. You can bring your documents into any of our One Stop Shops. Please do not send valuable documents through the post.

Sometimes, we can get proof of benefits and allowances from other government offices such as the Department for Work and Pensions and the Pension Service and we will try not to ask you to provide the same information to more than one office.

If you cannot provide the information, please contact us. It is important that you do not delay in returning your claim for benefit.

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7. What documents do I need to provide?

For a new claim, we need to see proof of the following for you and your partner:

  • Proof of identity. You will need to provide 2 items which may include a passport, birth certificate, driving licence, or a recent utility bill.
  • National Insurance Number. You can find this on benefit books or letters from the Department of Work and Pensions, wage slips, P45 or P60 or a National Insurance card or letters from the tax office.
  • Savings and investments. We need to see up to date proof of all your bank and building society accounts, even if they are overdrawn. We will normally need to see two consecutive months of bank statements for each account. We also need to see proof of any stocks, unit trusts, shares, national savings or any other savings or investments that you have.
  • Income and benefits. We need to see 5 consecutive wage slips if you are paid weekly, or 2 if you are paid monthly. If you have just started work do not wait until you have these before claiming benefit. You can send us your first wage slip or ask your employer for a letter confirming what your wage will be. We can estimate your entitlement and revise the calculation when your payslips are available. If you can't find your payslips, ask us for a certificate of earnings to send to your employer. We also need to see proof of any benefits or other income you receive. This could include child benefit or tax credits. If you do not have the proof, we may be able to confirm the details with the relevant office. Please contact us for advice on 0151 443 4042.
  • Proof of rent.
  • Your tenancy agreement or a letter from your landlord.
  • Evidence of all income for anyone else who lives with you, for example, a relative or friend.

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8. Where can I take my documents to get them verified?

Do not send valuable documents through the post. You can take them to any of our One Stop Shops and the staff will verify that they have seen the original document. They will take a copy and give the original back to you.

If you are elderly or have mobility problems please contact us on 0151 443 4042 and we will arrange to come out and verify the documents in your own home.

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9. What date will my benefit be paid from?

We normally pay benefits from the Monday after the date we receive your benefit claim form. If you claim your benefit in the week in which you move into a property, then we can normally pay benefit from the start of your tenancy. In special circumstances we can backdate housing and council tax benefit for up to 52 weeks. You must ask us for this in writing and give us the reason why you were unable to claim earlier.

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10. How can I speed up my benefit claim?

Make sure you complete all of the questions on the application form. Bring the form and your documents into one of our One Stop Shops and ask the customer services officer to check the form and verify the documents that you have brought in. If we ask you for any further information, bring it to us as soon as you can. The sooner you bring this information the quicker we can process your claim.

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11. What if I don't agree with the amount of benefit awarded to me?

If you do not understand our decision you can follow the three steps below:

  • Ask us to explain it to you. This should be requested within one month of receiving our notification letter.
  • Ask us to look at the decision again.
  • In certain circumstances, you can appeal to an independent tribunal who can change the decision if they agree that it is wrong.

If you request information after the one month time limit, we may still explain our decision in more detail but may not look at our decision again if you later decide that it is wrong.

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12. How can I appeal?

You can make an appeal to the Tribunal Service by downloading a benefit appeals form. Complete the form and the reasons for your appeal. It is important that you write down everything as the tribunal does not have to look at anything you do not mention. Once you have completed and signed the form, send it to us within one calendar month of the date on the notification letter. The Tribunal Service will decide on your appeal at a tribunal hearing.

If you need further help with appeals, you can phone or visit your local One Stop Shop or call 0151 443 4042.