You can only make a claim for Housing Benefit if one of the following applies:
- You and your partner are Pension Age
- You live in temporary accommodation provided by Copeland Borough Council
- You live in supported or exempt accommodation
If you do not fit into any of the above categories you need to apply for Universal Credit online at www.gov.uk/universal-credit/how-to-claim
Residents who are unlikely to qualify include those who:
- have savings of more than £16,000 unless you receive Guaranteed Pension Credit
- pay rent to live with a close relative
- receive housing costs via Universal Credit
Check if you are of state pension age
How can residents claim?
There are a number of ways residents can apply for Housing Benefit including:
- through our online form. If you have any issues call 01946 598300.
- by printing or downloading a claim form and sending it to us via email or posting it to our Market Hall, Whitehaven office. You can also claim Council Tax Support through this form.
- by requesting a claim form over the phone at 01946 598300 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail)
For those who live with a partner, one claim should be made for both people. If one person is a student the non-student should complete the claim form noting the student as their partner.
What documents are needed to claim?
Before Housing Benefit can be issued a number of original documents must be provided, copies will not be accepted. We kindly ask residents to provide any documents of importance or value in person at our offices and not by post.
The documents that are needed depend on the residents individual circumstances.
How much will eligible residents receive?
What residents receive in Housing Benefits depends on their individual circumstances. The main factors that can affect the amount a resident receives include.
- what other benefits they are able to claim
- the level of income they receive including any pensions
- the number of bedrooms a property has and if the property is under occupied, according to the government guidance. This is also known as ‘bedroom tax’.
The amount a person will receive if they are living in private accommodation is based on Local Housing Allowance. The maximum amount a person receives varies each year. View the current maximum Local Housing Allowance rates.
There are a number of free benefits calculators available online to give residents an idea of what they may be entitled to. Use a free benefits calculator(link is external).
When we make a decision on the claim, we will send a letter. if you would like to see your letters online, please register here
What happens if a resident's circumstances change?
Residents must notify us immediately if they have a change in circumstances. You can do this by our online form here.
Changes in circumstances include but are not limited to changes:
- in address
- in household income including other benefits, wages, pensions or income from lodgers. This includes partners and children’s income.
- to the number of individuals living in the home
- in the circumstances of the individuals living in the home including starting or leaving education or study and any changes in employment
- changes to your rent
Residents can notify us of any changes by completing the online change in circumstances form here. Alternatively, you can notify the changes in writing, by visiting our offices, by email at email@example.com(link sends e-mail) or by phone on 01946 598300.
Failure to notify us may lead to housing benefit overpayments or underpayments. Intentional failure to notify us of any change, may be considered as benefit fraud and may be punishable by prosecution, a fine or imprisonment. Find out more about benefit fraud.
What if a resident disagrees with our decision?
Once a resident has completed the Housing Benefit claim form one of our officers will assess the claim against Government criteria and decide how much the claimant is entitled to. Our officer will then write to the claimant to explain the decision and what happens next. A resident can request a ‘Statement of Reasons’ for a more in-depth explanation.
If residents believe we have made the wrong decision in relation to their Housing Benefit entitlement they must notify us within one month of the date of the decision notice. An officer will then revaluate the claim, taking into account any further information provided and will write to the resident to let them know the outcome and whether the entitlement figure will be changed.
If we decide to pay the same or a reduced entitlement a resident then has one month from the date of the second decision notice to request an appeal.
If the appeal is passed to the Tribunals Service the resident will be sent a copy of our case which should be read carefully. If a resident chooses to attend a hearing in person they can take someone with them to help them state their case such as a solicitor or a friend. If a resident chooses not to attend the hearing the tribunal will base the appeal on a written statement provided by the resident.
At the tribunal the members will take into account the evidence, the law and circumstances at the time of the decision. A decision will be made by members of the tribunal and both the resident and the council will be informed in writing. Any changes to Housing Benefit entitlement will be implemented immediately.
Residents can also go to Citizens Advice(link is external) for independent advice around benefit claims.
When is housing benefit paid?
Usually, Housing Benefit is paid from the first Monday following a completed claim. The benefit is then paid once every two or four weeks depending on who it is paid to. We may consider back-dating Housing Benefit payments by up to one month for those who are working age and by up to three months for those who are state pension age.
What if we pay residents too much (overpayments)?
Failure to notify us in a change of circumstances, administrative errors and other factors can lead to Housing Benefit overpayments.
A Housing Benefit overpayment can be deducted from the resident’s weekly allowance if paid directly to the resident, this is known as a weekly re-claim. If the resident is no longer entitled to Housing Benefit the amount may be deducted from other benefits the resident receives or an invoice may be issued.
If the Housing Benefit is paid directly to the landlord then a reduced amount will be paid by the council to the landlord and the resident is responsible for paying the remainder of the rent to the landlord.
If an overpayment has been paid directly to the landlord, through no fault of the tenant, then the overpayment may be deducted from future payments for other tenants to that landlord or an invoice will be issued. These deductions will not be treated as rent arrears for other tenants and the landlord must not try to recover the shortfall from tenants.
If a resident is not happy with our decision relating to Housing Benefit overpayments they may have the right to appeal. Residents must notify us within one month of the date of the decision notice.
How do I pay back a Housing Benefit Overpayment?
If you have received an invoice because you have been overpaid your housing benefit, please visit our ways to pay webpage to find out how you can pay back what you owe.
Can a bank use my housing benefit to repay my overdraft?
No. Banks are not allowed to use housing benefit, or any other benefit, to pay an overdraft.
You can protect your housing benefit payments by telling your bank it should only be used to pay your rent. This protection is called a 'first right of appropriation of funds order'.
You can use the first right of appropriation on any money being paid into your account. For example, you may want to make sure that your Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) is used to pay your electricity bill and water rates. You will need to tell your bank how to use these payments.
How do I request a first right of appropriation of funds order?
You need to write to your bank at least seven days before your housing benefit is due, making it clear that any regular payments or future deposits from Copeland Borough Council are to pay for your rent only.
Please see template below which you may wish to use to draft your correspondence. Make sure to enter your personal information into the appropriate places.
‘On or around August 20, and every two weeks after, my housing benefit will be paid into my current account number 0101010101. I am exercising my first right of appropriation over these funds and wish you to pay the following items from it: £75 standing order payable to my landlord, Mr Smith on the 25th of each month.’
Keep a copy of the correspondence in case there is any dispute later. You may want to ask your bank/building society for a written acknowledgement of your instructions.
If there are any items you no longer want to pay from your account, or which you cannot afford, you should give your bank separate cancellation instructions. Please note any loan repayments to the same bank you lent the funds from cannot be cancelled.