Housing Benefit frequently asked questions

What is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit is a means-tested benefit for people living in rented accommodation who need help paying their rent.  It does not help with household bills and does not help people who have a mortgage on a property they own.


If you have a mortgage on your property and are having difficulty keeping up with your payments and are also receiving a benefit from the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP), you should speak to them to see if you qualify for assistance


Who can claim Housing Benefit?

Anyone who pays rent of a commercial nature can claim Housing Benefit, regardless of whether they work or get DWP benefits. Housing Benefit is not based on National Insurance contributions. 


However some people are excluded from the scheme:


  • Many under-18 care leavers
  • Most full time students
  • Members of religious orders, if they are maintained fully by that order
  • Residents of care homes
  • People whose accommodation costs are included within their Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based) or Employment & Support Allowance (Income Related) or Universal Credit. See if you are eligible for Universal Credit before making a claim for Housing Benefit. If you are eligible, you will need to claim your housing costs along with your Universal Credit.
  • People who have capital exceeding £16,000. Capital includes money in bank account, savings, investments, bonds, shares and second properties.

What is meant by a commercial tenancy?

You are not eligible for Housing Benefit if the agreement under which you occupy your home is not on a commercial basis.


A typical commercial arrangement exists where the tenant pays the landlord an agreed amount of rent in return for the right to reside in a property. The tenant should be afforded a high level of privacy and, where the landlord resides in the same property, the living arrangements will be distinctly separate from one another. Commercial arrangements are often, but not always, supported by a tenancy agreement which provides security for both parties but also provides the basis for the landlord to take action should the tenant not pay their rent.


How is Housing Benefit worked out?

Housing Benefit is a means-tested benefit and a number of things are taken into account when working out entitlement:


  • Who lives in your household, their relationship to you and your partner, and their ages, disabilities and caring responsibilities
  • Size of your property, how long you have lived there, who your landlord is and what your rent includes.
  • Income, capital and some expenses.

You can estimate your entitlement by using our online calculator.


What is the 'Bedroom Tax'?

If you rent your home from a Housing Association or Social Landlord, are under State Pension Age, and you are considered to have more bedrooms than you need, your Housing Benefit may be reduced.


You are entitled to one bedroom for each of the following:


  • two people living as a couple (although separate bedrooms may be allowed if there are specific reasons why a single bedroom cannot be shared)
  • a single person over the age of 16
  • two children under the age of 10 (regardless of their sex)
  • two children of the same sex aged under 16 years
  • any other child, or a single child if there are specific medical reasons why they cannot share with another child
  • any grown up children away at University, or serving in the Armed Forces (if they lived with you before they went away, return here during leave/holidays and in the case of students they intend to return when their course ends)*
  • a non-resident overnight carer
    • The amount that Housing Benefit will be reduced by will depend on how many extra bedrooms you have. Housing Benefit will be reduced by 14% if you have one extra bedroom, or 25 per cent if you have two or more extra bedrooms.


What is the 'Benefit Cap'?

There is a limit on the total amount of benefits, including Housing Benefit, that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called the Benefit Cap.


Your Housing Benefit may be reduced to make sure the total amount of benefits you receive each week isn't more than the cap amount.


What is a non-dependent deduction?

A non-dependent deduction is where your Housing Benefit is reduced because you have other adults living with you. The rate of the deduction depends on their circumstances and finances. It is important that you give us as much information as possible about any non-dependants so we can make sure any non-dependant deduction is accurate.


How do I make a claim?

The quickest and easiest way is to claim online.


The online form is compatible with most Smart Phones and Tablets. If you are liable for Council Tax, you can make a joint claim for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support on the same form.


If you don't have a computer, you can use one in any public library, the Customer Access Point in Wakefield One or some of the Wakefield District Housing (WDH) Service Access Points (if you are a WDH tenant). If you are a tenant of Riverside Housing Group or Together Housing (Chevin) you can also ask them for help.


When will my claim start from?

Normally your Housing Benefit will start from the Monday following the date that we receive your claim. If we receive your claim on a Monday, then it will start from the following Monday unless you also moved in to your address the same week.


Can my claim be backdated?

Working age customers can request a backdate if they had a good reason for not claiming earlier. However, we can only go back 4 weeks from the date the backdate request is received so any backdate request should be made as soon as possible.  You will need to supply information and evidence to show that there was a good reason for your delay in claiming.


Pension age customers are automatically eligible for a backdate of up to 3 months prior to claiming as long as they had a rental liability, they or their partner were of pensioner age, and they qualified for Council Tax Support during this time.


Do I need to make a new claim if I have moved?

If you have recently moved into the Wakefield area, you must make a claim for Housing Benefit in the same week that you move in. If you have moved within the area, you do not need to make a new claim if you were claiming Housing Benefit at your previous address, but you must report this change in your circumstances. Report your change of address.


When will I get paid?

Housing Benefit is normally paid 4 weekly in arrears


How will I get paid?

In you rent from a housing association, you can chose whether you receive your Housing Benefit direct to yourself or have your payments sent to your landlord.


However, if you currently, or at any time in the future, have 8 or more weeks of arrears, payments will be sent to your landlord until the arrears and been reduced.


If you rent from a private landlord, we will normally pay any housing benefit you are entitled to direct to yourself, by paying into your bank account. However, there are circumstances when we may pay the landlord in order to make sure your tenancy is not put at risk by non-payment of rent.


I'm receiving Housing Benefit but my circumstances have changed – what should I do?

You must report any changes in your circumstance online. If you have documents to support these changes you can also upload these at the same time.


Examples of changes you should report include:


  • Someone moving in or out of your household
  • Changes to incomes received by members of your household
  • Starting/Stopping work
  • Your child finishing school/college and/or end of your child benefit
  • Changes to the amount of capital held by you or your partner
  • Rent increases or decreases
  • Moving address
  • Change to the bank account where your Housing Benefit is paid

I think my Housing Benefit is wrong – what can I do?

We aim to make the right decision when working out your entitlement. However, if you think a decision we have made is wrong, you can:


  • ask us to explain it
  • ask us to look at it again
  • appeal against it

More information about how to do this.


My Housing Benefit isn't enough – can I get any extra help?

If you have a shortfall in your rent, (the Housing Benefit you receive does not meet your rent) and you can't afford to pay the difference, you may be eligible to receive an additional short-term payment from Discretionary Housing Payment.


If you need additional help to obtain the essentials for your home, such as a fridge, beds, etc; or you are on a pre-paid meter and are unable to meet the costs of your gas and electricity, you may be entitled to help from the Local Welfare Provision.