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Getting your housing benefit backdated

If you think that you may have been entitled to housing benefit and have a really good reason for not having claimed before, you may be able to get backdated benefit.

Asking for your benefit to be backdated

If you think that you may have been eligible for housing benefit it's important that you claim for this as soon as possible. This is because your benefit can't be backdated by more than six months and you could fall behind with your rent.

Backdating your benefit if you are of working age

If you are of working age (between 16 and 60) and you want your benefit to be backdated, you should:

  • state this when you make your housing benefit claim
  • write a letter explaining why you could not have claimed any earlier
  • provide evidence to back this up, e.g. a letter from your doctor or social worker.

To help request backdated benefit use our backdated housing benefit request letter. You should hand this in to your local council along with your housing benefit claim. It's important that you get a receipt for this when you hand it in.

Backdating your benefit if you are of pension age

If you are of pension credit age your housing benefit should automatically be backdated for up to three months. Use GOV.UK's state pension age calculator to work out whether you qualify for pension credit.

You don't have to give a reason for not claiming in time - you just have to show that you qualified for benefits during that time.

This does not apply to men under 65 if they, or their partner, receives:

  • income support
  • income-based job seeker's allowance, or
  • income related employment and support allowance.

If this applies to you, you can ask for six months backdated benefit but you have to show a good reason for claiming late.

What are good reasons for claiming late?

  • You have been unwell (this includes mental health problems) and unable to manage your personal affairs.
  • You have experienced a personal trauma or bereavement.
  • You have difficulty communicating in English.
  • You have difficulty reading or writing and were not able to ask someone to help you.
  • You were given information that was incorrect (this must have come from someone who should know about benefits, for example someone from the Department for Work and Pensions, the housing benefit or council tax benefits department or an adviser, but not family or friends).

These are just examples of things that could have prevented you from claiming earlier. You might have other reasons. It is usually not enough to say you did not realise that you would have been entitled to benefit, unless there was good reason why you could not have investigated this yourself.

What evidence do I need to get my benefit backdated?

A letter from one of these people is what the council will want as evidence to support your request for backdated benefit:

  • doctor
  • health visitor
  • social worker
  • housing officer
  • support worker.

This list only gives examples, so you could ask someone who is not on the list to write a supporting letter.

What happens after I've handed in my request?

Sometimes you might be asked to give more information - it's important that you provide this as soon as possible so that your claim is processed quickly.

Once the council has made a decision you'll receive a letter notifying you of this. If you don't agree with this you can challenge the decision by asking the council to look at it again. You can get help with this from an adviser in your local area.

If you don't hear back from the council you should speak to someone in the housing benefit department to ask if they've received your request and if they have all the information they require. Take a note of the name of the person you speak to, what they say and the date. Keep this note somewhere safe.

Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444*
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

*Our advice line is free to call from landlines and all six of the main UK mobile networks, Virgin, Orange, 3, T-mobile, Vodafone and O2, but charges may apply from any other network

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