Claiming housing benefit
Find out how to make sure that your housing benefit claim goes smoothly. Tell the council as soon as possible that you want to claim, even if you are not ready to give them your form. This affects when they can pay your benefit from.
When can I make a claim?
You can make a claim up to 13 weeks before you need to start getting housing benefit. So, for example, if you are starting a new tenancy in a month's time, you can put in a claim now. You won't usually get any benefit before you move in, although you may do in some specific situations.
How do I claim housing benefit?
To make a claim, phone the housing benefit department at your local council to let them know that you want to make a claim and ask for a claim form. You can find the contact number in the phone book or on your council's website. They will then send you a claim form.
Make a note of the date you phoned the council and of the name of the person you spoke to. This is important because, if you are entitled to housing benefit, it will be paid from the Monday after the date you told the council you wanted to make a claim, not the date you actually handed your form in.
Housing benefit is based on your income, so you can claim even if your are working.
Where can I get a claim form?
There are two different types of housing benefit claim forms:
- A HCTB1 form - this is provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and is included in some claim packs for other benefits, such as income based jobseeker's allowance or income support. Download the housing benefit and council tax benefit claim form (HCTB1) from GOV.UK.
- A claim form from your council - you'll be able to get a claim form from your local council by phoning them up or popping into a council office.
You'll only need to fill in one of these forms.
If you are also claiming pension credit, you can make a claim for housing benefit over the the phone. Call the Jobcentre plus on 0800 0 55 66 88 or 0800 0 23 48 88 if you are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech difficulties.
How do I fill in the form to claim?
When you are filling in the form, try to give as much information as possible. Be honest - if you lie or withhold information you could end up being paid too much benefit and having to pay it back at a later date. You could even be prosecuted.
If you're having problems completing a form, get help from an adviser in your local area.
Why do they ask so many questions?
Everyone's circumstances are different. It is difficult to have one form that will ask each person the right questions for their situation.
The housing benefit department also wants to get as big a picture as possible of your income and outgoings so they can work out how much benefit you will be entitled to.
Remember to answer every question or the department will send the form back to you, which will cause delay.
What information do I need to provide?
When you answer a question on the claim form it will tell you if you need to back this up with information. Download a checklist of things to support a benefit claim.
If you cannot find all the information required, hand the form into the council anyway. You have 28 days to get all your information in. If you're having difficulty getting information, get help from adviser in your local area or speak to someone from your local council.
If the housing benefit department do not receive the information within 28 days, they will cancel your claim. Unless you let them know that you are having difficulties and that you are trying to get the information.
Where do I send the form?
The form should go to your local council office. If you have a council claim form it will tell you the address on the form. Otherwise you will find this information in the phone book or on the council's website. The safest way to deliver your form is by hand. If you cannot go yourself, someone else can go for you. Even if there is a queue, you should wait and get a receipt for the form and any information you have provided. Ask for your documents to be photocopied there and then, so you can take the originals home with you.
Keep your receipt in a safe place. If the council misplaces your form after you have handed it in, you will need your receipt as evidence that you handed it in in the first place.
Can I post the form?
You can post the form BUT:
- if you post your form you will not have a record that you posted it and you will have to send your original documents through the mail (things like passports and birth certificates are expensive to replace)
- if your form and your information do make it through the mail they could still get lost in the council offices.
If possible, you should hand the form in to the council offices yourself. If this is not possible, you should send it by recorded delivery. Keep a record of the date that you sent the form and details of the information you included.
Remember, housing benefit is usually paid from the Monday after your claim gets there. If your form goes missing, you could end up having to pay the rent yourself, as it will be your word against the council's that you posted your form.
Claiming housing benefit if you've recently stopped claiming
If you stopped claiming housing benefit, but need to start claiming again, e.g. you started work but this didn't last long, you can use the 'rapid reclaim'. You can use the rapid reclaim process if:
- you were claiming housing benefit but then stopped your claim within the last 26 weeks, and
- you now need to start claiming again, and
- your circumstances haven't changed since your last claim.
The rapid reclaim process is faster, and only requires you to fill in a short form. Ask the housing benefit department for further details when you make your claim.