Waiting for a housing or council tax benefit claim to be processed
Once you have handed in your form, you will have to wait for your claim to be processed. This page tells you what to expect while you are waiting and what to do if you haven't heard anything.
What happens once I have handed my housing benefit claim form in?
Someone will look at the information on your claim form:
- if there is enough information - your claim will be assessed and you will get a letter telling you whether you are entitled to housing benefit.
- if there is not enough information - you may receive a letter or a phone call asking you to provide more documents.
The council have asked me to provide more information - do I have to?
If the council has asked you for more information, you'll need to give them this information within one calendar month, or your claim could be cancelled. When handing in extra information make sure you get a receipt. Keep the receipt in a safe place along with the receipt confirming that you handed in your claim form.
If you are having difficulty providing the information, contact your council and explain the problem. They may be able to request this information from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), your employer, or another organisation. If they don't help you contact an adviser.
How long will my housing benefit decision take?
This varies for each council. Unfortunately, it can take a long time for your claim to be processed - sometimes this can take several months. You may be able to get a payment on account to help you pay your rent while you wait.
Can I stop paying my rent?
It's very important that you continue to pay as much as you can towards your rent while you wait for your claim to be processed. You may not be entitled to housing benefit, or you might only get help with part of your rent, leaving you to make up the rest. If possible, try to find out roughly how much benefit you might be entitled to.
If you don't know whether you'll be entitled to full housing benefit, try to keep making payments at a level you can afford. If you're doing this it's very important to to keep your landlord informed of what you're doing. Don't stop paying rent unless you are confident that you will receive full housing benefit, you could build up huge rent arrears and lose your tenancy.
You may also be able to get a payment on account to help pay your rent while you wait for your claim to be processed.
If you rent from a council or housing association, ask if they have a welfare rights officer who can help you. If not, get in touch with an adviser near you.
I handed my form in a while ago and I haven't heard anything - what should I do?
You should phone or pop in your local council's housing benefit department, to check that they have received your form and that they have everything they need to process your claim.
Take a note of the name of the person you spoke to, along with what they said and the date that you spoke to them. Keep this in a safe place along with the receipts for your form and any information you've given to the council.
The council say they have lost my form and my documents - what can I do?
Unfortunately, forms sometimes get lost in the post and in council offices. If this happens, you'll need to fill in another form and provide the information again. If you have receipts for the form and/or the information you handed in, include these with the form.
If you don't have a receipt, tell the housing benefit benefit department that you've already handed in a form. If you can't prove this you may not get paid housing benefit until you hand in a second form.
Can I get a payment before my housing benefit claim is processed?
If you're renting privately and you haven't received a housing benefit payment within 14 days of handing in your form and you provided all the information required, you are entitled to a payment while you are waiting for your claim to be processed. This is called a payment on account.
You should get this payment automatically. However this does not always happen, so you may have to request a payment on account from your council. Do this as soon as possible after the 14 days, to avoid falling behind with your rent. If your council does not make a payment on account, you can make a complaint to your local council.
The payment on account might not cover all your rent, if this is the case you can get the extra money refunded to you. If it's more than your rent then your council will claim the money back from your housing benefit.
What if the council tells me my claim has been dropped?
The council may say that they have dropped your claim (this is sometimes called being 'dead-filed'). This can happen when you've been asked to provide extra information and you haven't done so.
The council need to make a decision on your claim, even if all they say is that you're not entitled to housing benefit. If you're in this situation you should make a complaint to the council and demand a decision. If the decision is then negative, you can ask to challenge the decision.
Contact an adviser if you're in this situation, they may be able to help you talk to the council.