Getting your benefits backdated

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

This page gives advice on requesting a backdate for:

  • Universal Credit

  • Housing Benefit

  • Council Tax Reduction

If you need advice on backdating another benefit contact a benefits advice service such as Citizen's Advice.

Backdating your benefit if you are of working age

If you are of working age and you want your benefit to be backdated, you should:

  • state this when you make your benefit claim

  • write a letter explaining why you have 'good reason' for not claiming any earlier

  • provide evidence to back this up, e.g. a letter from your doctor or social worker

If you are part of a couple you both need to show 'good reason' for not making the claim earlier.

Backdating time limits

Usually the maximum amount of time you can get a backdate for is:

  • Universal Credit or Housing Benefit can be backdated for a maximum of one month.

  • Council Tax Reduction can be backdated for a maximum of three months, and you don't need to show good reason.

  • If you are of working age and you get certain benefits you can ask for the backdate to apply from the date you started to get these (so long as this is within one month of the benefit award date)

Backdating your benefit if you are of pension age

You can use the government State Pension age calculator to work out whether you are of State Pension age.

Housing Benefit

If you or your partner get Income Support, income-related ESA or income-based JSA, your claim can be backdated for up to a month. You’ll need a 'good reason' for not claiming earlier. For example, if you were ill or in hospital or the council gave you the wrong advice.

If neither of you gets Income Support, income-related ESA or income-based JSA, your claim can be backdated for up to 3 months. You don’t need to explain why you couldn’t claim earlier.

Council Tax Reduction

If you are of pension age 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. You can get Council Tax Reduction backdated for up to three months.

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, 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 a decision is made you'll receive a letter notifying you of this.

You can find more information on our website about what to do If you disagree with a Housing Benefit decision.

If your decision was about Universal Credit or Council Tax Reduction speak to an adviser or contact Citizen's Advice.

If you don't hear back you should speak to someone from the 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.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 7 January 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England