About Housing Benefit

Who can claim?

Housing Benefit is available to people on a low income who rent their property from the council, housing association or private landlord. 

There are some people who are not eligible to claim Housing Benefit. These include:

  • People who are charged rent by a close relative and they live in the same house.
  • Asylum seekers - although they can seek other assistance from the National Asylum Support Service (NASS).
  • Students (in some cases).
  • People who have recently arrived in the UK from an EU country, who are unemployed.

How long is Housing Benefit paid for?

The length of time your claim will be paid depends on your circumstances.  Once an award is made, there is no fixed time limit to the award.  The amount of the award may go up or down if there is a change of circumstances.  Otherwise benefit simply continues until you stop being entitled or fail to respond to a request for information or evidence and the award is ended.

If you are a Council tenant your Housing Benefit will be sent directly to your rent account on a weekly basis.
 
If you are a Private tenant, in most circumstances, we will pay Housing Benefit directly to you; however we may make payments to your landlord.

Housing Benefit is paid four weekly in arrears, by BACS transfer into a bank or building society account. 

How will you get an overpayment back?

An overpayment of benefit means you have been paid benefit that you are not entitled to. If you have been overpaid we will write to you explaining what caused the overpayment and how much has been overpaid.

If your overpayment is found to have been your fault (for example your income increased and you didn't tell us) then we will need to recover any benefit paid to you that you are not entitled to. Our standard rate of recovery is £10.95 a week.

We will recover the overpayment by reducing your Housing Benefit, or invoicing you if you are no longer receiving benefit. If you feel that the amount we are reducing your benefit by is causing you financial problems please contact us. You may be asked to fill in a form giving details of your income and expenditure.   

Our overpayments policy [pdf document] explains how we go about recovering overpayments of Housing Benefit.

If you disagree with the overpayment you can appeal in writing. This must be done within one calendar month of the date on the letter.

Will you keep the information I give you confidential?

We will use the information you give us on your claim form, and in any proof you send us, to work out your claim for Housing Benefit.
 
We may pass the information to other agencies or organisations such as the Department for Work and Pensions and the Inland Revenue, as allowed by the law.  We may check the information you have given, or information given about you by someone else, against other information we already have.  We may also ask other agencies, organisations, local authorities or government departments to give us information they have about you.
 
We will not give information about you to anyone else, or use the information about you for other purposes.  If you want us to talk to someone other than yourself about your claim then you will need to write to us giving your permission. 

More information about data protection

What happens if I need to move before my old tenancy has ended?

If you are moving from one rented property to another, you might be able to get Housing Benefit on both of them for up to four weeks. This would help you pay for any notice period required on the old property. To qualify for payments on two homes, you need:

  • To have moved into your new property, ideally at the start of the new tenancy, and
  • To tell us: 
    • why you had to move to your new address before your old tenancy ended, and
    • why the overlapping charge for rent on both properties could not have been avoided.

What is a non-dependant?

Non-dependants are people who live with you who are over 18.

This includes adult sons, daughters, and other relatives or friends who live in your home, but not your landlord or joint tenants.

Non dependant deductions reduce the amount of Housing Benefit and you receive, depending on the circumstances of the non-dependant. The deductions are set down in law and have to be applied whether or not the adult concerned actually contributes to your household.

When you make a claim for benefit you need to give us proof of the income your non-dependant receives. If your non-dependant is unemployed and receives state benefits and we have their written authorisation, we can check this information ourselves with the Department for Work and Pensions.

Circumstances of the non-dependent Weekly amount from April 2014
Aged under 25 and on Income Support or income based Jobseekers Allowance or income related Employment and Support Allowance which does not include an amount for the support component or work related activity component £0.00
Aged 25 or over and on Income Support or income based Jobseekers Allowance, or aged 18 or over and not in remunerative work £14.15
In receipt of main phase income related Employment and Support Allowance £14.15
In receipt of Pension Credit £0.00
Aged 18 or over and in remunerative work:

gross weekly income less than £128

£14.15

gross weekly income not less than £128.00 but less than £188.00

£32.45

gross income not less than £188.00 but less than £245.00

£44.55

gross income not less than £245.00 but less than £326.00

£72.95

gross income not less than £326.00 but less than £406.00

£83.05

gross income not less than £406.00

£91.15

Can my claim be backdated?

Housing Benefit is usually paid from the Monday after we receive your claim.

In certain circumstances we can backdate your claim for up to 6 months before this date; however for us to do this you must be able to show good reasons for not claiming earlier throughout the whole of the period. For example:

  • You were too ill before you claimed
  • You were wrongly told by an advice agency that you were not entitled to benefit
  • You could not manage your own affairs

If you have reached the qualifying age for state Pension Credit, you can have your claim backdated for up to 3 months without having to show good reasons for claiming late. 

I disagree with a decision, how can I appeal?

If you are unhappy with any decisions we have made about your claim, you can ask us to look at these again, or you can make an appeal to Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service. 

If you want us to look at our decision again, or if you want to appeal, you must write to us within one month of the date you received our decision, clearly stating why you disagree with our decision.  

Once your claim has been looked at again, we will write to you and tell you if we can change our decision.

Benefit fraud

Benefit Fraud is not a victimless crime.  Everyone is a victim of benefit thieves, as they steal money from taxpayers.  We are committed to combating Benefit Fraud and ensure that anyone caught stealing money is dealt with in an appropriate way.

What if I make a mistake on my claim form?

We know that most people are honest and we want to encourage everyone to claim all the benefit they are legally entitled to. We also know that people make genuine mistakes when completing their forms.

This is why we investigate all cases thoroughly and ensure that we only take action against people who have knowingly committed fraud

What happens to people who commit Benefit Fraud?

Any benefit thieves that we catch will have to repay the money they have stolen. We may also take one of three actions: 

  • We will issue a formal caution. This is serious and an official record of the caution is kept on a central file. If the person commits another fraud, this caution would be mentioned in court.
  • We will issue an administrative penalty. This is a fine that has to be paid back to us in addition to the overpayment.
  • Future payments of benefit may be sanctioned. 
  • In the worst cases, we will prosecute benefit thieves.

I know someone who is a Benefit Thief. What should I do?

Please contact us. You do not have to give your name or address. Any information you give is strictly confidential. 

You can write to us at:

Revenues and Benefits
Darlington Borough Council
Town Hall
Darlington  DL1 5QT

You can ring us on 01325 388517 - if you call out of Office Hours, leave a message and we will get back to you the next working day.

You can e-mail us in confidence at HBEnquiries@darlington.gov.uk or internalaudit@darlington.gov.uk

Shared Fraud Hotline

You can also contact the Shared Fraud Hotline on 0800 328 6340.  This is a national Hotline service which is available during 8.00am - 6.00pm. Anything you tell them will be forwarded to us.

If you use a text phone, you can contact the Shared Fraud Hotline on 0800 328 6341

You can also write to them at:
PO Box 647
Preston
PR1 1WA

We investigate every allegation of benefit fraud.  We have to do this thoroughly, and so it may take sometime to complete an investigation. The law states that we must keep all information on our customers confidential, so it is not possible to give progress reports on an investigation.