How to manage a housing benefit delay

Take action straight away to avoid rent arrears if your new claim for housing benefit is delayed.

How long before your claim is paid

Once you have made a new claim for housing benefit, the council should take up to 14 days to:

  • make a decision
  • tell you the decision in writing
  • pay you housing benefit, if you are entitled to it

How to reduce delays

Claims can sometimes take longer than 14 days to process, but following these steps could keep housing benefit delays to a minimum.

1. Send the council all the information it needs

The application form should tell you what information is needed to process your claim. Or you can ask the council's housing benefit department.

This usually includes proof of:

  • identity
  • national insurance number
  • address
  • rent
  • income if you are working
  • savings

Find your council's housing benefit department on GOV.UK

2. Respond quickly to queries

You usually have to give the council any information it needs within a month of being asked.

Let the housing benefit department know if you have trouble finding what is required. The council may be able to request information on your behalf or accept alternative documents.

Keep a record of the information you send, getting a receipt for any documents you hand over.

If you don't provide the information within the time limit the council could decide you're not entitled to housing benefit.

3. Check the council got your application

Ensure the council has received your application and has all the right information.

Call to check – you can use our checklists to:

4. Keep your original documents

The housing benefit department will want to see the original of important documents such as your passport and driving licence, and not copies.

Ask the housing benefit department to make copies for their records and leave you with the originals.

What to do if your claim is delayed

1. Contact the council

Find out why your housing benefit claim has been delayed and see if there's anything you need to do to speed it along.

You can complain to the council about an unreasonable delay. 

2. Check on your interim payment

If you are a private or housing association tenant, you should receive an interim payment – a payment on account – if your claim takes longer than 2 weeks to process.

Contact your council if you do not receive payment on account after 2 weeks.

3. Continue paying rent

Making small, regular payments is better than nothing at all.

Remember that housing benefit may not cover all your rent even when it's paid.

4. Keep your landlord updated

Contact your landlord if housing benefit delays mean you will miss a rent payment. Tell them you will be getting housing benefit soon.

Still need help?

An adviser could help with benefit problems:

Find out where to get benefits advice

If housing benefit delays are causing rent arrears: 

Contact a Shelter adviser online, by phone or in person


Last updated 25 Jan 2019 | © Shelter

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