Housing benefit: Dealing with changes
How changes affect housing benefit
Some changes now mean that you must claim universal credit instead of your existing benefits. Sometimes you have a choice.
If you don't have to move to universal credit, you should report changes to the council so your housing benefit can be recalculated.
Get benefits advice before choosing to switch to universal credit. Once you make a claim, you can't usually go back to the old system.
'Some changes in circumstances may mean you'll need to move to universal credit sooner'
Our housing adviser Kate explains that some changes in circumstances will mean you'll have to switch to universal credit sooner.
If you have to apply for universal credit
Any jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance, income support, tax credits or pension credit you get will stop.
In most cases, your housing benefit also stops but you get an extra 2 weeks of housing benefit when you move to universal credit.
If you live in a hostel, refuge, supported or temporary housing, you usually have to claim housing benefit to help with rent as well as claiming universal credit. Ask your landlord or housing provider if you don't know which benefit to claim.
Your housing benefit might increase if you're a council or housing association tenant.
Your payments will probably stay the same if you’re renting privately.
This is because the local housing allowance (LHA) rate that applies to your household is the maximum you can get. Your housing benefit only increases if your actual weekly rent is lower than this figure.
Report the change if you move within the same council area. Your housing benefit is recalculated based on your new rent.
You must usually make a new claim for universal credit if you move to a different council area.
Starting work or increasing your hours
Starting work or increasing your hours could mean that either you:
- must claim universal credit instead
- stay on housing benefit but it is recalculated
- earn too much to be entitled to any benefits
Get benefits advice if you're unsure how taking on a job or increasing your hours will affect your benefits.
How extra income affects housing benefit
Housing benefit goes down by 65p for every £1 you get in extra income above the amount you'd receive in benefits if you weren't working.
Most of your wages and any tax credits count as extra income.
If you have children
You can usually continue to get housing benefit if you start working at least:
- 16 hours a week if you're a single parent
- 24 hours a week if you're a couple with children - one of you must work at least 16 hours
If you don't have children
You must usually claim universal credit instead if you start working more than 16 hours a week.
You can usually continue to claim your existing benefits including housing benefit if you work less than 16 hours a week.
If you get pension credit
You won't qualify for pension credit guarantee anymore if you earn more than:
- £167.25 per week if you're single
- £255.25 per week if you're a couple
You might still qualify for housing benefit but you should report the increase in income.
If you're part of a couple and only one of you is pension age, you may need to claim universal credit if your income drops again in the future. You won't get as much money on universal credit as you get on pension credit and housing benefit.
Stopping work or reducing your hours
If you already get jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance, income support or pension credit you may continue to qualify for these benefits.
You must report the change to the council so your housing benefit can be recalculated.
You usually have to claim universal credit if you stop work or reduce your hours and no longer qualify for working tax credit as a result of this.
Having a child
You usually have to claim universal credit if you have your first child.
If you get income-based JSA, you can move to universal credit up to 11 weeks before your baby is due.
You can choose to stay on tax credits if you get them already, for example, because you already have children. But you must report the birth to the council so your housing benefit can be recalculated.
Household members moving in or out
You usually have to claim universal credit if:
- your partner moves in with you
- you separate from a partner
If you and your partner are both pension age, you can continue to claim housing benefit and can also claim pension credit if your income is low enough.
Deductions for adult household members
Tell the council if:
- your child turns 18 or leaves education
- an adult friend or family member moves in or out, starts work or their income changes
The council will make a non-dependant deduction in some cases.
Bedrooms you can claim for
The number of people living in your home can affect the size of property you can claim housing benefit for.
Tell the council about any of the following changes:
- a friend, family member or lodger moves in
- you have a baby, adopt a child or become a foster carer
- your child reaches an age where they’re no longer expected to share
- a disabled household member can’t share or needs an overnight carer
Tell the council if anyone living in your home dies.
Your housing benefit will usually remain unchanged for 12 months unless you move home or your income increases. Your entitlement is then recalculated a year after the death.
Failing a work capability assessment
You'll probably have to claim universal credit if your income-based ESA stops because you're found fit for work at a work capability assessment.
You can challenge the assessment but this could take several months and you'll need an income during this time.
You can't make a new claim for universal credit if your current benefit includes a severe disability premium. You can continue to get housing benefit.
Last updated 15 May 2019 | © Shelter
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