Changes in circumstances affecting housing benefit

Changes in your circumstances can affect your housing benefit. Tell your housing benefit office immediately if your circumstances change.

Why you must report housing benefit changes

You must tell the housing benefit office about any changes in circumstances that could affect the amount of housing benefit you are entitled to.

You could miss out on housing benefit money you're eligible to receive if you don't report changes.

You could also be paid too much housing benefit which you have to pay back. In some situations, you could be fined or prosecuted if you don't report changes that affect your housing benefit claim.

Changes you should report

Examples of changes in circumstances that may affect your housing benefit claim include:

  • a new job
  • an increase in your wages
  • your partner moves in with you
  • a family member leaves home

Check with your housing benefit office if you're not sure which changes count.

Use Shelter's checklist of changes in circumstances to report

How to report changes in circumstances

Tell your housing benefit office about changes in circumstances as soon as possible.

You need to:

  • report changes in writing or online
  • get receipts for any letters you post or deliver
  • keep a photocopy of any evidence you send

Find your local council through and then check if it has an online form you can use to report changes.

Some councils also allow you to report changes in circumstances by email and have a designated email address you can use. Ask your housing benefit office.

Otherwise, you can use Shelter's template letter to tell your housing benefit office about your change in circumstances.

If you phone to report a change, make a record of the call with our checklist and follow up with a letter.

Use Shelter's checklist to help plan your call

Where to find the council

The address for the housing benefit office is on your housing benefit claim form or decision letters.

Use the council finder to find your council's website and housing benefit office address.

Report changes in circumstances right away

Report changes as soon as possible. Normally your housing benefit will be adjusted from the Monday after the change in your circumstances occurred.

If you take more than one month to report a change, you may miss out on extra housing benefit money you are entitled to. The council only increases your housing benefit from the Monday after the change is reported.

Don't delay reporting a change that results in a reduction of your housing benefit. You will usually have to pay back overpaid housing benefit.

How long before a change takes effect

The time it takes to process change of circumstances information varies from council to council. It can sometimes take two weeks or more.

When your information has been processed, the housing benefit department writes to you about any changes to the amount of your housing benefit.

You can complain to the council if a delay causes you hardship.

You may have to repay a housing benefit overpayment

You may be overpaid housing benefit if your circumstances change. This could happen if you start working or your income increases but you don't tell the housing benefit department.

You have to pay back the extra money if you are overpaid.

Fines and court action for not reporting changes

You could be fined or taken to court if you don't report changes in your circumstances to your housing benefit office.

Find out more from Advicenow about being taken to court for benefit fraud

Get legal advice

Get advice if you receive notice that you are being taken to court. A benefits adviser or solicitor can explain the legal process and help argue your case.

Find out where to find free legal advice and representation.

Sonia's Story: 'Reporting income changes is so important'

After getting divorced, Sonia had to sell her house, which made no profit. In order to meet the cost of renting, Sonia had to apply for housing benefit. Read Sonia's full story

Last updated 07 Jun 2016 | © Shelter

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