How long before housing benefit is paid

Your council should start paying your housing benefit claim within two weeks, although there are sometimes delays.

When housing benefit payments start

Housing benefit is usually paid from the Monday after:

  • you contact the council to claim, not the date the council gets your form
  • your entitlement to income support, jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance or pension credit begins

If you make your claim as soon as you move in, you can usually get housing benefit from the date your tenancy starts.

Start date for pension age claimants

If you or your partner are of pension age, your claim can be backdated for three months or to when your tenancy started, whichever is the most recent.

You do not have to ask the council to do this, it should happen automatically.

Payment on account

Your claim should be decided within two weeks if the council has all the information it needs.

If you rent privately or from a housing association, you should receive a stop-gap payment called payment on account if your claim takes longer than two weeks.

How to reduce delays

Make sure you have given the council all the information it asks for.

Your payment could be delayed if the council doesn't have the right evidence and information to process your claim.

If the council asks for more information, provide it as soon as possible. Always ask for receipts when you provide documents.

Contact the council to ask about progress and how long your claim will take.

You can find your council's contact details with the council finder.

Use Shelter's checklist to see what information you must provide

How to complain about delays

The housing benefits department is part of the council. Use your council's complaints procedure to make a complaint.

If you are a council or housing association tenant in rent arrears, ask your housing officer to help chase your claim or complain on your behalf.

If your complaint is not resolved, you may be able to complain to the Ombudsman.

Claiming before you move in

You can claim housing benefit for up to 4 weeks before you move in if:

  • your move was delayed by a stay in hospital or a care home
  • you had to wait for adaptations for someone with a disability

You can also claim early if your local welfare or social fund payment is delayed and you:

  • are of pension credit age
  • have a child under 6
  • receive income support, income-based JSA or income-related ESA with a disability premium

Sonia's Story: 'Keeping on top of things will help your claim'

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 25 Apr 2016 | © Shelter

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