Housing Benefit is a means tested social security benefit in the UK that is intended to help meet housing costs for rented accommodation.
The primary legislation governing Housing Benefit is the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992. Operationally, the governing Regulations are statutory instruments arising from that Act. It is governed by one of two sets of regulations.
For working age claimants it is governed by the "Housing Benefit Regulations 2006", but for those who have reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit (regardless of whether it has been claimed) it is governed by the "Housing Benefit (Persons who have attained the qualifying age for state pension credit) Regulations 2006".
It is normally administered, along with council tax benefit, by the local authority in whose area the property being rented lies. In some circumstances, normally council tenants in "out of borough properties", some claimants may be required to obtain Housing Benefit from the borough that placed them and Council Tax Benefit from their local council. For those areas where there is two or more tier local government structure, Housing Benefit is administered by the district or borough council layer of local government. This is generally the council responsible for the billing of Council Tax.
Council tenants' housing benefit is awarded as a rebate; reducing the level of rent payable by the tenant. Private tenants' benefit is normally paid to the claimant, who has the right to decide to whom payments are made, and in some cases to the landlord. Local authorities reclaim the housing benefit that they have paid from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by means of submitting heavily audited subsidy claims. Three subsidy claims must be completed each year, an initial estimate, a mid year estimate and a final claim. The final claim must be submitted to the DWP by 30 April. The final audited claim must be submitted by 30 November. The Department for Work and Pensions pays local councils an administration grant based on the numbers of new claims and overall case-load; as well as various other cost factor adjustments to take into account the relative staff and accommodation costs. The level of Administration Grant awarded is announced annually by the Department for Work and Pensions. Some elements of the subsidy claim are subject to penalty, to encourage local authorities to control that element of expenditure. This includes high rents for care and support homes and the raising of overpayments. Overpayments of benefit are not fully funded in order to ensure that the local authority takes recovery action where appropriate.
Regulation 9 of the Housing Benefit Regulations mean that Housing Benefit is normally only available to those who are liable to pay rent and have permanent right to reside in the UK. In some cases, a member of the household who is not the claimant or tenant may be treated as liable (such as where the person is unable to look after the own affairs). Some tenants who are liable may also be treated as not liable for the purposes of housing benefit (e.g. most full time Higher Education Students and those who live with a closely relative landlord). If a person who does not have permanent right submits a claim, the Home Office may be informed, which could result in deportation. Due to the operation of the Data Protection Act this would be unusual. Housing Benefit requires both the claimant and any partner to have a valid national insurance number.
New or re-entrants in to the country, claiming within two years of entry may also be excluded from Housing Benefit.
Since April 2008, new private sector benefit claimants receive housing benefit under revised rent restriction rules called Local Housing Allowance.
Read more about Housing Benefit: History, Concepts and Terminology, Local Housing Allowance, Reference Rent Cases, Northern Ireland, Non-LHA Housing Benefit Claims, Housing Benefit Payments For Private Tenants, Rent Restrictions For Council and Housing Association Tenants, Housing Benefit Taper, Non-dependant Deductions, Pre-tenancy Determinations, Council Tax Benefit, Abolition of Council Tax Benefit, Changes in Circumstances, Treatment of Overpayments, Appeals, Discretionary Housing Payments, Changes To Housing Benefit in 2011
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