Rent arrears and benefit start dates – changes to the rules from April 2016

October 2015

Far too many tenants end up with rent arrears because they haven’t sent in their Housing Benefit application form on-time.

Normally, benefit can only be paid from the Monday after the claim is made. In exceptional circumstances, it can be backdated, but there has to be a very good reason why. It a tenant does want to ask for backdating, they have to make the request in writing and quite often, provide proof of their reasons. Each case is looked at individually and there is no situation where it’s safe to assume that backdating will be awarded automatically.

If backdating can be awarded, current rules allow us to go back as far as 6 months if necessary. However, a change from April 2016 means that the maximum permitted length of a backdated period will be reduced to 4 weeks for most claimants. (Different rules apply for people over pension age).

If you have a tenant who might be entitled to Housing Benefit, whether it’s a new tenancy or an existing tenant who’s managed to pay their rent themselves but a change in their situation means they might now be entitled to help, it’s essential that they make their claim as soon as possible.

Once their claim has been made though, they must make sure they provide any information we might ask for within the time limit they are given. If for any reason they have a difficulty in doing so, they should tell us as soon as possible. If they don’t, their claim could be refused; something which unfortunately happens to a lot of people. As a council, we certainly don’t take any pleasure in stopping or refusing benefit – quite the opposite. There is absolutely no benefit to us and it’s certainly not in the council’s interest to have people going into rent arrears or struggling financially. But we do have to work within the Housing Benefit regulations.

So our message to tenants is very clear (and we would ask landlords to help us reinforce this where they can).

    • If you think you might be entitled to Housing Benefit, please make sure you put in your application as soon as you possibly can.
  • if we ask you for information in support of a claim, please provide it within the time limit that’s set, but talk to us if there is any problem in doing so.
  • if anything changes in your circumstances – tell us straight away.

Oliver

 

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