Category Archives: Backdating rule change

Backdating and failed claims – don’t let your tenant lose rent money!

Tenants are still losing out by making their claims late or not giving us the information we need to process their claims.  Invariably, this means higher arrears for the landlords, struggling tenants and even people losing their homes.  This is something I talk about a lot but I’m not going to apologise for being boring; it’s too important.

If you want to claim Housing Benefit, do it straight away. We will normally only pay you from when you make your claim.  In exceptional circumstances, (where ‘good cause is shown’ in the official phrase), it can sometimes be backdated but that’s rare. And since April, when the government changed the rules, the maximum length of time it can be backdated for has been reduced from six months to one month. So don’t delay.

Many backdating requests used to be about someone telling us that they couldn’t make an application for a practical reason. They couldn’t physically come in to collect or complete a form or they sent us a form but it was lost in transit.

But our moving to an online-only application form has changed things. The process is quicker and simpler and more convenient.
If you want, you can fill the form in at two in the morning. You can do it from anywhere you like, on a tablet or a smart-phone. Postal delays or having to make special trips to get your hands on a paper form are no longer a factor. And once you’ve made your claim – its  simple to prove it. If you provide a valid email address, you automatically get an email receipt. This should put an end to many of the disputes we used to see about whether or not a claim had actually been sent in.

Of course, we know that some of our customers are still not online. I certainly wouldn’t want to minimise or make light of the difficulties that a minority of people might face dealing with an online world but there are fall-back arrangements in place and help is available.

There are other issues that could make it difficult for someone to apply when they need to: Poor health, bereavement or some sort of serious disruption to a person’s normal daily living. We can consider a backdating request made on any grounds, but to succeed, it has got to be something which genuinely prevented them from making a claim at the right time.

The next big problem often occurs once someone has actually made their application. Claims often fail simply because the claimant doesn’t provide information we have asked for within the time limit set. Sometimes there is a genuine problem or simple confusion but quite often we are not given any reason. If we don’t get the information, we almost always have to refuse the claim. This means the applicant has to apply again and their benefit  only starts from the date of the new claim. Its essential that people give us everything we ask for, when we ask for it and that if there is a problem, they let us know straight away.

There is no advantage to us as a council in stopping people get the help they should be entitled to or seeing people struggling with rent arrears. But we do have to work within legislation and regulations that are set for us.

So, a very simple message that I’ve already put on previous blog posts – If someone thinks they need our help, claim straight away, give us the information we need when we ask for it and if there’s a problem, don’t leave it – talk to us.

Oliver

 

 

 

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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