Housing Benefit

Rent arrears due to a housing benefit claim

If you have rent arrears because of problems with your housing benefit claim, there are a number of things

you may be able to do to stop the situation getting worse.

Information needed for a housing benefit claim

Your housing benefit claim might be delayed if you don’t provide all the information the council asks for.

Sign and date all your forms and provide all the information the council asks for as soon as possible. Return all forms no later than four weeks after the council asks for them.

An adviser can help you if you have any questions or are having problems completing the form.

Lost housing benefit claim forms

You may have problems with housing benefit payments if the council loses your application form.

Try to keep a photocopy of your forms and take them to the housing benefit office in person. Always ask for a receipt, so you can prove that you handed the form in on a particular day.

If you send the form by post, ask for written confirmation that it has been received. For extra security, you can also send the form by recorded delivery.

If housing benefit doesn’t cover all the rent

Your housing benefit might not cover all your rent if the council decides your rent is unreasonably high or the property is too large for your household.

You may be able to appeal the council’s decision.

You usually have one month to challenge a housing benefit decision you don’t agree with, but later requests can sometimes be accepted.

If you do this, your claim is reassessed and the amount you get may change. It is worth checking with an advice centre to make sure the council has calculated your claim correctly and if you can appeal. Act quickly as there are time limits for asking for an appeal.

You may have been affected by changes to housing benefit and local housing allowance. These changes can mean you are finding it difficult to afford your rent. It’s important to check any new calculation of benefit is correct, but an appeal can’t usually change decisions made because of housing benefit changes.

Apply for a discretionary housing payment if you can’t afford to pay the difference between your rent and your housing benefit. The council decides if you should get one based on your particular circumstances.

How to ask for a review

Put your request in writing. Explain why you think the decision is wrong. Include evidence to support your housing benefit request.

For example:

    • Send your child benefit award letter if the council is wrong about the number of children you have


    • Send photocopies of payslips if the council has wrong information about your wages

Take the letter and evidence to the council offices if possible. Get a receipt, including the date you handed in the information.

Use recorded delivery or get a certificate of posting if you post the letter or keep a note of the date of posting with a photocopy of what you sent.

How the council changes a housing benefit decision

A different person from the one who made the original decision looks at your case. They take into account the reasons for the original housing benefit claim decision and new information you’ve sent.

The council writes to you if it requires more information. You’ll get a letter telling you if the decision has been changed or not.

Appeal to a housing benefit tribunal

You can usually appeal to a tribunal:

    • if the council doesn’t change the decision on your housing benefit claim after you ask for a review


  • instead of asking the council to reconsider its decision. A judge at the tribunal makes a decision about your case.


If your housing benefit won’t cover the rent

A discretionary housing payment (dhp) could help you if your housing benefit doesn’t cover the rent.

Make a DHP claim

Your council may award you a DHP if you’re affected by the bedroom tax or benefit cap, You do not have to repay a DHP.

Ask your local council for a claim form or how to make a claim.

Overpaid Housing Benefit

You can be overpaid housing benefit for a number of different reasons.

For example, if:

you don’t tell your housing benefit department about changes in your circumstances that affect your claim

you put the wrong information on your claim form

your housing benefit office makes a mistake when calculating your housing benefit

Jobcentre Plus or the Pensions Service pays you the wrong amount of another benefit you are claiming

Overpayments that have to be repaid

You usually have to repay a housing benefit overpayment.

You don’t have to repay overpaid housing benefit if the council (or Jobcentre Plus or Pension Service) made a calculation error and you could not have reasonably been expected to notice you were being overpaid.


How councils recover overpayments

Usually, an overpayment is recovered from you or your partner. It can be recovered from your landlord if your housing benefit is paid direct to them.

If the overpayment is someone else’s fault, for example if someone misinformed the council about your circumstances, they have to repay the money.

The money may be deducted in instalments from your future housing benefit payments or other benefits. Or you may have to pay a lump sum.

You can ask to pay in instalments. Ask for a lower repayment rate if you can’t afford the council’s repayment schedule.

If you don’t pay the council what you owe it could take you to court.


How to challenge an overpayment decision

The council must write to you within 14 days of making the decision that you have been overpaid.

The letter says how much you must repay and how the money will be recovered.
Ask the council to review its decision if:

    • the overpayment is not your fault and you were not aware you were overpaid
    • you think their calculations are wrong

You must request the review within one month of receiving the decision letter. Make your review request in writing.

If you don’t agree with the council’s review decision, you can appeal to a housing benefit tribunal.

Underpaid housing benefit

If you are underpaid housing benefit because the council made a mistake, you are entitled to receive all the money you were entitled to.

If you are underpaid because you gave the wrong information or did not report a change in circumstances, you are not paid the outstanding money. You are then paid the right amount of housing benefit starting from the Monday after you report the change to your housing benefit office.