Housing Benefit and Universal Credit
Many people who rent their homes, and are on incomes which are significantly below average, are entitled to receive the largely Government funded Housing Benefit.
The Housing Benefit scheme is administered by experienced staff of the Council's Revenues Unit, West Lothian Council, Civic Centre, Howden South Road, Livingston, West Lothian, EH54 6FF. Tel: 1506 280000.
It is particularly important that anyone interested in claiming Housing Benefit entitlement should contact the Council as soon as possible, because there is a risk that the claimant may not be entitled to receive Housing Benefit for any rent paid before the Council was informed of the claim.
Full Service Universal Credit was introduced in West Lothian on 16 May 2018. Under full service, new claims are now open to most claim types including people with a partner or children or people not able to work due to ill health.
Full Service is now more digital and claims are made and managed online. Claims for Universal Credit can be made online on the Universal Credit webpages (opens in new window). If you need support to make a claim contact Citizens Advice Bureau West Lothian on 01506 444814 - option 1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the introduction, on 16th May 2018, of Universal Credit in West Lothian you can only claim Housing Benefit if you meet one or more of the following conditions:-
- You live in and pay rent for a property in which you receive care, support or supervision.
- You live in and pay rent for temporary accommodation.
- You are liable to pay rent and are entitled to a Severe Disability Premium or have been entitled to a Severe Disability Premium in the last month.
- You are liable to pay rent and have reached your state pension age, and are not part of a mixed age couple, a mixed age couple is where one member of a couple has reached pension age and the other is still of working age. You can find out more about your state pension age here.
Verification of the applicant's income and capital may be required to support the answers given in the application form. This could mean that pay-slips, bank statements, benefit award letters and so on, will need to be made available for inspection by Council staff. But as long as the application form is submitted the claim can be made payable in full from the Monday following the submission date, even though the evidence on the applicant's resources may take some time to produce and be verified. However all evidence must be supplied within one calendar month of the date it is requested, in order to avoid delays in benefit being awarded, or awards possibly being refused. It is also worth noting that a single application form is used to claim Council Tax Reduction as well as Housing Benefit, which means that the end result of the application process could result in the applicant receiving both Housing Benefit and a Council Tax Reduction. The Council staff then work out how much Housing Benefit is due according to the answers to the following four questions:
- How much money the applicant has coming in from his or her earnings and any other income and from his or her partner's earnings and income?
- How much money the applicant and, where applicable, partner have saved or invested (no Housing Benefit will be paid where savings amount to £16,000 or more and it will usually be reduced on a sliding scale if savings are over £6,000 for working age applicants and £10,000 for pension age applicants)
- The applicant's personal circumstances (e.g. the numbers of dependants living in the same household, whether the applicant is disabled etc); and
- The maximum rent level which the Housing Benefit system will support (see below for explanation).
If an applicant is a private tenant and the rent charged is considered to be too high then the Housing Benefit paid out will be less than the rent charged. The Rent Officer will supply councils with the Local Housing Allowance rates for various sizes of property in each of the Broad Rental Market Areas. The Local Housing Allowance rate used for the calculation of housing benefit will be determined by the number of bedrooms required by the tenant's household (the size criteria).
The amount of rent that can be covered by Housing Benefit is limited to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate. It is particularly important, therefore, that if you are thinking of renting a private property you should contact the Council' to find out what level of rent is likely to be met by Housing Benefit. This will give you a clear idea of whether you will be able to afford the rent asked for. If the Local Housing Allowance is lower than the rent charged you will have to make up any shortfall out of your other income, or negotiate with the landlord to reduce the rent to the LHA rate.
Please note that the Local Housing Allowance rate is only the starting point for the calculation of a tenant's benefit entitlement - it is not necessarily the actual amount a tenant will receive as this will be influenced by other factors such as the tenant's income and savings and the actual rent being charged.
The Benefits Team
West Lothian Council
Howden South Road
Telephone 01506 280000
Detailed information and advice on all the assessment procedures for Housing Benefit will be willingly given by local advice agencies and the Council's trained staff at The Advice Shop, Bathgate Partnership Centre, South Bridge St, Bathgate, EH48 1TStelephone 01506 283000. Find further information on West Lothian Council Advice Shop .
Any Housing Benefit applicant has a right to ask the Council to reconsider their decision, if the applicant is not satisfied with it. Ultimately they have the right to appeal to Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, if the Council are unable to revise the decision to their satisfaction.
Further changes are due to be introduced as part of the Government's Welfare Reform, which will affect Housing Benefit.
It is important to note that from 1st April 2013, the UK Government changed the rules on the way Housing Benefit is worked out for Council tenants and tenants of Registered Social Landlords. Any social housing tenant below pension credit age with more bedrooms than their household needs according to the new Housing Benefit rules is deemed to be under occupying. If you claim Housing Benefit, you may find the amount you receive will be reduced and you will have to pay the rest of the rent yourself. There are two rates for the reduction:
a) If you have one extra bedroom your Housing Benefit will reduce by 14% of your rent.
b) If you have two or more extra bedrooms your Housing Benefit will reduce by 25% of your rent.
If you choose to be considered for properties that have more bedrooms than you require, the Government rules may affect you if you need to claim Housing Benefit in the future. You are advised to consider your choices carefully.
Please check the Council's website regularly for more information and further updates of these changes and how they may affect you. You will find this information on Welfare Reform - Housing Changes.