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Check if a change affects your Housing Benefit

This advice applies to England

You must tell your local council about certain changes in your money, work or home life. This is called a ‘change of circumstances’.

You also need to tell the council about changes that affect people you live with. For example, you should tell them if someone in your home starts earning more or you add your partner’s name to your tenancy agreement.

Telling the council will help you get any extra Housing Benefit you're entitled to as soon as possible or avoid being paid too much. This is called an ‘overpayment’, and you’ll usually have to pay the extra money back.

Tell the council even if it seems like a small change or if it’s only for a short time – for example if you increase your working hours for a few weeks.

Most changes have to be reported within 1 month, but you should report them as soon as you know about the change, if you can.

If you’ve used the Tell Us Once service to report the death of someone claiming a benefit, you don’t need to tell the council as well. Tell Us Once will let them know.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to pay your rent

You can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) if your Housing Benefit won’t cover your rent.

If you get other benefits

If you get benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), you should also tell them about any changes. The council won’t usually tell the DWP or HMRC for you.

If you’re from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

If you’ve lost your right to reside, you won't be able to get Housing Benefit. You might have lost your right to reside because you:

  • split up from your partner and had your right to reside because of them 
  • became a student and didn’t get medical insurance
  • lost your job and have been looking for a new job for more than 6 months 

If you disagree, you should get advice about what to do next from your nearest Citizens Advice. Find out more about challenging the decision.

If you have ‘settled status’ you can reapply for benefits. You'll usually get settled status if you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years or more. 

To get settled status you need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. Check how to apply for settled status.

Your Housing Benefit might stop if you don’t have settled status by 31 December 2020.

If you can't get settled status, you can try to get your right to reside back by:

  • becoming a worker or self-employed

This is a complicated area, so it’s best to get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice if you think a change to your right to reside might affect your Housing Benefit.

Find out more about staying in the UK after Brexit.

If your status hasn’t changed, you’ll still need to tell the council about other changes in your money, work or home life.

If you or someone you live with goes away temporarily

Tell your local council if you or someone you live with is going away for more than:

  • 4 weeks – if it’s abroad
  • 13 weeks – if it’s in the UK

You can still get Housing Benefit as long as you plan to return to your home and don’t rent it out while you’re away.

Explain the reason when you report the change. How long you can get Housing Benefit for depends on why you’re away.

If you’re staying in England, Scotland or Wales

You can get Housing Benefit if you go away for up to 13 weeks.   

You can get Housing Benefit if you’re away for up to a year because: 

  • you, your partner or child are in hospital or getting treatment or care that’s approved by your doctor
  • someone else is away getting treatment and you’re looking after their child
  • you’re temporarily staying in a care home, for example to try it out
  • you’re giving someone care that’s approved by their doctor
  • you’ve had to leave your home because you’re worried someone might hurt you – for example your partner
  • you’re a student and live somewhere different during term time
  • you’re on a training course
  • you’re in prison on remand or waiting to be sentenced
  • you have to live away from home as a condition of bail

If you’ve had to leave your home suddenly, you might also be able to get Housing Benefit to cover the cost of a hostel.

If you go abroad

You can usually get Housing Benefit when you go away for up to 4 weeks. You can get it for up to 8 weeks if you’re abroad because your partner or a child included in your Housing Benefit claim has died.

You can get Housing Benefit if you’re abroad for up to 26 weeks because:

  • you, your partner or child are in hospital or getting treatment or care that’s approved by your doctor
  • you’re temporarily staying in a care home, for example to try it out
  • you’ve had to leave your home because you’re worried someone might hurt you – for example your partner
  • you or your partner are a member of the armed forces on a temporary placement
  • you or your partner are a sailor or work on an oil platform

Changes to your home or tenancy

Tell your local council if:

  • the amount of rent you pay changes – if you rent from a private landlord or housing association
  • you move home
  • someone moves into or out of your home
  • your tenancy changes – for example if you take someone’s name off the tenancy agreement

If you’re staying in a hostel because you were worried someone might hurt you in your home, ask for extra Housing Benefit to cover the cost of the hostel when you report the change. You can get Housing Benefit as long as you want to go back to your home at some point and the council thinks it’s reasonable to pay for both the hostel and your home.

If you move to live in a different council area, your Housing Benefit claim will end. You'll probably have to claim Universal Credit instead of Housing Benefit after moving. Check if you can make a new Housing Benefit claim.

Changes to your work, income or benefits

Tell your local council if:

  • the amount of rent you pay changes – if you rent from a private landlord or housing association
  • your income goes up or down – for example you start getting a pension from your old job
  • your benefits change or you start getting a new benefit

If your income changes, explain how much more or less you think you’re going to get and over what period of time. If you're not sure, give the council an estimate.

If your benefits change you’ll also need to tell the council how much your income and savings are. This is so they can work out how much Housing Benefit you should get.

Changes to your savings

If your savings are over a certain limit, you need to tell your local council if your savings go up or down.

The limit depends on whether you’re claiming Housing Benefit as part of a couple, and whether you or your partner have reached state pension age. You can check your State Pension age on GOV.UK.

If you’re claiming as a single person

If you’re under State Pension age, the limit is £6,000.

If you’ve reached State Pension age, the limit is £10,000.

If you’re claiming as part of a couple

You should add your savings and your partner’s savings to check if you’re over the limit.

If you and your partner are both under State Pension age, the limit is £6,000.

If you and your partner have both reached State Pension age, the limit is £10,000.

If only one of you has reached State Pension age, the limit is usually £6,000. The limit is £10,000 instead if all of the following apply:

  • one of you reached State Pension age before 15 May 2019
  • the 2 of you have been claiming Housing Benefit as a couple since before 15 May 2019
  • the partner under State Pension age doesn’t get income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support or Universal Credit

Changes to do with your partner and children

What you need to tell your local council depends on whether you get the guarantee part of Pension Credit.

If you get the guarantee part of Pension Credit

Tell your local council if your partner or child’s benefits change, or they start getting a new benefit.

If you don’t get Pension Credit or you only get the savings part of Pension Credit

Tell your local council if:

  • your partner or child’s benefits change, or they start getting a new benefit
  • you get divorced, married or form a civil partnership
  • your partner moves in or out
  • your partner’s income goes up or down
  • your partner’s savings go up or down

You should also tell the council if a child you’re responsible for:

  • is over 16 and finishes their education or training course
  • becomes 20 years old
  • becomes 16 years old – if your children have separate bedrooms
  • moves into your home
  • moves out of your home, or you stop getting Child Benefit for them

Changes to do with other adults you live with

Tell your local council if an adult you live with, like a flatmate or a child over 18:

  • starts earning more or less money
  • starts getting a new benefit, or their existing benefits change

You should also tell the council if someone moves into or out of your home.

If you have a lodger or boarder

You only need to tell the council if you change the number of lodgers or boarders living with you or how much you charge them.

A lodger is someone who lives with you and pays rent. A boarder is someone who lives with you and pays for meals, like breakfast every day.

If someone lives with you without an agreement to pay, you don’t need to tell the council if they give you money, for example to help pay the bills.

If someone gets Carer’s Allowance for looking after you

Tell your local council if someone starts getting Carer’s Allowance because they look after you – or if they stop getting it.

If you qualify for the ‘severe disability premium’ part of Housing Benefit, your Housing Benefit will change if someone:

  • starts getting Carer’s Allowance for you – you’ll get less Housing Benefit
  • stops getting Carer’s Allowance for you – you’ll get more Housing Benefit

This is because you can’t get the severe disability premium while someone gets Carer’s Allowance for you.

If you’re not sure whether you get the severe disability premium, check the letter that told you how much Housing Benefit you’d get. You can contact your local council if you don’t have the letter.

If you or your partner reach State Pension age

If you claim Housing Benefit as part of a couple, your Housing Benefit will usually stop when the older partner reaches State Pension age. You can check your State Pension age on GOV.UK.

Your Housing Benefit won’t stop if the younger partner gets:

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • Income Support

Your Housing Benefit claim also won’t stop if you would still be allowed to start a new claim – check who can make a new claim for Housing Benefit.

If your Housing Benefit claim stops, you’ll have to claim Universal Credit instead – check if you’re eligible for Universal Credit.

Reporting a change of circumstances

It’s best to report the change online or by email if your council let you do this. It’s quicker than writing a letter, and you save the cost of postage. Check your council’s website on GOV.UK to find out how you can report the change.

If you’re reporting the change online, it’s a good idea to save a copy of:

  • the screen that shows the changes you’re reporting
  • the screen that confirms your changes have been sent

You could take a photo of the screen if your phone has a camera. Or you can save the page as a screenshot or a file on your computer. This will help later if you need to prove you reported the change.

Write to the council if you can’t report the change online. Write ‘change of circumstances’ clearly at the top of the letter. Give as much information about the change as you can. For example if your partner has moved out, tell the council their name, when they moved and what their new address is.

Keep a copy of the letter in case you need to prove you reported the change.

If you live nearby, you can save the cost of posting the letter by taking it to your local council office. Make sure you get a receipt when you hand it in.

If you can’t take your letter to the office, send it to the address on the letter that told you how much Housing Benefit you’ll get. If you can’t find this letter, contact your local council to ask which department to send it to.

Ask the Post Office for proof of postage – you might need to prove when you sent it.

Your nearest Citizens Advice can help if you’re having trouble reporting a change of circumstances.

Reporting changes on time

Once you know about a change that might affect your Housing Benefit, tell the council as soon as you can.

You should report the change within a month if you can. The change might increase your payment and you might miss out on extra money if you tell the council late.

You should still tell the council if you think a change might reduce your payment – you won't save money by reporting it later. If you tell the council late you could get paid too much and have to pay your benefits back to the council. This is called an overpayment – check how councils deals with overpayments.

If the change happened more than a month ago

It’s better to report a change late than not to report it at all.

When you report the change, explain why you couldn’t report it when it happened – for example if you were sick.

If the change happened in the last 13 months and it means you should get more Housing Benefit, ask the council to pay the extra money from the day the change happened. They’ll do this if they agree you couldn’t report it earlier. If they think you could have reported the change earlier, they’ll pay you the new amount of Housing Benefit from the day you report the change.

Finding out how much you’ll get after the change

Your local council will send you a letter telling you:

  • how much you’re going to get
  • if you need to do anything else

Check the letter to make sure the council has recorded the right change of circumstances. You should contact them to tell them if they’ve made a mistake. You can ask your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re not sure the letter’s right.

If the new amount of Housing Benefit doesn’t cover your rent you should apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).

If you don’t get a letter from the council within 3 weeks

Contact the council and ask them if they’ve recorded your change of circumstances. You’ll need details of what the change was and when you told them about it – for example proof of postage if you sent a letter.

Try to save the extra Housing Benefit if you think the council might be paying you too much. This will make it easier to pay it back if you need to.

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