If your Housing Benefit is stopped or reduced

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

Your local council might stop or reduce your Housing Benefit if:

  • you’ve told them your circumstances have changed

  • they think you’ve had too much Housing Benefit - called an ‘overpayment’

  • they’re checking how much Housing Benefit you should get - sometimes called ‘reviewing your claim’

The council should tell you before they change your payments. You can complain if they don’t contact you when they should - or you can challenge their decision if you think it’s wrong.

You should challenge the council’s decision within a month of when they told you about it. If it’s been more than a month, you’ll need to show that you couldn’t do it earlier.

If you’ve been told to claim Universal Credit by a certain date

The Department for Work and Pensions are stopping some people’s benefits and telling them to claim Universal Credit instead.

If you get a letter telling you to claim Universal Credit by a certain deadline, this is a ‘migration notice’. You should claim Universal Credit by the deadline in the migration notice. Your old benefits will stop after the deadline.

You might miss out on some money if you apply after the deadline. 

Check what you should do if you get a migration notice.

Check why your payments have changed

Check the council’s letter to find out why they’ve changed your payments. For example, they might think:

  • you’re earning more money

  • you’ve stopped getting another benefit that affected your Housing Benefit

  • someone has moved in who could help pay the rent

  • a child who’s living with you has become 18 years old and is earning money

Call the council if you’re not sure why your Housing Benefit has stopped or reduced. You should also ask them to send you a letter about their decision if you haven't had one. You can find your council’s contact details on GOV.UK.

Make a note of the date and time you call. Also write down the name of the person you spoke to - you might need to prove you asked them about your payments.

If you told the council your circumstances have changed

When you tell the council about a change, they work out if you’re still entitled to Housing Benefit and how much you should get. 

Check the council’s reason is the same as what you told them. If you think they’ve recorded the wrong change or made the wrong decision, find out how to challenge the decision.

If the council think you have an overpayment

They’ll reduce or stop your Housing Benefit until they’ve got the extra money back.

You can ask the council to change their decision if you don’t think you should pay the money back.

Even if you do have to pay the money back, you might be able to make the payments easier to manage - for example by paying smaller amounts over time.

Check if you have to pay back an overpayment.

If the council are reviewing your claim

If the council think your circumstances have changed, they might stop paying your Housing Benefit while they check how much you should get. This is known as ‘suspending’ your claim.

The council might suspend your claim while they look for evidence that your circumstances have changed. For example, if they think you’re working more hours they might ask your employer.

The council shouldn’t suspend your claim if it means you won’t be able to pay for essentials like food or heating. If you think you’ll find it difficult to pay for essentials, fill in a budgeting tool and print the results. Call the council and ask them not to suspend your claim. You can use the results from the budgeting tool to explain why you won’t be able to afford essentials.

When the council have reviewed your claim and decided how much Housing Benefit you should get, they should write to explain how it’s changing. If you think their decision is wrong, find out how to challenge the council’s decision.

You can also complain if the council’s done something else wrong - for example if they:

  • are taking too long to contact you or finish reviewing your claim - you should contact the council if you haven’t heard from them after 4 weeks

  • stopped or reduced your payments without telling you

  • didn’t get evidence before they stopped or reduced your payments

You can find out how to complain about your council on GOV.UK.

Extra help while your Housing Benefit is stopped or reduced

You might be able to get help with things like food or items you need for your home - for example a bed or cooker. Check what help you can get in your area.

If you’re worried about debt while your Housing Benefit is stopped or reduced, find out how to start dealing with debts or ask your nearest Citizens Advice to help you work out the best thing to do.

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Page last reviewed on 14 August 2019