Should I claim Housing Benefit or Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a new working age benefit that is being introduced in Harlow to replace the following six existing benefits:
Find out how much Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support you may be eligible for by using our calculator. The details you use in the calculator will then automatically be added to your online application, if you decide to proceed to apply, which will save you time later on.
To falsely apply for Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support is a criminal offence and may be dealt with by a court of law. This may mean being subject to a financial penalty.
Important: Universal Credit does not include Council Tax Support. You must make a separate claim for Council Tax Support. Also, if you claim Universal Credit, in most cases, you cannot claim Housing Benefit. Please remember to inform Harlow Council, by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or calling: 01279 446633, if you have claimed Universal Credit as your Housing Benefit claim may need to end and prevent Housing Benefit overpayments. Certain types of rental liability will still be paid through Housing Benefit even if you claim Universal Credit. This is particularly relevant if you live in supported accommodation. More information on Universal Credit
Please note: if you are applying for Retirement Pension or Pension Credit with the Pensions Service or for Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance or Income Support with the Jobcentre Plus, an application for Housing Benefit (they will not deal with Council Tax Support) will normally be made at the same time, they will then forward the details to the Council. If the application for Housing Benefit has been made at the Jobcentre there is no need to make another application for Housing Benefit with the Council. If you pay Council Tax you still need to apply for Council Tax Support using the online application form.
How are Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support calculated?
Your income will be compared to an amount the government states you and your family need to live on. This is called the applicable amount. There may be a deduction from any benefit and/or support you are entitled to, if you have a non-dependant living with you.
- Private tenants (not Council or Housing Association tenants) applications are calculated using Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates
- Working age applicants will not be entitled to Housing Benefit if you have in excess of £16,000 of capital, capital worth less than £6,000 is ignored. Working age applicants will not be entitled to Council Tax Support if you have in excess of £6,000 of capital.
- Pension age applicants will not be entitled to Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support if you have in excess of £16,000 of capital, capital worth less than £10,000 is ignored.
- self employed, applicants will have your application calculated by looking at your gross income and deducting certain business expenses. We will calculate your National Insurance and Tax contributions. The calculation is different if you are a self employed child minder.
When can I apply for Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support?
You need to apply as soon as you think you need benefit and/or support, as your application will usually be paid from the Monday following the registration of your application online or the Monday following the date that you contact the Revenues and Benefits service as long as an application is then received within a month of this date. Do not delay in making your application even if you do not have all the necessary proof required, as you may lose some of the benefit and/or support due. However, your application will not be assessed until all the required proof has been received.
If you are moving, you can apply up to 13 weeks before you take up the tenancy. Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support will not start to be paid until you move into your new home. If you move within Harlow and are already in receipt of benefit and/or support you do not need to make a new application as this is classed as a change of circumstances.
Moving and having two homes
In certain circumstances you may be eligible for Housing Benefit on two homes at the same time if any of the following applies:
- You have moved but still have a rent liability at your old address: When you move from one rented property to another you can get Housing Benefit for four weeks if you have actually moved into your new home but Harlow Council agrees that you could not avoid the rent liability on both homes i.e. period of notice required and having to take up a new tenancy quickly.
- Fear of violence: You can get Housing Benefit on two homes for up to 52 weeks as long as you intend to return to your old address at some point in this time. You don’t have to say when you actually are going to return, just when it is safe to do so.
- Waiting for adaptations for a disability: You can get Housing Benefit for four weeks if you do not move into your new home straight away because you are waiting for it to be adapted for a disability.
- Waiting for Essential Living Fund payment before moving: You can get Housing Benefit for up to four weeks on your new home if you are waiting for an Essential Living Fund payment to help you move and you have a child under six years old, or if you are over 60, or if you are getting a disability premium. Housing Benefit cannot be paid on your old home for the same period.
- Leaving hospital or care home: You can get Housing Benefit up to four weeks before you actually move in if you are leaving hospital or care home.
In all cases you must claim Housing Benefit straight away, it is not enough to wait until you move.
Home visits or help with application
If you have any difficulties completing the online form, you can contact an Advisor at Contact Harlow and arrange an appointment for a new application appointment at the Civic Centre.
If you cannot get to the Civic Centre to see a Benefits Officer, the Revenues and Benefits Service can offer home visits in certain circumstances, such as if you are registered disabled or housebound and have no one else to help you. A request made because you do not drive or have dependent children will not be considered to be a good enough reason. To request a home visit please contact an Advisor at Contact Harlow.
Claims for Universal Credit cannot be backdated except in exceptional circumstances. You must make your claim immediately.
Housing Benefit is not usually paid from an earlier date, backdating benefit may only be considered if you apply in writing and have a good reason for not applying earlier. Housing Benefit can be backdated for one month if you are of working age and three months from the date of your request if you are a pensioner, or a man aged between 60 and 64 in receipt of Pension Credit. See bullet points below.
Council Tax Support is not usually paid from an earlier date, backdating support may only be considered if you apply in writing and have a good reason for not applying earlier. Council Tax Support can be backdated for one month. See bullet points below.
- If you are of working age you will have to apply in writing giving a good reason or the cause for the delay in making your application. Some examples of reasons or good causes are: - having to go into hospital, being seriously ill, death of a close relative or problems with language and/or literacy, this list is not exhaustive. Simply not applying or not knowing that you could apply is not a good enough reason nor is not understanding the Housing Benefit or Council Tax rules unless there was also a reason that stopped you from finding out how you could apply.
- Pensioners will normally receive an automatic three month backdate or an award from the date they reach pensionable age, whichever is the lesser, if proof of income and saving are provided for the backdated period.
To apply for backdated Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support you can either: