Letters about your benefit claim

Find out about the letters we send you after you have made a claim for housing benefit or council tax support.

There are two types of letter you'll receive from us as we process your housing benefit/council tax support claim:

  • Automatic notification letters that you must check carefully
  • Personal letters sent by members of our benefits team

Our letters are available in large print and you can request this alternative format by contacting us.

Automatic benefit notification letters

You can tell the difference between automatic notification letters by their box borders.

They contain information about you and your household, which we have used to work out how much housing benefit/council tax support you are entitled to.

You must read these letters very carefully to check that the information shown is complete and correct. If any of the details about you and your household, are wrong or missing, you must let us know as soon as possible.

If your details are wrong or incomplete, you may be missing out on a benefit that is due to you, or we may be paying you more housing benefit/council tax support than you are entitled to. It could be considered as benefit fraud if you knowingly continue to receive housing benefit/council tax support based on incomplete or inaccurate information, so if you have any doubts about the personal or financial details shown in your notification letters you should contact us.

Personal letters sent by members of the benefits team

Our benefits team may need to write to you personally to process your claim, for example to ask you to send in further information or original documents, or to advise you that we are suspending your claim while we wait for information.

We will also write to you if you ask for a 'Statement of Reasons'  for  a decision we have taken about your benefit, and we will send you a written response if you appeal against a housing benefit/council tax support decision.

Questions about benefit letters

If you have any queries about any of the letters you receive from the council about a your claim, you should contact us for more information.

When your claim will start

We will usually start paying your benefit from the Monday after we receive your claim form. If your circumstances change and you are no longer entitled to housing benefit/council tax support, we will normally stop payment at the end of the same week.

You must tell us about any change in your circumstances.

Terms we may use in our letters to you

Income

The calculation we use to work out your housing benefit/council tax support. This must include the income of both you and your partner.

Net earnings

Your net earnings are the earnings of both you and your partner after taking away national insurance, tax and half of any contributions to a company or personal pension scheme.

Capital

This is all the savings and investments you and your partner have in any bank or building society, shares, income bonds, National Savings certificates, premium bonds, etc.

We ignore your first £6000 of capital when we calculate housing benefit. For every £250 or part of £250 over £6000, we add £1 a week to your overall income. This is called your tariff income.

If you are aged 60 or over, the tariff income on your savings is £1 for every £500 or part of £500 above £10,000.

If you have capital above £16,000, you cannot claim housing benefit. If you are of working age and have more than £6000 in capital, you cannot claim council tax support, but you may still get second adult rebate. There are exceptions to this rule for pensioners.

Income disregard - ignoring certain types of income

We ignore part, or all, of certain types of income. This known as an income disregard. For example, we ignore:

  • All maintenance received for children (we do not ignore this for council tax support)
  • All war disablement pensions
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Mobility Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Guardian's Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

However, we still need to know if you are receiving these benefits.

We also ignore a part of your earnings. We ignore the first:

  • £5 a week for a single person
  • £10 a week for couples
  • £20 a week for people in certain jobs, people who are disabled, long term sick or receiving Carers Allowance,
  • £25 a week for single parents

Families can have up to £300 of their earnings ignored, as long as they meet certain conditions and are paying childcare costs to a registered childminder or nursery for children under 16.

Applicable amounts

These are set amounts the government says people need to live on.

The applicable amount is made up of a personal allowance and premiums.

Premiums are amounts, which may be added if you are disabled, over 60, a single parent or if you have children.

We compare your applicable amount with your total income to see how much benefit you should get.

Eligible council tax

This is the amount of council tax, less any reductions you are entitled to, such as Single person discount.

Rent

We do not use the actual amount of rent you pay to work out your housing benefit. We use the pdf icon Local Housing Allowance Rates from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018 [27kb] rate for the type of property your circumstances mean you could live in. This might be a one-bed flat if you are single and aged over 35, or a two-bed flat or a house if you have a child or children. The local housing allowance rate for single customers between the age of 25 and 35 is a shared room in a house, unless you receive the care element of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) sets the local housing allowance rates for Rushmoor and they are also available at the council offices. These rates change in April each year.

If you do not get local housing allowance, we will be using the rent you actually pay to calculate your benefit unless the rent officer has restricted this. We use the rent officer to work out your rent if you pay ground rent on a mobile home, or if your rent includes care and support charges.

If you pay your rent to a housing association, we will use the gross rent you pay to calculate your benefit minus any charges for services, such as a garage, heating, lighting or water for your own property. We may also restrict the amount of benefit that you get if you have more bedrooms than you need - this is known as the social sector size criteria (bedroom tax).

Non-dependants

If you receive housing benefit or council tax support, the government says we must take off an amount for people over 18 (other than your partner) who live in your home, unless you are receiving disability living allowance with the care component, attendance allowance or the daily living component of personal independence payment. This is because these people should normally be paying money towards household expenses. We take off these amounts whether the non-dependants actually contribute, or not. The amount we take off depends on the non-dependant's age, if they are working and how much they earn. If they are receiving certain benefits, we do not make a deduction - please see our pdf icon Non-dependant deductions 2017-18 [65kb] document.

Second adult rebate

You may still get this benefit, even if you do not qualify for council tax support and you do not have a partner living with you.

It is based on the income and savings of all people over 18 who live with you (there are some exceptions) who are not your partner, a joint tenant/owner or a lodger. The government sets this benefit on a percentage of your council tax:

  • 100% discount - if you are a full time student, and all other adults in your household are on income support, income related employment support allowance, income based Jobseeker's allowance or pension credit
  • 25% discount - if all other adults in your household receive Income support or pension credit
  • 15% discount - if all their income (before tax) is less than £195 a week
  • 7.5% - if all their income (before tax) is between £187 - £338 a week

Payment

Private tenants receive their housing benefit by BACS payment direct to a bank account every fortnight (two weeks in arrears). If we are paying your landlord, they will receive your benefit every four weeks in arrears.

The minimum housing benefit we can pay is 50p. If you get council tax support or second adult rebate, we will take the amount of support off the amount of council tax you are due to pay for the year.

Decisions about your claim

We make our decisions based on the government's housing benefit regulations. We regulate decisions on council tax support. We must manage the housing benefit and council tax support service within these rules.

It is important that if there is something you do not agree with, or if you think that we have worked out your housing benefit/council tax support incorrectly, you write and tell us. We must receive your letter within one month of the date on the top of your benefit letter.

 
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