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Housing Benefit changes

Once you've made your claim for Housing Benefit you have a duty to report to your local authority any changes in your circumstances that may affect your benefit.

If you fail to report a relevant change this could cause an overpayment of benefit, which you may be required to repay. If you believe that an overpayment is not your fault you have a right of appeal against overpayment decisions.

If you're claiming Housing Benefit and you're not getting the Pension Credit, you should report the following changes:

  • changes in household income,
  • changes in entitlement to other benefits,
  • changes within your family or to others living in your household,
  • changes in non-dependants’ circumstances,
  • changes to your rent,
  • temporary absences from home,
  • changes in your childcare costs, and
  • if you stop getting Child Benefit for a member of your family.

It's best to send notification of changes promptly in writing to the office that handles your claim. The local authority will look at the information you've provided and will re-assess your claim.

If you get Pension Credit, you'll only need to report:

  • changes to your tenancy,
  • changes to non-dependants in your home, and
  • temporary absences of more than 13 weeks.

If you get only the savings credit, you should also report:

  • changes affecting any dependent children (but not age changes),
  • changes that increase capital above £16,000,
  • changes to your income, and
  • if you now have a partner who wasn't included in the Pension Credit assessment.

The sections below provide information on Housing Benefit and going into a care home, Housing Benefit and hospital stays and Housing Benefit and study. Check these sections to see what you may need to report to the local authority in these circumstances.

If you're moving from benefits into work you may qualify for extended payments of Housing Benefit for up to four weeks. You don't have to make a new claim, but you need to declare this change in your circumstances.

If you're moving in and out of work, local authorities, Jobcentre Plus and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have developed an 'in and out of work' scheme to make it easier to make and change your claim.

Special claim forms have been introduced for prisoners. These will make it easier for them to advise the local authority of relevant changes of circumstances (such as going into prison or returning home).

Click on the bars below to find out more about how changes in your circumstances might change your Housing Benefit claim.

Hospital stays

Your entitlement to Housing Benefit can be affected if you become a hospital in-patient. To be counted as an in-patient you must be in a hospital (this includes NHS hospitals, armed forces hospitals and special hospitals, but not prison medical wings) or similar institution (for example, a care home, hospice or rehabilitation unit that provides medical care) where the treatment is funded by the NHS.

If you're in a care home and you have more than incidental nursing needs, the NHS should assess your case to decide if you qualify for NHS help with your accommodation costs. You should seek help and independent advice to discuss this.

If you're a private patient, you're meeting the cost of your treatment in a private hospital or your placement was arranged by a local authority (even with some NHS contribution to the costs of nursing care), you don't count as a patient.

If you go into hospital this is a change of circumstances that you must report to your local authority.

If you're a patient detained under section 45A or section 47 of the Mental Health Act you aren't entitled to benefit.

Disability and carers' benefits

Various benefits, such as Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Attendance Allowance (AA) and Carer’s Allowance, will stop when you've been in hospital for more than a certain time. It's important to report these changes to your local authority as they'll affect the premiums you get.

If you've been in hospital for four weeks, any DLA or AA that you get will stop. This means that any severe disability premium you receive will also stop. Your Housing Benefit may reduce or stop altogether at this point.

Your carer premium will stop 12 weeks after the person you look after goes into hospital. This is because your Carer's Allowance stops eight weeks after their DLA or AA stops, and this will stop four weeks after they go into hospital.

The enhanced disability premium ceases to be payable after you've been in hospital for 52 weeks. If you're in hospital you may still get Housing Benefit for up to 52 weeks under the special rules dealing with temporary absence from your home. You may be able to argue that you're not going to be in hospital for substantially more than 52 weeks (but not if this will exceed a further three months). In this case you may be able to continue claiming. You'll probably need help and advice to make this argument.

Ending Housing Benefit

After 52 weeks, Housing Benefit will stop as it's assumed that you're no longer liable for rent. If you're a member of a couple, your partner should claim Housing Benefit if they remain at home.

If a child is in hospital you can continue to claim Housing Benefit for them as long as you can still get Child Benefit for them. If you continue to get Child Benefit you'll continue to get any disabled child premium or enhanced disability premium payable for them. These premiums will stop if the child has been in hospital for 52 weeks.

If a non-dependant is in hospital for more than 52 weeks, any non-dependant deductions made from your benefit will stop.

For more information, see going into hospital or the Age UK leaflet on going into hospital (PDF, 567Kb).

Care home stays

Your benefits may be affected by a stay in a care home. Whether your benefits are affected or not depends on whether you're there for a temporary or permanent stay. It's also possible to be in a care home for a trial period, to see if you'd like to stay there. For the purposes of Housing Benefit, care homes include those provided under a Royal Charter or Act of Parliament, as well as those provided by social services.

If you go into a care home your Housing Benefit may not stop, but some benefits such as Attendance Allowance (AA) and the care part of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) might stop after four weeks. This means that your severe disability premium will also stop.

Temporary absence

Under the rules permitting temporary absence from your home, you can be absent for up to 13 weeks, provided you're unlikely to be absent for longer and you haven't sub-let your home.

You don't need any special reason for being away. However, if you no longer intend to return, or your local authority has information that indicates you do not intend to return, they can stop your Housing Benefit before the 13 weeks are up. The 13 weeks include trial periods in residential care (to establish if you'd like to stay in the care home).

If you're in a care home for short-term respite care, you can continue to get Housing Benefit for up to 52 weeks, provided you intend to return home and you haven't sub-let your home. You may be able to argue to keep your benefit if your absence is over 52 weeks, but only if you're not likely to be away “substantially in excess” of this time (for a further three months or more).

However, if you no longer intend to return, or your local authority has information that indicates you do not intend to return, they can stop your Housing Benefit before the 52 weeks are up.

If you enter a care home on a permanent basis your Housing Benefit claim will stop. If you're a member of a couple, you and your partner are treated as single people and must claim separately. This means that you and your partner will need to make claims as single people and you won't be regarded as living at your former home.

You can't usually claim Housing Benefit for a care home (other than an Abbeyfield Home). There are a few exceptions to this for people who have received Housing Benefit for residential care in the past. Seek advice on what applies in your own case. For sources of advice see External links.

Study

Most full-time students are excluded from Housing Benefit. The rules can be complicated and you may wish to seek independent help and advice to decide your entitlement. For sources of advice see External links.

You can get Housing Benefit if you're over 60 and a student, providing you (or your partner) aren't getting Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance.

If your partner isn't a student, they may be able to claim Housing Benefit under the normal rules. There are special rules about student income. Information about these is available on the Directgov website. Otherwise, your entitlement to Housing Benefit depends on whether you're a part-time or full-time student.

Full-time student

You count as a full-time student if you're under 19 and in full-time advanced education. Advanced education includes degree level or higher studies, Higher National Diploma (HND) and Higher National Certificate (HNC).

You're counted as being in part-time non-advanced education if you're under 20 and study for fewer than 12 hours a week.

If you're 19 or over and on a full-time course you count as a student no matter what the level of your course.

Full-time or part-time course?

If your course is government-funded and in England or Wales, it counts as full-time if you have more than 16 guided learning hours a week. In Scotland, your course is full-time if structured learning packages take the hours over 16 a week. Otherwise, whether or not you're in full-time education depends on how your course is classed by the institution at which you're studying.

If you're a student, you can get Housing Benefit if:

  • You get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
  • You're under 19 and in full-time non-advanced education (more than 12 hours a week). Non-advanced education includes GCSE, A-level and AS-level, Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and NVQ level 3 and below. Some types of unpaid work-based training also count.
  • Both you and your partner are full-time students and either (or both) of you is responsible for a child or for a qualifying young person.
  • You're a lone parent with a dependent child or qualifying young person under the age of 20.
  • You're a lone parent with a child who has been formally placed with you by your local authority or a voluntary agency.
  • You get the disability premium.
  • You've been incapable of work under the Incapacity Benefit rules for 28 weeks.
  • You get the severe disability premium.
  • You qualify for a Disabled Students' Allowance because you're deaf.
  • You're waiting to go back to your course after approved time out because you've been ill or have had caring responsibilities.

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Page last reviewed: 15/08/2012

Next review due: 15/08/2014

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