Waiting for a Housing Benefit claim to be processed
Once you have handed in your Housing Benefit form, you will have to wait for your claim to be processed. Your claim should be decided within two weeks if the council has all the information it needs, although there are sometimes delays.
If you have applied for Universal Credit housing costs then the rules are different. Click here for more information.
The council have asked me to provide more information – do I have to?
If there is not enough information to process your claim, the council might ask you to provide more documents.
You should give the information that they ask for within one month, or your claim could be cancelled. Make sure you get a receipt and keep this in a safe place with the receipt that confirms that you handed in your claim form.
Download our checklist to see what information you should provide to the council.
If you are having difficulty providing the information, make sure you contact the council and explain the problem. They may be able to request information directly from the DWP, your employer, or other relevant organisation.
How long will I have to wait for a decision?
Once the council has received all of the right information and evidence, it should make a decision within 2 weeks.
Unfortunately, it can take longer, especially if you have not provided all of the information the council needs. If this happens, you might be able to get a payment on account in the meantime (see below).
Once the council has made a decision on your claim, it should send you letter called a ‘decision notice’. If the council has decided to award you housing benefit, the decision notice should tell you the date that it will be paid from and the amount awarded. It should also give you information about what to do if you do not agree with the decision.
Can I stop paying my rent?
Don’t stop paying your rent unless you are confident that you have provided all of the right information to the council and that you will receive full Housing Benefit.
If you are having difficulty paying your rent and you are not sure if you will be entitled to full Housing Benefit, try to keep making payments at a level you can afford, but be sure to keep your landlord informed.
If you fall into rent arrears your landlord could take legal action against you to evict you. If this happens and you have a community landlord, they must follow special pre-action rules before starting court action. These rules are designed to protect you from being evicted whilst waiting for a claim to be processed. Get help quickly if this is happening to you.
I handed my form in a while ago and I haven’t heard anything – what should I do?
You should phone or visit the Housing Benefit department and check that they have got your form and all the information that they require to process your claim. Ask for the name of the person that you are speaking to. You should take a note of their name, the date that you spoke to them, and what they said. Keep this in a safe place with the receipts for your form and your information.
If you have a community landlord, ask your housing officer to help chase your claim.
The council say they have lost my form and my documents – what can I do?
Unfortunately, forms do get lost in the post and in council offices. If this happens, you will have to fill in another form and try to provide the information required again. If you have receipts for the form or the information you handed in already, include these with the form. Your benefit should be paid from the Monday after you handed in your first form.
If you don’t have a receipt, tell the Housing Benefit department that you have handed a form in already. If you cannot prove that you handed in your first form, you may not get benefit until the date you handed the second form in.
Can I get a payment before my claim is processed?
If you haven’t received a payment within 14 days of handing in your form and you have provided all the information required, you should be entitled to a stop-gap payment while you are waiting for your claim to be processed. This is called a ‘payment on account’ or interim payment.
A ‘payment on account’ can only be paid if your landlord is a private landlord or a housing association. It cannot be paid if your landlord is the council.
If you are eligible for a ‘payment on account’ it should be paid automatically. This does not always happen, so you or your landlord may have to remind your council to make a payment. It’s a good idea to do this as soon as possible after the 14 days, to avoid building up rent arrears.
A ‘payment on account’ does not have to be made if you have been asked to provide information in support of your claim but you have failed to do so without good reason.
The amount you are paid in a ‘payment on account’ is an estimated amount and may be less than the amount of rent you have to pay. Once your claim is assessed, any difference between your Housing Benefit entitlement and the amount of Housing Benefit paid on account will either be refunded or reclaimed from you.
If you’re refused a ‘payment on account’, you can make a complaint using the council’s formal complaints process – there may be information about this on your council’s website, or you can ask the council for further details.
What if the council tells me my claim has been dropped?
In some cases, the council may tell you that your claim has been dropped, cancelled or made defective. This may be the case if, for example, you’ve been asked to provide some extra information and you haven’t been able to do so.
The council are not supposed to drop your case – they have to make a decision on your claim, even if all they say is that you’re not entitled to Housing Benefit. If they tell you that your claim has been dropped, you should complain and demand a decision. If the decision is then negative, you can take steps to challenge it.