Housing Benefit Changes 2013
If you are renting from a private landlord and have been claiming housing benefit at that address you will almost certainly be affected by the changes to housing benefit.
In April 2013 there were some significant changes made to the way housing benefit is calculated and awarded.
There are three main changes that have been made, each of which can affect anyone who is eligible for any sort of social housing benefit.
The change that has probably had most press coverage is the so-called ‘bedroom tax’. What this change means is that from April anyone who is a council tenant or a housing association tenant will have their current accommodation assessed.
This assessment is to work out whether the size of the current property is correct for the number of people living there. If there are more rooms than are deemed necessary for the people living within that property, the property will be classed as under-occupied. Should this be the case the amount of benefit will be reduced and occupants will have to pay more of the rent themselves.
If there is deemed to be one spare room, the benefit will be cut by 14%, and if there are two, or more, spare rooms there will be a 25% reduction in benefits.
The second major change that has been implemented this year is the introduction of a benefit cap. This cap has been put in place to create an upper limit of benefits that can be claimed by anybody of working age. This change is initially being rolled out in a number of London boroughs and will have been extended to the rest of the country by the end of September.
Most benefits will be counted towards this cap, and this will include housing benefit. The benefit cap for families with children is £500 per week, and the cap for individuals is £350 per week. In most cases people will not be awarded anything above these limits, even if an assessment indicates that higher rates are needed.
There are some exemptions, with the main one being if one, or more, people in a household qualify for tax credits. In this instance the benefit cap will not apply.
The final major change that has been implemented is the introduction ofuniversal credit. In basic terms this is a single payment that is paid to people who are looking for work or who are on a low income and require additional support.
The universal credit payment consolidates and replaces a number of other benefits that include Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits and also Housing Benefit. The single payment system is designed to be a lot more responsive that the old system of multiple payments so that payments can be adjusted quickly as jobs are obtained or lost, or there are changes to part-time working patterns.
The new universal credit will also be paid as a single monthly payment, which is paid directly into bank accounts reflecting the method of payment of a monthly salary.
Management of universal credit will, in most cases be carried out using an online account.