BENEFITS EXPERT: Be aware of changes coming to Housing Benefit provision
There are some important changes coming to Housing Benefit from the 1st April 2021 and there has been minimal publicity regarding this.
These changes will only apply to new claims for Housing Benefit so any persons who already receive Housing Benefit will not be affected unless a situation arises such as a change in their circumstances (such as a move) or a change in those present in the household which will be covered further in this article.
These changes relate to the calculation of Housing Benefit where the claimant or claimants are both of State Pension Age. When councils calculate entitlement and the amount of Housing Benefit paid they start with a threshold normally referred to as an applicable amount i.e. a figure set by law that is the minimum income level set by the government. This figure is then compared against the actual income the applicant receives. The applicable amount figure is to be reduced for new claims so effectively new applicants for Housing Benefit who are of pensionable age will get less Housing Benefit for claims on or after 1st April 2021. We stress this is for new claims only, if you get Housing Benefit at the moment you will not see the amount change. The changes will apply whether you rent via a social landlord or a private landlord.
There are also provisions in place that again will apply if there is a change in your circumstances on or after 1st April 2021 that apply to couples who are both of State Pension Age and one of the couple either leaves the household due to separation or if one person dies. This will again trigger a possible reduction/recalculation of entitlement but there will be transitional protection which will mean any reduction will not take place until 12 months have passed since the trigger event.
Discretionary Housing Payments will be available for any persons having a shortfall if the Housing Benefit doesn't meet the full rent and you struggle to meet the shortfall. Most advice agencies use benefit calculators to calculate entitlement and the changes to the current rules will be incorporated when the change in law takes effect.