From 1 April, 2013, if you are of working age you will no longer be paid full housing benefit if you are assessed as under-occupy your home.
Under-occupying means that you have been assessed as having more bedrooms than the Government thinks you need.
Under-occupying by one bedroom? Your housing benefit will be reduced by 14%. We estimate this to be about £12.50 a week for a three bedroom home.
Under-occupying by 2 bedrooms or more? Your housing benefit will be reduced by 25%. We estimate this to be about £22.50 a week for a three bedroom home.
You will responsible for paying any shortfall in the rent on time and keeping a clear rent account.
The following are exempt from these underoccupying rules:
You can use our handy benefit reform calculator (created by WMBUS) to see if you are likely to be affected. This calculator will only give you an idea depending on your circumstances, you may also be affected by other changes to the benefits you are entitled to such as the benefits cap.
This play was performed at our Get Togethers in January 2013 and shows one family's journey through the benefit changes under the Welfare Reform Act.
The government's idea is that people should be better off in work than on benefits. Some people in Wolverhampton will find that their current benefits are more than those sums and their benefits will be reduced.
By September 2013, your Housing Benefit may be cut to make sure the total amount of your benefit is not more than the cap level. You will be responsible for paying any shortfall in the rent, on time and keeping a clear rent account.
We believe that over 100 tenants will be affected, if you think this could be you, please contact us and ask for the Money Smart team now.
A new type of benefit, for working age people only, called Universal Credit, will be brought in. It will bring together the main out of work benefits:
It will be paid once a month into your bank account, in the same way as a salary. It will be introduced in October 2013. At first it will be paid to new claimants and people who have a change of circumstances. Then it will be rolled out to the whole country region-by-region.
You will no longer be paid housing benefit and you will need to arrange to pay your rent yourself. You will need to ensure all your financial commitments are met. Paying your rent is a priority payment because if you do not pay it, ultimately you could lose your home.
Further information is available on the Wolverhampton City Council Welfare Reform webpages .
The Money Advice Service have created a short video to help you understand and prepare for Universal Credit.
You can take steps to protect your financial future. We will be contacting tenants who are most likely to be affected, but in the meantime here are some helpful tips you can follow:
Find out how you and your family will be affected, talk to our Money Smart Team by calling 01902 556789.
You can also call the Benefits Helpline and Response Team, a joint project between Wolverhampton City Council and Wolverhampton Citizens Advice Bureau on (01902) 572006 . The helpline offers free and confidential information and advice to those living in Wolverhampton on matters connected to welfare reform and benefits.
Make sure you are receiving the correct benefits and that your details are up to date. Contact Housing Benefits at Wolverhampton City Council. Investigate what options are open to you - for example, could you move to a smaller property to save money? Could you reduce your outgoings in any other way? Could you increase your income through work? Could a grown up child contribute more financially to the household?
Wolverhampton City Council have a custom benefits calculator that gives you an estimate on the housing benefit you could expect to get. The estimates are based on the information you supply to give you an idea of your potential entitlements.
Directgov also offer a benefit calculator to help you to get an estimate of how much your Housing Benefit could be reduced by if you exceed the level of the benefit cap.
Make your home and appliances as energy efficient as possible. Visit our energy management webpages to learn more about how you can be more energy efficient and what we can do to help you.
You will need to arrange to pay your own rent. You can open a bank account and have your benefit paid into your account and your bills paid by Direct Debit . If you change to paying by Direct Debit, on changing over you could win £75 in our monthly prize draw.
You can start a savings account with the local Credit Union Wolverhampton City Credit Union to help you build up a cushion or you can start over-paying your rent so you build up credit little by little. You can even carry on paying rent over the rent free weeks that we have at Christmas and at the end of March to help build credit.
If you are already in arrears, even by a small amount, speak to us straightaway to arrange a payment plan on 01902 556789.
Pay off (or reduce) all debt by the time the changes come in. Avoid taking on new debt.
Do not get tempted to use a loan shark or anyone who comes to your door to offer to lend you money. It might seem like the answer to your prayers at the time but it will get you into even more trouble in the future. Contat the Illegal Money Lending Team for advice about illegal money lenders and loan sharks.
We know these changes can seem complicated. We want to make sure you know all you need to know to make good decisions for your future. Please contact us to set up a meeting to discuss what you can do.