Money and Benefits
Housing benefit is now paid based on your assessed housing need, NOT how much your rent is.
I you are of working age you will no longer be paid full housing benefit if you are assessed as under-occupying your home.
What is under-occupying?
Under-occupying means that you have been assessed as having more bedrooms than the Government thinks you need.
Who is entitled under the new rules to a bedroom?
- A couple
- A person aged 16 or older
- Two children of the same sex until their 16th birthday
- Two children until their 10th birthday (any gender)
- Any other child
- Where the claimant or their partner requires over night care
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:
- Tenants (or their spouse) over the qualifying age for claiming pension credit (this will vary depending on when the tenant (or spouse) was born).
- Tenants who need the bedroom for a disabled child who is unable to share a bedroom.
- Tenants who need the bedroom for a non-dependant who is serving in the armed forces and plans to return to the property.
- Tenants who are approved foster carers and need the bedroom for a fostered child.
- Disabled tenants who need the bedroom for their carer to provide overnight care.
- Tenants living in a houseboat, caravan/mobile home, if it is temporary accommodation provided by the council under homelessness legislation, or supported accommodation.
- If you have lived at your home since 1.1.96 and had a continuous entitlement to housing benefit, you may be exempt from the bedroom tax . Please contact Wolverhampton Homes or Housing Benefits to check. The government will change the law so that people who are exempt under this rule, will have to pay the bedroom tax. This will be in the early part of 2014.
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.
A Family's Journey Through the Benefit Changes
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.
Your Benefits May be Capped.
- Households will receive no more than £500 per week for a family.
- Households will receive no more than £350 per week for a single person.
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.
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.
Your Benefits Will be Paid Together into your bank account
A new type of benefit, for working age people only, called Universal Credit, is coming between December 2015 and April 2016. It will bring together the main out of work benefits:
- Housing benefit
- Income support
- Job seekers allowance
- Income Related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit.
It will be paid once a month into your bank account, in the same way as a salary.
It will be introduced between December 2015 and April 2016 for single people who are claiming for the first time.
You will no longer be paid housing benefit and you will need to arrange to pay your rent yourself. You will need to make sure you can pay all your bills. Paying your rent is a priority payment because if you do not pay it, and get into arrears, you could lose your home.
What can you do to get ready?
- Get Online - you'll need to apply and manage your benefits online. You're reading this so job done!
- Start saving up to pay your rent - Universal Credit will be paid to you in arrears, so you'll need to pay your rent before you get your first benefit payment.
- Open a bank account or credit union account - ready for your Universal Credit to be paid into.
Find out what you need to do to get ready by answering a few questions on the Getting Ready for Universal Credit Planner.
For More Information
Read the Universal Credit Welcome Guide.
What can you do?
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:
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.
Check your options
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?
Calculate your benefits
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.
Reduce your outgoings
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.
Arrange Payments - Stay and Pay
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.
Move to a Smaller Home
We can help you do this. If you decide to move to a smaller home:
You can also find out more on our Is Your Home Too Big? webpage.
Savings and Payment Plan
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, contact us straightaway to arrange a payment plan.
Pay off (or reduce) all debt by the time the changes come in. Avoid taking on new debt.
Avoid Loan Sharks and Unauthorised Loans
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. Contact the Illegal Money Lending Team for advice about illegal money lenders and loan sharks and if you are thinking about a loan, speak to Wolverhampton City Credit Union.
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.