Is it possible to move rented accommodation in the UK while claiming Housing Benefit?
November 10, 2011 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to move rented accommodation in the UK, in London, while claiming Housing Benefit?

I'm renting a room in a shared house in London, UK, living with the landlord. I have a bedroom (stuffed to the gills) and access to shared facilities (bathroom, lounge, kitchen). It's a small place, and he's a friend, so charges me minimal rent of £350 per month, exclusive of bills. I've been living there over two years, and claiming Housing Benefit for the past 3 months. I'm just about scraping by, financially.

Unfortunately my landlord has put the rent up to £415 per month. He doesn't really have any option, so I understand his reasons. But the Housing Benefit office aren't interested in raising my benefit. They will only review it 1 year after the initial claim, i.e. 9 months from now. I have tried appealing the decision, but my appeal has been rejected. I am reliably informed that this is a dead-end (unless anyone here knows different).

This leaves me extremely worried and broke. I wondered whether moving house was an option, possibly out of the current borough. My landlord might agree to terminate my rent agreement, if that's beneficial, so it looks like I'm being kicked out rather than electing to leave.

So, I wondered: Does anyone know if it's worth trying to do this?

What are my chances of getting housing benefit for a new flat? (I appreciate some landlords may not want to know, that's not the issue -- I need to know if the council will help me.)

Should I aim for a similar rental amount, or does it not matter?

Does moving from one borough to another, out of one council area and into another, make any difference?

Has anyone done this? How did it go? Any tips, horror stories, good outcomes, etc?

I appreciate that people may not want to post answers on here, so you can email to reserve your anonymity.

Much appreciated MF :)
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You need to ask the prospective councils. Different councils deal with this in different ways, but examples from council websites like these (1, 2) suggest that moving shouldn't be a problem.

Email or phone your current and potential future councils and ask them, you can do this without giving them your real name if you are concerned it would prejudice future applications.
posted by knapah at 9:04 AM on November 10, 2011

Please go and talk to Shelter or your local Citizen's Advice office before you do anything. If you simply leave your current accommodation the council might decide that you've made yourself intentionally homeless & cut your housing benefit altogether: Don't tell the Council anything until you've talked to one of these organisations!

My guess would be that the best thing would be for your landlord to give you notice to leave (in writing). That way, you have to find other accommodation & you can go to the council and tell them that in good faith.
posted by pharm at 9:51 AM on November 10, 2011

btw, Since you're renting room in the property where your landlord lives, you have no right of tenure & must leave if the landlord requests it, whether you can afford the rent or not.

This means that there's no way that the Council can claim that you made yourself intentionally homeless if the landlord gives you notice, which means that at least you're not going to have to force him to evict you in order to ensure that you still get your benefits.

Do talk to one of the organisations I linked to & I hope everything works out for you Anon.
posted by pharm at 9:57 AM on November 10, 2011

Intentional homelessness is not a reason to refuse housing benefit, though it could be a reason to refuse you local authority housing. You can almost always try claiming Housing Benefit if you are on a low income, have recourse to public funds, and are genuinely liable for rent. Anon's problem will likely be the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap. In the private rented sector, your maximum weekly housing benefit is determined by: what size property your family unit requires (eg a couple get one room); whether you are renting a property that is not self-contained; and what rents the properties go for in your "broad rental market area". The rent you are actually charged does not much matter, unless it less than the LHA rate, in which case you don't get to keep any excess (until recently you got to keep up to £15 per week excess, but this is being phased out).

For a single person over 25, you are entitled to the one bedroom rate, unless you are in shared accommodation, in which case you get the (significantly lower) shared room rate. You are also usually limited to the shared room rate if you are a single person under 25 whether or not in self-contained accommodation (this age limit is increasing to 35 next year). When the LHA came in, it was set at the 50th percentile, meaning 50% of the properties in your area would be the same or cheaper than the amount LHA will pay. As of last April, this is dropping to the 30th percentile.

All this means that when your HB claim comes up for review, or if you have to start a new claim because you have moved, it will probably go down rather than up. Very few claimants are better off by bringing forward their review dates, though it is possible in certain circumstances. There are various exceptions to these caps depending on your other circumstances, you may indeed want to get definitive advice from a local welfare rights agency. In the meantime, find maximum rates:
And read about the last round of squeezes on the rates:
posted by wilko at 10:03 AM on November 10, 2011

wilko, Shelter disagrees with you:
If the council decides that you are eligible for assistance and have a priority need,* but you are intentionally homeless, it only has to house you for a short period. How long that will be depends on your circumstances, but often it is only for another 28 days.
as does Citizen's Advice.

Anon, please talk to CA or Shelter before you do anything.
posted by pharm at 10:16 AM on November 10, 2011

I think you're misreading wilko there, pharm. Your quote is talking about housing someone (providing you with the accommodation), which wilko notes they can refuse, not paying housing benefit (to go towards the rent in accommodation you've found yourself). Definitely a good idea to talk to the CAB or Shelter though.
posted by Abiezer at 10:25 AM on November 10, 2011

Abiezer: Point.
posted by pharm at 11:55 AM on November 10, 2011

Another reason to go to CA/Shelter or similar: in anon's current situation, s/he might have a case for a discretionary housing payment. These claims are best made with help or advice.
posted by wilko at 12:23 PM on November 10, 2011

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