Universal Credit FAQ
Here are some questions raised by our residents about the changes to benefits.
- My husband and I have been tenants for 30 years and our family has grown up and moved out. How many bedrooms can we have without it affecting our benefit?
Answer - If you are both under 61½ years of age then you are allowed one bedroom. However, if one of you or both of you are over 61½ years of age, then the changes won’t affect you as you are not considered to be of working age.
- I am a single person, aged 40 and currently receiving housing benefit. My daughter has just left home and I now l live in a 2 bedroom flat by myself. Will I be seen as under occupying following the changes? If I am seen as under occupying will I have to move to smaller accommodation?
Answer - From April 2013 your benefit will be cut by 14% of the total rent charged each week. You will not be made to move because you have a shortfall. But if you cannot afford to pay the difference then you may wish to consider moving to a smaller property to avoid falling into arrears. You must keep up with your weekly rent payments otherwise your home maybe at risk.
- I am going to try and make up the shortfall in payments but I know it will be difficult financially. What can I do?
Answer - Please contact us on 0800 923 2700 to let us know your position as we can offer basic budgeting advice and signpost you to agencies that will be able to help make your money go further and prioritise your outgoings and expenditure.
- I can’t afford the extra rent. What can I do?
Answer - You might want to think about moving to a smaller property. If you are interested in ‘downsizing’ and would like to find out more then please contact our Homesearch team at Golding Homes on 0800 923 2700. If a team member is unable to take your call, then please leave a message and details and someone will get back to you to discuss your options.
If you are disabled and living in accommodation that has been substantially adapted for your needs or are a foster carer, even if you are between placements, you can apply to your local council for help where you may receive assistance via the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme (DHP).
- I am 70 years old and I have lived in this house nearly all my life. Will I have to move to a smaller home?
Answer - No, because you are over pensionable age (61 ½ years old at April 2013), the new rules don’t affect you.
- My son is away at university. What will happen to his room, can I still keep it for him when he comes home?
Answer - If your son is away during term time and returns home for the holidays, then he will be considered to be temporarily away from home. He would also need to have the intention of returning home after his course ends. This means that a bedroom will still be allowed for him.
- I have a carer who regularly stays overnight during the week. Will I be able to keep a bedroom spare for them?
Answer - Under the new rules you are allowed a bedroom for a carer who does not live with you but provides you or your partner with regular overnight care. This is assessed when you apply for Disability Living Allowance /Personal Independence Payments.
- My 17 year old daughter lives with me and she has a one year old baby. How many bedrooms am I allowed for them?
Answer - Three, you are allowed a bedroom for yourself, a bedroom for your daughter and a bedroom for her one year old baby.
- I am under 61 years of age; I work, but also claim some housing benefit. My husband is 64. Does this mean that my benefit will be cut?
Answer - You won’t be affected if either you or your partner is aged 61½ years old or older on 31 March 2013.
- I am thinking about taking a lodger. Does Golding Homes allow this and will my housing benefit be affected?
Answer - Contact us to check that your tenancy agreement allows you to take a lodger. If your tenancy agreement does allow you to take in a lodger you should also speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau and your Housing Benefit Department as taking in a lodger could affect your benefit.
- I am under 61½ years of age and I live in two bedroom accommodation in a Golding Homes sheltered scheme, will I be affected by the size criteria?
Answer - Please contact your Housing Benefit Department regarding your individual circumstances as it will depend on the level of support, care or supervision you receive.
- I have split up from my husband but we are still living in the same flat but we are no longer a couple. For the purposes of housing benefit are we allowed a bedroom each?
Answer - As long as your local Housing Benefit Department is satisfied that you are not still a couple then for the purposes of benefits you would be able to occupy a bedroom each. You would need to be making independent claims for benefits as two single adults.
- I’m 53 and live in a two bedroom property that has been adapted for me and I’m currently on full housing Benefit. Will I be affected by the size criteria?
Answer - Where the size criteria has been imposed in such cases Maidstone Borough Council may consider requests for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). All applicants applying for DHP will be asked to complete a financial assessment form as part of the process to establish if they are able to contribute to the shortfall.
- Is Golding Homes offering any incentives to residents who are thinking about downsizing?
Answer - We don’t currently offer incentives to residents thinking about downsizing, but we will be consulting with residents to establish what level of support tenants affected by these changes will need and we are reviewing the services currently on offer to residents.
- I would like to swap my property for smaller accommodation, how do I go about this?
Answer - If you are an assured tenant you can consider moving to smaller home by finding someone to exchange your property with. This can be done by registering online with Homeswapper, a national database of tenants looking to exchange their homes. Kent Homechoice which is run by the local council, also provides opportunities for swapping homes on www.kenthomechoice.org.uk
- I want to transfer to a smaller property. How do I go about getting a transfer?
Answer - Under choice based lettings, social landlords regularly advertise their available properties in a two weekly brochure produced by the Council, and all applicants who have qualified for re-housing are able to “bid” for housing. From April 2013, the bidder with the longest waiting time will have the best chance of “winning” the property. You can consider applying to transfer to a smaller property through Kent Homechoice, if you have lived in your property for two years. An application can be obtained by going to Maidstone Borough Council’s website www.maidstone.gov.ukand clicking on housing and then on the Kent Homechoice logo. Alternatively, you can contact Maidstone Borough Council on 01622 602000 where an application form can be sent to you.
- Will there be any changes to Choice based lettings from April 2013?
Answer - From April 2013, the Council has revised its Allocations Scheme which means that applicants will need to demonstrate a housing need before they are able to bid for re-housing. To qualify you must demonstrate to the Council that you need to be re-housed on the following grounds:
- You are overcrowded or under occupying,
- You need to move for medical or welfare reasons,
- You are in hardship
- You are homeless
The Council has created a “banding system” and applicants will be placed in one of four categories according to their housing need. Those who have spent the longest time waiting for an offer will be given the highest priority. The largest category is called “community contribution” and will give a better chance of re-housing to those who are working for a charity or in the view of the Council are making a positive contribution to the community. The bands are as follows:
1. Community contribution
2. Assistance (welfare and managment moves)
3. Reasonable preference
Under the new Allocations Scheme, the size of accommodation that an applicant can qualify for will be amended to fall in with the size criteria set out in the new benefit regulations.
N.B. The revised Allocations Policy is still subject to discussion with Maidstone Borough Council and partners.
- How do I get help to bid for another property?
Answer - If you need assistance please contact the Homesearch team on 0800 923 2700