Benefits for older people – Part 2 : Housing costs and council tax
The previous articles written by Jayne Knights, Benefits Expert, have been so well received we just had to have her back to discuss pension credit and additional benefits for older people. In part two of this two-part blog Jayne discusses additional benefits available to older people. Over to Jayne…
In my previous blog, I discussed the slightly depressing news that 4 out of 10 people who could receive pension credit don’t claim it. This means there are hundreds of thousands of older people out there who are living on less than the law says they need. This level of under-claiming means that those people may also not be receiving the help they need with their rent and council tax. In my years as an advice worker I came across too many older people who were virtually living on fresh air as they were too reluctant to claim for a variety of reasons.
One of the best reasons for receiving the guarantee credit part of pension credit is that it also automatically entitles you to maximum help with your rent and council tax.
Let’s have a closer look at housing benefit
The Local Authority is responsible for assessing any help you need with your rent, whether you are a private or a social housing tenant. As I mentioned above, you can receive the maximum eligible help towards your rent if you are on guarantee credit, however even if your income is over the limit for guarantee credit, you might still receive some housing benefit to help towards your rent. It’s worked out on a sliding scale depending on your income and savings. For example, if you are a single person aged 65 with an income of £200 a week and rent of £100 a week, you would only have to pay less than £25 a week towards your rent and the rest would be met, in most cases, by housing benefit.
There are some things that might reduce how much housing benefit you can receive:
- If you have anyone else living with you such as an adult child or relative. These are known as ‘non dependants’;
- If you have a boarder living in your home;
- If you are a private tenant and you live somewhere with a high rent or with more bedrooms than you need; your rent limit is governed by the Local Housing Allowance
- If you have any inclusive service or fuel charges – you can’t get housing benefit for these costs.
Otherwise, as an older person, you might be surprised at how much help you can receive.
What about help for owner-occupiers?
Many older people still have outstanding mortgages, leasehold costs and service charges. These are known in benefit-speak as ‘owner-occupiers housing costs’.
If you are entitled to guarantee credit you should be able to get help towards your housing costs, including mortgage interest, straight away.
The small print of help towards your housing costs:
- The DWP have to consider whether your entire mortgage is eligible for help. Any part of your mortgage which was not for the purpose of buying your home will not be eligible, and the absolute ceiling is £200,000;
- The DWP only pay the interest on the loan, and won’t help with any liability for capital payments or administration charges;
- They work it out on the basis of their own ‘standard interest rate’ (SIR), which at the moment is 3.12%, regardless of your actual rate;
- Help towards leasehold and service charges is woefully under-claimed, so make sure you include this information in your guarantee credit claim.
What about council tax?
If you receive guarantee credit, then you shouldn’t have to pay anything towards your council tax unless (in some areas only), you have a non dependant living with you.
You can find out everything you need to know, and complete a pension credit, housing benefit and council tax support calculations on the wonderful www.turn2us.org.uk, which also links to external sites, including the Pension Service, your own Local Authority and the Local Housing Allowance DWP site.
Thank you to Jayne Knights for an extremely informative and helpful blog. Jayne can be contacted via her website, please click here.