Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.

Coronavirus: Housing Benefit - Moving Home
Housing Benefit - Moving Home
Moving to a new Local Authority area
Moving out of a Local Authority area means Housing Benefit comes to an end.
New claims for HB can only be made by certain claimants - click here.
So most claimants moving to a different Local Authority area will not be able to make a new claim for Housing Benefit meaning they may have to claim help with their rent through Universal Credit.

Moving within the Local Authority area
Where someone is moving home within the same Local Authority area, this is just a change of address and so Housing Benefit does not end, unless there is a gap - ie where HB ends before the new HB would normally start.

The tenant would only need to move onto Universal Credit if another legacy benefit (Income Support, Income Based JSA, Income Related ESA or Tax Credits) was coming to an end, meaning they needed UC to replace lost income.


What if the claimant cannot move into their new home because they are self-isolating?

There have been no special measures introduced regarding moving home and benefits, so the normal rules would apply.

Often claimants are unable to move into a property on the same date that the tenancy starts. If the HB Office are aware that the tenant has not moved in on their tenancy start date, HB will generally only be payable from the date they do actually move in (or in some instances from the following Monday). So claimants moving in after their tenancy start date risk starting off their tenancy in arrears.
In some situations the HB rules might help (see below) - otherwise claimants might need to try for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

What are the HB rules on moving home - and could they help?

Unavoidable overlapping liability
When a HB claimant moves to more suitable accommodation and there is an unavoidable period of liability for rent on their new home and also for the notice period on the old home, the HB Regulations can help with the costs for both homes – but only for a period that starts after the claimant has moved into their new home.
So, if they have not been able to move due to the Coronavirus outbreak, this rule won’t work for them.
They could ask their new landlord to move the tenancy start date forward and ask their current landlord if they can extend their notice period.
But if that is not possible and they do manage to move into their new tenancy within a couple of weeks, they could try for a Discretionary Housing Payment to cover the arrears they have accrued from their new tenancy start date to when they move in.

Awaiting disabled adaptations

If the delay in moving is also connected with a delay in getting disabled adaptations, these rules might help.
Tenants who cannot move in as they are awaiting adaptations to meet their disablement needs, or those of their family, can get Housing Benefit to cover both the rent on their old tenancy and their new one for up to 4 weeks where they are delayed in moving in.
There are strict claiming rules: as soon as their new tenancy starts, they must report to the HB Office the fact that they intend to move (or if they are a category of person who can make a new claim for HB and they need to – eg moving into specified accommodation in a different LA area, they must make a claim for HB when their tenancy starts).
But the HB on their new tenancy (from tenancy start date) can only be paid once they have moved in - so they will need to let the HB Office know when they have done this.
Remember HB under this rule can only be paid for a maximum limit of 4 weeks, so if it takes them longer to move in they will have arrears on their rent account.

Awaiting the outcome of a budgeting loan or local welfare provision application

Certain 'vulnerable' tenants whose move is delayed because they are waiting for the outcome of a budgeting loan or local welfare provision application, can get HB for up to 4 weeks before they move in. However, this rule cannot cover the rent for 2 homes, they will only get HB on one of the tenancies – either the one they are still occupying or the new one.

If the claimant is moving from non-rented accommodation, they will either need to claim UC or HB, if they fit into one of the categories of people who can (or need to) claim HB. If they need to claim HB – to qualify from their tenancy start date, they must make a claim for HB when their tenancy starts. No HB will be paid until they have moved in.

Moving from hospital or residential care

If a claimant is moving from hospital (or similar establishment where they have been a patient) or residential care, but does not move in on their tenancy start date, then if they are someone who is able to make a new claim for HB, they will be eligible for HB for up to four weeks* before moving in, so long as the delay in moving is reasonable, and they are not getting HB on other accommodation while waiting to move in. (For example, a rented property they have been absent from while in hospital.)

To qualify from their tenancy start date, - they must make a claim for HB when their tenancy starts. No HB will be paid until they have moved in, and will only be for a maximum of four weeks*.

*Note: there has been a Commissioner's Decision R(H)9/05, where the claimant was allowed more than four weeks benefit even though they had not moved in. The claimant was about to move in from hospital, had all his belongings moved in,  but was taken ill and had to remain in hospital. The Commissioner decided that the claimant should have been considered to have moved in within four weeks as was his intention and therefore entitled to HB under the above provision, and was then entitled to ongoing HB under the temporary absence rules. The circumstances were quite specific, and the claimant did eventually move in.


What if someone needs to claim UC when they move? 

If they have to claim UC on the new home, the UC (Transitional Provisions) regulations prevent a UC claimant from getting HB as well. (unless they are moving to 'specified' or 'temporary' accommodation). There is no "unavoidable liability" rule in UC. However someone moving from HB to UC can get a two week run-on of HB, so long as the HB ended because they had gone onto UC.


Could a Discretionary Housing Payment help?

If a claimant cannot get HB prior to occupation because they are moving from one rented property to another and the delay is not due to awaiting disabled adaptations, they might be able to persuade the LA to pay a Discretionary Housing Payment instead for the period while they are liable for two rents.

Guidance says that the amount of a DHP cannot exceed the weekly eligible rent on the property they are occupying, but the DHP Regulations allow a DHP to be paid at an amount up to the equivalent of their weekly eligible rent, regardless of how much HB is already in payment.
So even if someone is receiving HB (even maximum HB) on their current home, they could still get a DHP payment on top, equivalent to the eligible rent for the property they are living in, if they have a further rental liability.

This means that where a tenant is liable for rent on two homes, but only eligible to get HB on one, they could apply for a DHP because they require further financial assistance with their housing costs (ie on the home they’ve not yet moved into.)
If they are awarded the DHP, it can be no more than the eligible rent of the property they are living in.

Frequently Asked Questions

I claim Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. My daughter and I were due to move into my new tenancy (in the same local authority area) next Monday, but this is not going to be possible - I have tested positive for Coronavirus and I have to isolate for 10 days. My new tenancy starts on Monday and I have given 4 weeks’ notice on my current tenancy. I was told that I could only get Housing Benefit on two homes for the unavoidable overlapping period if I move into the new property and remained liable for the old one. My move will be delayed by 1 week but I can’t afford two lots of rent!

It is correct that you would only be able to get HB on two homes during the overlap period if you have already moved in to the new property.

If you are having to delay your move for a week, talk to both your new landlord and your existing landlord. The new landlord might agree to change the start date of the new tenancy.

If that is not possible, you could contact your Local Authority to see if they could award a Discretionary Housing Payment. There are no guarantees on this, it will depend on the circumstances.