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Social Housing Speed Read – The new Housing Benefit subsidy guidance 2018

We look at the updated Housing Benefit subsidy guidance and the potential impact on local authorities.

The Housing Benefit subsidy guidance for local authorities provides detailed guidance and information in respect of the subsidy regime of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The new subsidy guidance can be applied for any subsidies claimed from 2010/11 until 31 March 2018.

What’s new?

The guidance has been updated by the DWP to cover recent developments within the Housing Benefit (HB) subsidy legislation and policy. In particular, the updated guidance covers:

  • Benefit costs, qualifying expenditure and common queries;
  • Backdated claims;
  • Guidance on the completion of the subsidy claim form;
  • Overpayments (whether by local authority error or changes to underlying entitlement);
  • Subsidy rules for temporary accommodation;
  • Rent allowances and regulated tenancies;
  • Extended payments of HB.

In addition to the above, the appendices to the guidance sets out, in detail, the current effective dates and limit rents in respect of HB across England and Wales.

The updated Housing Benefit subsidy guidance manual may be found here.

Why is this important?

Local authorities are required to keep accurate records in respect of their benefit spending and as to which categories and purposes the HB subsidies are used. Local authorities should ensure that their internal systems and records are up-to-date and relevant to ensure compliance with subsidy legislation so that their accounts and claims may be verified for audit purposes, helping local authorities minimise or avoid qualified audits.

The National Audit Office has previously reported that overall, the rate of error in HB, by both officials and claimants, has been rising. By the same token, the DWP has previously announced its intention to take steps to address what it perceives to be a high level of qualification letters issued on local authority HB subsidy claims. As such, local authorities should pay particular attention to ensure any claims are made in accordance with a certification methodology determined by the DWP.

It seems this is very much a live issue for the DWP and one to watch as the HB landscape constantly changes in the wake of Universal Credit’s implementation.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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