Housing Benefit follows one of the basic views of all means-tested benefits, that you are not entitled until you make a claim. When assessing entitlement to Housing Benefit the general rule is that awards are payable from the Monday following the date the claim is received at a designated office, unless a more favourable date can be found, either linked to a claim for an income related benefit, or on reaching 60, or evidence of the date of first contact or initial liability.
Backdating - What is it?
Backdating allows an authority to award benefit for a period prior to the date the application was made (or is deemed to have been made). If a customer can show that there is “good cause” for not making the claim earlier then the authority can award backdated benefit.
In order that the authority may consider backdating a claim, the customer must make a written request. A claim can only be backdated for up to three months for Pension Credit age customers (this is automatically granted however proof of income / capital for this period must be supplied) and Housing Benefit backdating for working age customers can only be considered for a maximum period of one month from the date of the request.
The rules with regard to the backdating of Council Tax Support have not changed and remain at 6 months for working age and 3 months for Pension Credit age customers.
Before an authority considers backdating, there are five essential requirements:
- There must be a claim for benefit;
- There must be a request for that claim to be backdated;
- The date from which backdating is requested must be stated;
- The customer must state reasons why the claim could not be made at an earlier date;
- There must be a finding of ‘good cause’ and this good cause must be continuous to the date on which the request for backdating was made.
In most cases, a backdating request is made in respect of a new claim for benefit. Alternatively, the request may be made after the initial claim.
In other cases, a ‘backdating only’ claim may also be made. For example, a customer was sick for a few weeks but has now returned to work – no claim was made before the return to work and the claimant now requests benefit for the period of illness.
The customer must state the date from which they would like backdating to be considered. If they do not, it will be necessary for us to write to you to request a specific date which will delay a decision.
“Good cause” means that there is some good reason(s) why the claimant could not make the claim at an earlier date.
Good cause includes any facts which would probably have caused a reasonable person to act as the customer did;
Such facts will include the customer's age, health, background and knowledge of the benefits system;
Consideration must also be given to any information the claimant had received or could have obtained.
The essential question when considering backdated benefit is whether or not any reasonable person of similar age, health and experience would have failed to claim in the same way as the customer.
What can be considered as Good Cause
The Department for Work and Pensions guidance specifically addresses some of the most common causes for a claim not being made at the earliest opportunity, good cause must be shown for the whole of the backdated period and could include:
customer did not claim immediately after leaving hospital
customer was ill and had no-one to make the claim on their behalf.
customer did not know their rights due to a change in the law
customer did not understand due to age, inexperience or language difficulties
customer wrongly advised they are not entitled to Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support
customer was unable to make a claim and did not have an appointee.
The above is not exhaustive but serves as a guide to what may be deemed as 'good cause'.
For further information or clarification please contact the Housing Benefit Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.