There is a lot of false information or ‘myths’ out there about benefits, housing and council tax, which we have found to be harmful to people, causing them unnecessary stress and worry and leading to benefit problems. Read on and let’s debunk those myths!
1. MYTH: “The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HMRC (the ‘taxman’/tax credits office) and the Council Housing Benefit Department all communicate so if you tell one of them about a change in your circumstances (e.g. that you’ve stopped signing on, started or stopped a job, or had a pay increase), they’ll tell the others.”
>>> TRUTH: The DWP, the Council and HMRC don’t share information. It is your duty to report any change in circumstances to each of them.
2. MYTH: “If you are a Council tenant, you can report your changes in circumstances to your Housing Officer for your Housing Benefit to be updated.”
>>> TRUTH: You must contact the Revenues and Benefits section of the Council to notify your changes in circumstances. Don’t just speak to the receptionist of the local Council Office either. Hand in a letter to Revenues and Benefits and ask for a receipt, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone them on 0131 608 1111.
3. MYTH: “You can’t claim Housing Benefit if you have rent arrears.”
>>> TRUTH: You can claim Housing Benefit even if you have rent arrears, if you qualify based on your income. What you cannot get is Discretionary Housing Payment to pay off your rent arrears. If you are in arrears, seek help to appeal any gaps in your housing benefit and arrange an affordable repayment plan to repay your arrears.
4. MYTH: “You can’t claim Housing Benefit if you are working.”
>>> TRUTH: You may be able to get some Housing Benefit even if you are working depending on your wages. How much Housing Benefit you’ll get is determined by your earnings.
5. MYTH: “Non-dependant charges won’t be applied to your Housing Benefit if your adult children are not working.”
>>> TRUTH: Non-dependant deductions will apply even if your adult children or other non-dependants who live with you (excluding your partner) have no benefit income and no earnings. There are exemptions: if your non-dependant is in full time education or if they are under 25 and on means-tested benefits such as JSA.
6. MYTH: “You cannot challenge a benefit sanction.”
>>> TRUTH: You can appeal any sanction—the first stage is to ask the DWP to reconsider their decision and give reasons why. Ask us for help. While the appeal is being processed, apply to your local JobCentre for Hardship Payments and to the Council’s Scottish Welfare Fund for a Crisis Grant.
7. MYTH: “When you’re sanctioned you stop being eligible for housing benefit.”
>>> TRUTH: Your Housing Benefit will be stopped or ‘suspended’ during the sanction. It does not mean you stop being entitled to Housing Benefit; it’s just that the Council must re-assess your income. Write to the Council to let them know you have no other income or savings, and give them a bank statement for the period of the sanction, so they reinstate your Housing Benefit.
8. MYTH: “If your landlord wants to evict you, they just need to send you a letter.”
>>> TRUTH: Landlords must follow specific procedures and issue certain documents, depending on your type of tenancy, before they can legally evict you. Ask us for help to check whether the eviction would be legal.
9. MYTH: “You don’t have to pay any rent if you are on benefits such as JSA, ESA, Income Support.”
>>> TRUTH: You may have to pay some rent even if you are on means-tested benefits, for example due to a non-dependant deduction if you have adult relatives living with you, or due to a Housing Benefit overpayment.
10. MYTH: “You don’t have to pay any council tax if you are on benefits such as JSA, ESA, Income Support.”
>>> TRUTH: In Scotland, water and sewerage charges are collected through council tax. Even if you get the maximum council tax reduction, you will still need to pay some money to the council every month for these water charges.
Click here to download our Myth Busting factsheet (PDF).