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Housing Benefit Update

Changes to the HB Regulations regarding a person's absence from home from 28th July 2016

These changes reduce the time a person can be treated as occupying their home, able to claim HB whilst abroad, and intend to return, from 13 weeks to just 4 weeks. 
There are some exceptions which extend the time limit to 26 weeks which are:
Members of the armed forces
People fleeing Domestic Violence
The claimant is in Hospital
The claimant, Partner or dependant child are undergoing medical treatment
The claimant is receiving medically approved care (non residential)
The Regulations state that a person could, in exceptional cases, receive the HB up to 4 or 26 weeks if they do not return within the specified period if the delay in returning was caused by an unexpected event. The time limit can also be extended up to a further 4 weeks if the reason for absence from the UK was due to the death of a close relative and it is unreasonable to expect the person to return within the 4 weeks period. However, if the person does not return to their own home they will be treated as not living in the property. The discretion has been given to the Local HB Office so may vary by Local Authority. An example has been given by Housing Systems below:
‘Catrina has been staying at her sister Agatha's house in Devon to look after Agatha's 4 year old, Rees, while his Mum is in hospital. Catrina's HB continues to be paid as she intends to return within 52 weeks. After 10 weeks Catrina takes Rees away to stay with Gran in Greece for the summer holidays and they return after 6 weeks. Under the rules Catrina is not treated as occupying her normal home while abroad for these reasons, and is not regarded as occupying her normal home for the rest of her time at Agatha's either’.
These regulations also apply to Non dependants, therefore any Non dependant absence from the home for more than 4 or 26 weeks without a valid/ exceptional reason will be classed as no longer living in the property and the HB claim may be subject to a Bedroom Tax deduction. The 4 week absence rule for people going abroad could therefore have an impact on the amount of Housing Benefit to which a claimant is entitled when they or a member of the household is abroad.
Where a person goes abroad for longer than 4 weeks (or 8 or 26 weeks) there may be someone living in the property who would be able to claim HB in their absence for example a partner; or someone who could be treated as liable for the rent e.g. a Non dependant son or daughter , this would depend on whether the HB Office consider it reasonable to treat this person as liable for the rent in the tenant’s absence given the circumstances.
The Regulations state that a person will not come under the new rules if they were already abroad when the rules changed (28th July 2016).
These changes affect both working age and pension credit age persons and apply to Housing Benefit and  Pension Credit claims.