When you are receiving Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support you are required to be living in the property for which you are claiming benefit. There are certain exceptions to this rule which mean that some people can continue to claim Housing Benefit during periods of absence.
Reporting an absence
If you are going to be away from your property for a length of time, you will need to let us know before you leave.
You will need to inform us of the following
- the date you are leaving and the date you expect to return
- the reason for your absence
- a statement confirming that you will return to live in your property and that you will not let or sub-let it during your absence
- Please write your claim reference number (a 7-digit number) on documents you send in. If you do this, we should be able to make a decision on your claim quicker.
Depending on the length of your absence, you may also be asked to complete a new application form.
During your absence
If any of the following change during your absence you need to tell us straight away:
- if you decide not to return to the property
- if your reason for absence changes
- if your absence is likely to be for longer than expected.
Temporary Absence guide
For more information on the temporary absence rules and time limits that apply in different situations, please download the Temporary Absence Guide.
You can report a temporary absence online via your MyHarrow Account.
How long can I be away from home for?
Your Housing Benefit can continue while you are away from your home, providing that you return within:
- 13 weeks if you remain in Great Britain
- 4 weeks if you leave Great Britain
Council Tax Support can continue for up to 13 weeks regardless of whether you remain in Great Britain.
If you are away from your property for longer than the time periods stated above, we will stop your benefits on the day that you leave the property.
Great Britain is the official collective name of England, Scotland and Wales. It does not include Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. If you travel to these locations or other countries, a shorter time limit will apply.
We can apply a longer time limit in exceptional circumstances.
You can be away for up to 8 weeks if it is due to the death of:
- a partner
- child or young person for whom you or your partner are responsible
- you or your partner’s close relative
- a close relative of a child or young person for whom you or your partner are responsible
Working away from home
If you are absent from Great Britain as a member of the armed forces posted overseas, a mariner or an oil or gas worker on the continental shelf the time limit is 26 weeks. During your absence the 3 qualifying conditions must be fulfilled:
- You intend to return to the property
- The dwelling has not been let/sublet
- The period of absence is unlikely to exceed the time limit
All 3 conditions must be satisfied. There is no discretion, so if it is clear at the outset that absence is likely to exceed the time limit then benefit is not payable.
In the following circumstances the time limits are 52 weeks if remaining in Great Britain, and 26 weeks if outside Great Britain:
- Resident in a hospital or similar institution as a patient
- Claimant, partner or dependant child undergoing medical treatment or medically approved convalescence, in accommodation other than residential accommodation
- A person receiving medically approved care provided in accommodation other than residential accommodation
- A person who has left the dwelling they occupy as their home through fear of violence, in the dwelling, or by a person who was formerly a member of the family of the person, and to whom payment on two homes does not apply
In the following circumstances the time limits are 52 weeks if remaining in Great Britain, and 4 weeks if outside Great Britain:
- Undertaking medically approved care of a person
- Undertaking the care of a child whose parent or guardian is temporarily absent from the dwelling normally occupied by that parent or guardian for the purpose of receiving medically approved care or medical treatment
- A person who is receiving care provided in residential accommodation (other than trial periods)
- A Student, single or lone parent student liable to make payments in respect of either (but not both) their term time or the dwelling they occupy when not attending their course will be treated as occupying as their home the dwelling in respect of which they are liable to make payments or payment on two homes for a couple where one partner is a student and it is unavoidable that the partners should occupy two separate dwellings)