Anyone on housing benefit won't be able to hang around for three months any longer. | Archive

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People living in Great Britain can now only receive housing benefit for four weeks if they are out of the country. Previously, housing benefit claimants could continue having their rent paid for up to 13 weeks.

The new rules, which came into force last month, prevent claimants from taking long trips outside the country while receiving taxpayer help with their rent, as well as bringing housing benefit into line with Jobseeker’s Allowance and other working age benefits, which already have stricter limits. Those in receipt of pension credit also face a reduction in the time they can continue to receive their benefit whilst abroad - from 13 weeks to four weeks.

Minister for welfare delivery, Caroline Nokes says: "It’s important that the benefits system is fair to those who need it and those who pay for it. It’s not right that people could be abroad for over three months and still expect the taxpayer to pay their rent back home. These new rules mean that people can still enjoy holidays like everyone else, but will ensure that the system isn’t abused."

For further information on these changes or to find out what exemptions apply, contact your local benefit office. Those who are permanent residents overseas remain unable to claim income-related benefits for any period of time. These include benefits such as housing benefit, pension credit or universal credit.

If you suspect someone of committing benefit fraud in Spain, call the Benefit Fraud Hotline on 900 55 444 0. Calls are free and confidential. You can also report a benefit thief online at www.gov.uk/report-benefit-fraud.

Help make sure that benefits go to those who need them most.

The ‘Limiting of Temporary Absence Rules’ within housing benefit and pension credit will amend the current legislation to reduce the period that a person may be temporarily absent from Great Britain and continue to receive those benefits from 13 weeks to four. Exemptions remain in place for those who travel abroad for certain specified purposes and intend to return to their place of residence in Great Britain, for example to attend a close relative's funeral or, in the case of housing benefit, an armed forces member being deployed overseas.

The new rules came into force on 28 July 2016.

Around £25bn is spent every year on housing benefit and the bill has been increasing for many years, but the government brought in a range of reforms to bring spending under control. Welfare reforms including capping local housing allowance rates and the benefit cap have helped to achieve the first real-term fall in housing benefit expenditure in a decade.

Reforms will continue to save money through this parliament, with housing benefit expenditure forecast to fall by over £2bn in real terms by 2020/21.