Information about Housing Benefit for landlords of private tenants.
This page is designed to help private landlords understand the main rules which affect any tenants they have who are claiming Housing Benefit. It also gives information about how Housing Benefit affects a landlord directly.
Universal Credit is replacing Housing benefit for working age claimants. If you wish to know more about Universal Credit please refer to the document “Landlord Top Tips"
Further information about Universal Credit can be found on our website on our Universal Credit pages
Alternatively you can get information directly from the Department of Works and Pensions in a section specifically designed to give information to Landlords.
What is Housing Benefit?
Housing Benefit gives help towards housing costs for people on low income. For example, people receiving Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance, Pension Credit, or working but on a low wage.
The person who makes the claim must be liable or must be the partner of the person who is liable to make payments in respect of the dwelling that they occupy as their home.
How is a claim for Housing Benefit Made?
If the person is also claiming Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment Support Allowance or Pension Credit, they can claim Housing Benefit at the same time. This is usually done by telephone through Jobcentre Plus or The Pension Service. The information needed to assess Housing Benefit is collected by them and passed on to the council so that Housing Benefit can be assessed. To make a claim in this way a person should telephone:
For Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment Support Allowance: 0845 6088 518 for Sutton and Kirkby. 0845 6088 528 for Hucknall. 0845 6088 506 for Selston & Jacksdale.
For Pension Credit: 0800 991234 for all of Ashfield.
If the person is not also making a claim for Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment Support Allowance or Pension Credit, then they should make a claim direct to the council. This is done on an application form which can be obtained by telephoning our Customer Services on 01623 457400 or calling in at one of our district offices.
It is important that they make their claim for Housing Benefit straight away as any delay could result in loss of benefit. Where possible they should send the information requested on the claim form to us with the form, but if any of the information is unavailable at the time, they should send their form to ourselves straight away and state on the form when the information will be provided.
What information is required about the tenancy?
The Tenancy Agreement may not provide all of the information that we need and we may require additional information as requested on the form.
It would help us to speed up the process of dealing with the claim if the landlord could ensure that the proof of rent includes the following information:
- The landlord or agent's name and address (business address)
- The date that the tenancy agreement started
- The amount of rent charged for the property
- What is included in the rent e.g. fuel, water, meals etc.
- How often the rent is due e.g. weekly, monthly, 4 weekly
How much Housing Benefit will be paid?
LHA is Housing Benefit for people on benefits or low incomes who rent from private landlords. LHA is based on the number of rooms people are allowed and not how much the rent for the property they live in actually is. The number of rooms allowed depends on who lives with the claimant and so depends on the size of their family.
The maximum amount of LHA paid will depend on:
- The number of bedrooms allowed for the claimants family size
- The LHA rate for this number of bedrooms for the area the tenancy is in
The allowances that will be set by the Valuation Office every April will be the maximum amounts; the actual amount of entitlement will depend on income, savings and the claimant's circumstances. The LHA rates will be reviewed every year. There are different rates of LHA for different areas. Ashfield has three different LHA areas, these are called Broad Rental Market Areas (BRMAs)
From what date will Housing Benefit be paid?
Housing Benefit will normally be paid from the Monday after the claim form is received. However, if the claim form is received in the same week as the tenancy started, we can pay Housing Benefit from the Monday of that week if the rent is contracted on a weekly basis.
Housing Benefit cannot normally be paid for a period before the person moves into the property even where they have a liability to pay rent before they move in.
However, in certain circumstances, a claimant can be treated as occupying a property for up to 4 weeks before they moved in, for example, if the delay in moving is necessary to adapt the new home to meet the disablement needs of the claimant or a member of the family. They may need to contact us for advice if they are unsure if they can get benefit before they move into the property.
Can my tenant ask for their Housing Benefit to be backdated?
The tenant can ask for their Housing Benefit claim to be backdated for up to six months if they are working age, and three months if they are of pension age, from the date they make their request in writing. They must be able to show ‘Good Cause’ as to why they did not apply for benefit earlier and the Good Cause must apply throughout the period they have requested backdated benefit for until they put their request for backdated benefit in writing.
How is Housing Benefit paid?
From the 7th April 2008, the way we work out Housing Benefit for those in a private tenancy changed. For those making a claim on or after the 7th April 2008, help towards rent will be calculated under the Local Housing Allowance.
By law, we must pay this to the tenant unless they would not be able to manage their rent payments (for example, because they have a learning disability, have language problems, are ill, are in a lot of debt or are addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling). The tenant can then ask us to pay their Housing Benefit directly to their landlord.
Housing Benefit is paid in arrears and payment is usually made by Bank Credit Transfer (BACS) directly in to the tenants or in some cases the landlords bank account.
Before we pay a landlord directly we have to be satisfied that the landlord is a "fit and proper person". We do this by considering whether the landlord:
- Has previously been involved in fraudulent acts related to Housing Benefit
- Has habitually failed to report changes in tenants circumstances which they might reasonably be expected to know might affect entitlement
- Has habitually failed to repay overpayments which they have been properly notified about and requests for a review of the matter has been properly undertaken or made available
The landlord can ask us to pay Housing Benefit directly to them where the tenant has rent arrears of 8 weeks or more. They will need to put the request in writing and advise us exactly what period the rent arrears are in respect of and how much the arrears are. We will then suspend further Housing Benefit payments and write to the tenant and ask them for their comments. We will advise the tenant and landlord of our decision once we have all the facts available to us. Alternatively you can download the LHA – Landlord Request For Direct Payment Due To Rent Arrears Form. You must print it out, fully complete and post to us.
Housing Benefit is paid for as long as the tenant remains entitled. It will be necessary for us to check details of their claim from time to time and we will contact them at the appropriate time or arrange to visit them.
What information can we give to landlords about claims?
It is important to understand that the person claiming Housing Benefit is responsible for providing the information we need to deal with their claim and also for contacting us about their claim.
We are unable to discuss Housing Benefit claims with a landlord unless we have the tenant's consent to do so. They are required to sign the declaration on the application form if they wish us to discuss their claim with their landlord.
However, if Housing Benefit is paid or will be paid directly to the landlord we can give them certain information about the claim without their consent. The information we can give a landlord in these circumstances is as follows:
- Details relating to payments that have or will be sent to the landlord
- The period the payments are for
- Details about any overpayments that we ask the landlord to repay
Where payments of Housing Benefit are made to the landlord we will send a notification letter which will advise:
- When payments will start and how much Housing Benefit the claimant is entitled to each week
- If their Housing Benefit entitlement changes or ends
- If we are deducting an amount from their on-going Housing Benefit entitlement in order to recover an overpayment
Landlord responsibilities when receiving direct payments
Where a landlord receives direct payments of Housing Benefit, they must let us know immediately if they are aware of any changes in the circumstances of any tenants who they know receive Housing Benefit.
For example if the tenant moves out of the property even if they are still liable for the rent at the property. We expect the landlord to make regular checks to confirm that the tenant is still living at the property where they are receiving Housing Benefit payments. We would also expect the landlord to keep accurate and up to date records of the rent being paid by their tenants in case they get in to arrears and have to ask for direct payments.
Do landlords have to repay overpayments of Housing Benefit?
An overpayment is benefit that has been paid but to which there is no entitlement. Overpayments happen for a number of reasons and most are recoverable. They are usually recovered from the claimant but when benefit was paid direct to the landlord, they may be recovered from them. This could happen if we felt it was reasonable for the landlord to have known they were being overpaid. For example, where a tenant moves out of a property and we were not informed.
If a landlord does not agree with our decision to seek recovery from them they can ask us to look at our decision again. Details are provided on the overpayment notification letter that is sent to the landlord. It is important that the landlord writes to us within one calendar month of the date of the notification if they do not agree with our decision.
Sometimes, overpayments are recovered from tenants by making deductions from their ongoing benefit payments. If these payments are being made direct to a landlord the tenant will have to make up the shortfall between the benefit paid and the rent.
Can we help a landlord who has a tenant with rent arrears?
Although in most cases we can't talk to a landlord about their tenants, we will always try to help where a tenant has rent arrears or where a landlord is considering taking legal action including eviction. Please contact us before taking enforcement action in case we are able to help.
What is the Local Housing Allowance?
The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is a new form of Housing Benefit being introduced for private tenants from April 2008. For further information about the LHA please see the page "Local Housing Allowance".