This information is to help private landlords understand the rules and responsibilities for housing benefit. This includes both tenants' claims and landlords that receive payments.
What is housing benefit?
Housing benefit gives help towards housing costs for people on a low income or those who receive Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance.
What happens if my tenant gets Universal Credit?
If your tenant is getting Universal Credit, housing costs are included in this so the council will not pay housing benefit as well. Universal Credit is paid by the Department for Work and Pensions, not the council.
How is a claim for housing benefit made?
The easiest and quickest way for someone to make a new claim for housing and council tax reduction is online.
If they are making a claim for Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit they can make their claim for housing benefit and council tax reduction via the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) at the same time as they make their claim for any of these benefits and DWP will send details to the council.
It is important that they make their claim for housing benefit as soon as they move in to a new property or become eligible to claim as any delay could mean they lose benefit. You can help your tenant by providing proof of rent when they make their claim.
What information is required about the tenancy?
The tenancy agreement may not provide all of the information that we need.
Help speed up the claim by including the following information in the proof of rent:
Please also include your telephone number in case we need to check any information with you.
Local Housing Allowance (LHA)
Housing benefit is worked out using a Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate which is set by the Rent Service (employed by the government). The amount of housing benefit is based on the size of the claimant's household, not they size of property that they live in. For more information visit the local housing allowance page.
From what date will housing benefit be paid?
Normally housing benefit is paid from the Monday after we receive the claim. However there are circumstances where we can pay from an earlier date. We will backdate benefit if the claimant is able to show 'good cause' why they didn't apply for benefit earlier and how the good cause has lasted up to the point of making a claim.
How is housing benefit paid?
For private tenants, housing benefit will normally be paid directly to the claimant. However, there are circumstances where the council can decide or must pay the landlord.
We must pay housing benefit direct to the landlord where their tenant has rent arrears of eight weeks or more, unless we are unable to pay a particular landlord (see details below). You need to advise us about rent arrears in writing, confirming the period of the rent arrears, total rent arrears outstanding and how much your tenant has paid you in rent for this period. You should initially phone us to inform us of rent arrears of eight weeks or more (or earlier if you are concerned) and we will suspend housing benefit payments until the matter has been investigated. We will contact your tenant to ask them to confirm the position regarding their rent payments and rent arrears before making a decision about future payments.
We can pay housing benefit direct to the landlord in other circumstances. For example, if the tenant is unable to pay their rent because they are vulnerable and/or unable to manage their financial affairs. Or if you have reduced their rent which means that they can afford to continue to live in the property. You need to contact us if you think we should pay their housing benefit direct to you. We may need to check information with other interested parties before we can make a decision.
When we have received all the information we need we will advise you and your tenant of the decision regarding future housing benefit payments.
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:
What information can you give to landlords about claims?
The person claiming housing benefit is responsible for providing the information we need to decide their claim. They're also responsible for contacting us about their claim.
We can't discuss housing benefit claims with you unless we have your tenant's consent. If they wish us to discuss the claim with you, they need to sign the declaration on the claim form.
However, we can give you certain information about their claim without their consent if housing benefit is paid or will be paid directly to you. You also need to have signed the claim form to confirm you understand your responsibilities.
The information we can give you in these circumstances is as follows:
Where payments of housing benefit are made to you we will send you a notification letter, which will advise you:
Landlord responsibilities when receiving direct payments
When a landlord receives direct payments of housing benefit, you must let us know immediately if you become aware of any changes that may affect your tenant's benefit entitlement.
For example you need to let us know if your tenant moves out of the property even if they are still liable for the rent at the property.
We would expect you to make regular checks to confirm that your tenant is still living at the property where you are receiving housing benefit payments.
Housing benefit is normally awarded up to the Sunday following the date the claimant moved out of the property if they paid their rent on a weekly basis.
Do I have to repay overpayments of housing benefit?
If you don't agree with our decision to ask you to repay an overpayment you can ask us to look at our decision again. Details will be provided on the overpayment notification letter that we send to you. It is important that you write to us within one calendar month of the date of the notification if you do not agree with our decision.
Where we consider that the overpayment has been caused by fraud and the landlord has not been involved in the fraud we will normally ask the claimant to repay the overpayment.