Information for landlords
We want to work with landlords to make sure that housing benefit is paid on time. We also want to make sure that overpayments and the risk of any enforcement action are kept to a minimum.
It is important that you contact the housing benefit office as soon as your tenant falls into arrears with their rent payments.
Wherever possible we will try to resolve the situation. In return we ask landlords/agents to respect our obligations towards client confidentiality and the Data Protection Act when they make enquiries about their tenants.
- Change in circumstances
- How is housing benefit calculated?
- How is housing benefit paid?
- Payments direct to landlords
- Recovery of overpayments
- What can the council tell a landlord?
- What is expected of a landlord?
- What is a pre-tenancy determination?
- When is housing benefit paid?
- Payment on two homes
- When can payments be made direct to the landlord?
- How will the overpayment be recovered?
- How do you get a pre-tenancy determination (PTD)?
Landlords' or agents' rights of appeal are limited to areas directly involving them and the council.
For example, where the council is seeking to recover an overpayment of housing benefit from a landlord or agent.
To appeal a landlord or agent is bound by the same rules as a claimant.
- Must be in writing
- Must give reasons for the appeal
- Must be made within one month of the date of notification to the landlord/agent
A landlord or agent has no right of appeal relating to a claimant's benefit award.
Change in circumstances
Tenants must report all changes to the council immediately in writing.
If the tenant leaves the property then housing benefit will cease from the day they leave, even if you are still charging them rent.
You should not rely on the council to keep you informed about the tenant.
Landlords have duties under the law to inform the council of changes.
How is housing benefit calculated?
Entitlement is based on the circumstances of the claimant, their family and any other adult occupants (non-dependants).
Local housing allowance
Perhaps the most misunderstood area is that of the level of rent on which the entitlement is based.
Local housing allowance (LHA) means tenants with similar circumstances living in the same area will get the same amount of LHA.
LHA is based on the area you live in and how many people live with you and not the amount of rent being charged.
The amount of LHA for the property is the rent figure we use in the housing benefit assessment (subject to a maximum amount of £15 above the rent being paid).
More information about local housing allowance can be found on the website or by contacting the Benefits team.
Housing benefit for tenants who do not receive local housing allowance
Housing benefit for a tenant who does not fall into the categories for local housing allowance can only be assessed on rent, which has been determined by the local rent officer.
The eligible rent for housing benefit purposes will normally be the rent less any amount in respect of items covered by the scheme.
The main items not covered are heating, hot water, cooking, meals and water rates but there are other less commons ones such as personal laundry.
The maximum rent will be the figure set by the local rent officer in respect of a particular claim.
The council must by law (in certain circumstances), send the details of the rent to the rent officer at the point that the claim is made and every 12 months thereafter.
The rent officer will provide the council with the maximum rent to be used and the council will then deduct any ineligible amounts.
This figure will then be used as the starting point in the assessment.
In any situation where a restricted rent is used as a result of the rent officer fixing a level below the actual payable rent, the council will write to the tenant to explain this.
At the point of making an assessment for the first time the council will probably use a temporary rent level (called an "indicative rent") whilst they are waiting for the rent officer to assess the rent.
Once the assessment is received from the rent officer, the claimant's entitlement will be adjusted accordingly.
How is housing benefit paid?
Following the introduction of local housing allowance 7 April 2008 the tenant can no longer choose to have their benefit paid direct to their landlord.
We encourage tenants and landlords to set up a standing order or direct debit. Payment can also be made by crossed cheque.
Payments are made every two weeks in arrears.
Payments direct to landlords
If you are receiving direct payments already you must consider the following:
- The council or the tenant can cancel the arrangement to pay direct but the landlord will be informed in writing
- The council does not assume any responsibilities for the tenant by making payments direct to the landlord
- The landlord must inform the council immediately in writing if the tenant moves out or becomes aware of any other information that may affect the tenant's benefit
- The landlord will be responsible for the repayment of any overpayment that occurs after the tenant has moved out
Recovery of overpayments
The law states that an overpayment can be recovered from either the person who caused the overpayment or the person to whom the overpayment was made.
In practice the council will normally recover from the tenant in situations where they have had a change in their circumstances.
This will be in situations such as when their income has changed or someone has moved in with them and their benefit has been reduced.
What can the council tell a landlord?
The Data Protection Act requires that we protect client confidentiality.
By law we are not allowed to tell landlords or agents any details concerning the personal circumstances of a claimant.
If payment is being made to the landlord or we have a signed declaration regarding ' sharing information with your landlord' we will be able to confirm only the following points with the landlord.
- That direct payment is being made
- The start date and/or end date of the award
- The amount of entitlement (but not how it is calculated)
- The reduced amount of award should there be a recovery of an overpayment
- Changes in the amount of housing benefit awarded
- The method and frequency of payment
Payments will generally be made direct to the claimant.
We would therefore recommend the declaration regarding ' sharing information with your landlord' be completed to help us deal with the claim more quickly and reduce the risk of rent arrears due to the claim being delayed.
What is expected of a landlord?
In all cases the law requires that the landlord inform the council of the following:
- When the tenant is no longer living in the property even though they may still have the tenancy
- When the tenant ends their tenancy
- If a tenant moves between rooms in a property, which is let on a rooms basis
- When someone else moves in to live with the tenant or his or her family
- The landlord becomes aware of the fact that the tenant has started work or that there has been another change, which could have an effect on the award of housing benefit
Please remember that it is a requirement of the law that the landlords pass on this information to the council.
Failure to do so could result in prosecution.
What is a pre-tenancy determination?
After 7 April 2008 new claimants in privately rented accommodation will have their housing benefit assessment based on local housing allowance.
If you have a prospective tenant who is considering taking up the offer of a tenancy that does not fall into the categories for LHA and is unsure about whether they will be able to afford the rent, they can ask for the council to obtain a pre-tenancy determination (PTD).
The PTD is available from the rent officer and will enable the maximum level of rent to be used in the housing benefit assessment to be known before a formal claim is actually made.
When is housing benefit paid?
Housing benefit is paid in "benefit weeks" which start on a Monday and end on a Sunday.
The first payment is normally made from the Monday following the date that the claim is received by the council.
If a claim is made during the week that the tenancy starts will be paid from the start of the tenancy.
Payment on two homes
Housing benefit can normally only be paid on one property at a time but it is possible in exceptional circumstances to pay on two properties normally because of the fact that the tenant has no alternative other than to take up a second tenancy in order to secure it.
When can payments be made direct to the landlord?
There maybe certain circumstances where we could pay direct to the landlord.
The landlord can be paid direct without the tenant's consent if the tenant is in arrears by the equivalent of 8 weeks rent or the tenant has difficulty managing their finances.
A written request must be made and supporting evidence provided.
How will the overpayment be recovered?
- By deduction from ongoing benefit that the tenant may still be entitled to. This would mean that future payments would be less than their full entitlement until the recovery is complete
- Where the tenant has moved and the payment was being made direct to the landlord then the overpayment can be deducted from other payments made to that landlord (such as from payments made in respect of other tenants)
- By the issue of an invoice to the tenant or the landlord
If as a landlord you ever disagree with the fact that you are being required to repay the overpayment then you should write to the council within one calendar month of receiving the notification informing you of this.
How do you get a pre-tenancy determination (PTD)?
To get this information the prospective tenant must complete a Pre-Tenancy Determination Application[pdf - 194kb] form.
The form needs to be returned to the council who will pass it onto the rent officer.
A decision will normally be made within 5 days and it will be notified to the prospective tenant, the council and the landlords.
Any decision will normally remain in force for a period of 12 months unless any of the conditions change.
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