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What is Housing Benefit?
Who can claim Housing Benefit?
Making a claim for Housing Benefit
Paying Housing Benefit
Role of the Rent Service
Direct payments
What information can we give you
Overpayments
Appeals by landlords
Change of circumstances
Delays in paying Housing Benefits
Fraud
Discretionary housing payments

What is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit is a state benefit which helps people on low incomes pay rent for the homes they live in. Your tenant must actually be living in the property to get Housing Benefit.

The amount of Housing Benefit we will pay your tenant depends on:

  • their income;
  • their savings;
  • the size and condition of the property;
  • their rent; and
  • who lives with them. 

From 15 March 2017 all new claims for help towards rent must be made to the DWP through Universal Credit unless the tenant is a pensioner, living in supported or exempt accommodation or their post code begins with NE6 4 or NE13 6.

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Who can claim?

Anyone who pays rent for the home they live in can apply for Housing Benefit. However, not everyone who pays rent can qualify. Tenants will not get benefit if:

  • their income and savings are too high;
  • they live with and pay rent to a close relative;
  • they belong to a religious order;
  • they live in a care home;
  • it is a non-commercial arrangement (in other words, the agreement under which the person lives in the property is not legally enforceable);
  • they rent a joint home from their ex-partner;
  • they are employed by their landlord and must live in the home as part of their job;
  • they rent their property from a company and they are a director or employee of that company;
  • they are responsible for a child of their landlord; or
  • they rent from a trust and they are the trustee or a beneficiary.

Tenants may not get benefit if:

  • they used to live with the landlord as a family member, relative or friend and now pay rent to that person;
  • they used to own the property which they now rent; or
  • they are a full-time student. (Please contact us for advice because, although most full-time students don't qualify, some do).

If your tenant is not sure whether they qualify for Housing Benefit, ask them to contact us.

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Making a claim for Housing Benefit

Your tenant must make their claim in writing. They must fill in all parts of the benefit claim form and sign it.

Evidence of rent
Your tenant must show us evidence of the rent they pay. This is usually a tenancy agreement but could also be a letter.

The agreement or letter must include:

  • your full name and home or business;
  • the full name and home or business address of any agent;
  • the date the tenancy will start;
  • the full address of the property they are renting;
  • the amount of rent charged;
  • the landlord's or agent's signature;
  • your tenant's signature;
  • the date the document was signed;
  • details of services included in the rent, for example, meals, gas, electricity and water rates;
  • the amount included for these services;
  • the full names of those renting the property;
  • how often the rent is paid (every week, every four weeks or every month); and
  • how long the tenancy will last for. 

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Paying Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit is a weekly benefit.  A benefit week usually begins on a Monday and ends on a Sunday.  We usually start benefit from the Monday after we receive the claim.  If we receive a claim in the same week as the tenancy starts, we will pay benefit from the start of the tenancy as long as your tenant moves into the property.  We will regularly check your tenant's circumstances throughout the life of their claim to make sure they are still entitled to benefit.  This is either a postal check or a personal visit to their home. 

Role of the Rent Service

If you are a private landlord, in most cases Housing Benefit will not cover all of your tenant's rent.  We receive a lot of appeals from private tenants who are unhappy at the amount of benefit they have been given.  This is usually because the rent we use to work out their benefit is less than the actual rent they pay.  When we receive a claim from a private tenant we refer it to the Rent Service.  The Rent Service set the maximum rent that we can use in working out the benefit.  This is called the local reference rent (LRR).  A different rent, called the single room rent (SRR), may also be used for single people under 25. 

The LRR and the SRR are halfway between the lowest and highest rents charged by landlords.  They are not the average rent but the middle point between the lowest reasonable rent and the highest reasonable rent that the Rent Officer has found.  We have to use the rents set by the Rent Service when we work out your tenant's benefit.  If your tenant is unhappy with the amount of benefit we are paying, they can ask us to apply to the Rent Service for another decision known as a 're-determination'.  This must be done within six weeks of our decision. 

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Direct payments

Your tenant can choose whether they want their benefit paid to themselves or direct to you. If your tenant asks us to pay you direct, they must give us written permission by filling in part 15 on the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction claim form. 

We usually pay Housing Benefit by BACS (straight into your bank account) and we make payments every four weeks for the four weeks just passed. Some tenants who have been receiving benefit continuously since before October 1996 receive payments every two weeks. 

If your tenant owes you at least eight weeks' rent, we have to pay you direct. You should write and tell us if this is the case. We will usually agree to pay you direct unless you are not acting responsibly over benefit matters. If your tenant asks us to pay them direct, we may still make the first payment to you. This will only happen if your tenant has not already paid you. 

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What information will you give me?

If we pay your tenant we cannot give you any information unless we have your tenant's written permission.  We cannot tell you if your tenant has made a claim.  If we pay you directly you will have access to the following information:

  • the start and end date of the benefit;
  • how much benefit we will pay; and
  • how often we will pay you.

If we pay you too much benefit we will tell you:

  • whether you have to repay the money; and
  • if your tenant is still on benefit, how much we will reduce benefit by each week.

We cannot give you any personal information about your tenant. If your tenant has arrears because their benefit has not been paid, please contact us before taking court action. 

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Overpayments

If we pay you too much benefit, we may ask you to repay the money. We would not normally do this if the overpayment is because your tenant has made a fraudulent claim. If the overpayment is due to a change in your tenant's personal circumstances, we will ask your tenant to repay the money first. If we cannot get the money back from your tenant, we may ask you to repay it.

The main ways we recover overpayments are:

  • taking money off your tenant's ongoing benefit;
  • taking money off other benefit that we owe your tenant;
  • taking money off your payments for other tenants; or
  • sending a bill to you or your tenant.

If your tenant's circumstances change, there may be an overpayment. We often take the money back by taking money off their ongoing benefit each week. This may happen even if the overpayment is for a different address.  It is up to your tenant to pay the difference in rent that they owe to you. If we ask you to repay the overpayment, we would expect you to do so within 28 days unless you are disputing our decision. 

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Appeals by landlords

You can ask us to change our decision and to appeal to a Social Security Appeal Tribunal. You can only appeal if

  • we refuse to pay benefit direct to you
  • you do not think there has been an overpayment; or
  • you think that there has been a legal mistake in the decision.

Our decision letters set out the right of appeal and the time limits for it. You cannot appeal about the amount of benefit that your tenant is being paid.

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Change of circumstances

You must tell us about any changes in your tenant's circumstances that you are aware of. If you don't tell us, we may not know about the change and we may pay the wrong amount of benefit. If anything changes, you must tell us immediately. It is an offence not to report changes quickly.

The main changes that you may be aware of are:

  • the number of people in the household;
  • that your tenant is moving out of your property;
  • that your tenant is going to be away for more than a month; or
  • rent changes. 

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Delays in paying Housing Benefit

Sometimes there is a delay in paying benefit. This may happen if:

  • your tenant has claimed late or not made a claim at all;
  • your tenant has not filled in their claim form properly; or
  • your tenant has not sent in all the proof we need to pay benefit.

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Discretionary Housing Payments

Discretionary Housing Payments are extra payments to help your tenant if they are having difficulty paying their rent or Council Tax and they claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction already. Click here to find out more.

Page last updated: 
28 March 2017
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