Payment of housing benefit
If your tenant is claiming local housing allowance different rules apply regarding payment to landlords.
The following guidance applies to tenants not claiming local housing allowance.
If your tenant pays their rent weekly or calendar monthly, then housing benefit will be sent every four weeks in arrears (for the previous four-week period). We can make a provisional award (payment on account) if we have sufficient information to make a payment but cannot calculate the exact amount due.
The council makes payments to landlords directly into their bank accounts. Payments must be made to you if:
- your tenant is eight weeks or more in arrears with their rent (you need provide evidence of this)
- you are receiving money from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) towards rent arrears
- the claimant requests or agrees to such an agreement
- benefit owing to the claimant who has left the property with rent arrears
The council can decide to make payments to you if requested by the tenant or if it's in the tenant's best interests. We will suspend direct payments to you at the tenant's request and advise you if this happens.
If we become aware that your tenant has arrears of rent equivalent to eight weeks or more we will normally make payments direct to the landlord. It is important that you tell us if this situation arises so we can suspend further benefit payments but we will give the tenant an opportunity to give us the reason for non-payment of rent. We will then decide to whom future payments of benefit can be made.
The council must, by law, consider whether you are a suitable person to receive benefit payments. If you are not considered suitable, payment may still be made to your tenant.
We will advise you of any changes in entitlement but you must collect the difference between the full rent charged and any benefit paid.
Before you take court action against a tenant who you believe is claiming housing benefit, you should contact the council to confirm whether housing benefit is in payment and up-to-date.
What does housing benefit cover?
Housing benefit cannot help towards certain costs that you may include in the rent charged. Benefit is not allowed towards the cost of:
any counselling and support services
most service charges included in the rent such as heating, lighting, hot water, power for cooking, personal laundry and cleaning.
Will the rent be restricted?
It is not always possible for housing benefit to be based on the full rent that a tenant has to pay. The Valuation Office Agency Rent Service sets the maximum level of rent, which we can use and this can be affected if:
the rent charge is unreasonably high
the accommodation is too large
- under 35 year olds have their benefit calculated as though they rent one room only - this is called the 'shared room rate'
Maximum rent levels do not usually apply to housing association tenancies but if we consider that any of the two above reasons apply then we may apply to the rent service for a maximum rent to be determined.
If you are a registered social landlord (housing association)
If your tenant has one or more ’spare’ bedrooms their housing benefit may be cut by 14% of the ‘eligible rent’ that they pay each week. If they have two or more spare bedrooms they will lose 25%.
The ‘eligible rent’ is simply the amount that your tenant pays just to occupy their home – it does not include charges for heating, lighting, meals and water costs and some service charges. Any parts of their rent that they do not have to pay to continue living in their home will not be included as part of their eligible rent.
If their benefit is cut they will have to pay you the difference between their housing benefit and the rent that you charge.
This could affect your tenant:
- if they are below state pension credit age
- even if they are sick or disabled
- even if they only get a small amount of housing benefit, for example because they are working
The spare room rules will not apply to them if:
- they or their partner are old enough to receive pension credits and not claiming out of work benefits
- they live in a one-bedroom flat or bedsit
- they live in supported or sheltered accommodation such as a house or a flat where the landlord provides extra help using its own support workers or pays a third party to provide support
- they live in a shared ownership home where they part rent/part buy
- they live in any form of temporary accommodation that they have been placed in because they were homeless
- they live in a houseboat, a caravan or a mobile home
What counts as a spare bedroom?
If they have more bedrooms than the government says they need they will lose part of their housing benefit. The new rules state that a bedroom is needed for:
- each adult couple
- any other person aged 16 or over
- two children of the same sex under the age of 16
- two children under the age of 10 regardless of their sex
- any other child
- a carer who needs to be able to stay overnight but who doesn’t normally live with them
Can my tenant get extra help?
Your tenant can apply for discretionary housing payments and discretionary council tax payments under the council’s local welfare assistance scheme.
Discretionary housing payments provide additional financial help paid towards housing costs, e.g. rent, and the discretionary council tax payments provide additional help towards council tax liability. These are not payments of housing benefit and council tax support.