Eligible and ineligible costs
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:
- Water rates
- 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 the rent is unreasonably high 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
- Live in a one-bedroom flat or bedsit
- 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
- Live in a shared ownership home where they part rent/part buy
- Live in any form of temporary accommodation that they have been placed in because they were homeless
- 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
- Aany 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 (DHP) and discretionary council tax payments (DCTP) under the council’s local welfare assistance scheme.
DHP provide additional financial help paid towards housing costs, eg rent, and DCTD provide additional help towards council tax liability. These are not payments of housing benefit and council tax reduction.