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Housing Benefit information for landlords

Housing Benefit is not rent. It is a means-tested benefit (this means the amount of benefit depends on the circumstances of the person claiming it) and we award it to help pay the rent. We are not responsible for paying rent to you, the tenant is.

Who should claim?

Universal Credit

We can no longer accept new claims for Housing Benefit unless the claimant:

  • is of pensionable age
  • is in exempt accommodation
  • is in temporary accommodation placed by our Housing Options Team
  • is currently in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium, or have been within the last month.

If they don’t fall into one of these categories, they will need to claim Universal Credit for help with their housing costs.

Who must pay Council Tax?

An owner-occupier or tenant aged 18 or over living in the property is usually responsible for paying the Council Tax.

In certain circumstances, owners who do not live in the property must pay the Council Tax. The most common example of this is a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

An HMO is where:

  • a tenant or tenants rent a room in the property and share facilities, for example a bathroom or kitchen (or both); and
  • each has a separate tenancy agreement with only their name on it.

Generally, this is an HMO and the landlord or owner is responsible for paying Council Tax.

More information is available on the Council Tax pages.

How much Housing Benefit is someone entitled to?

Housing Benefit is means-tested. To decide how much someone is entitled to, we have to compare the finances of the household (income and capital) to how much the government says they need to live on (this is called the applicable amount).

For every £1 of income above the applicable amount, the weekly Housing Benefit is reduced by 65p.

If the tenant or their partner is on one of the following benefits, we do not perform the means-test and instead assume that they have no income above their applicable amount:

  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit

However if any other adults other than the tenant and their partner live in the property, we may make a deduction from the tenant’s benefit. This is called a non-dependant deduction.

More information is available on the how much Housing Benefit will I get page.

Eligible rent

The amount of rent the tenant is contractually liable for may not be the amount we use when calculating their Housing Benefit. Most claims for Housing Benefit have their eligible rent decided by using the Local Housing Allowance rate appropriate to the date of claim.

Your tenant will be responsible for paying any difference between the rent you are charging and the Housing Benefit we pay the tenant. If your tenant is having difficulty paying the rent they may be able to apply for extra help in the way of a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Making a claim

To make a claim for Housing Benefit, a tenant must fill in a claim form and send their supporting documents to us. Information on making a claim is available on the how to claim page.

When will the Housing Benefit start?

We should pay Housing Benefit within 14 days of getting all the information we need to work out benefit. However, benefit is often delayed because we are waiting for information.

We will normally pay Housing Benefit from the Monday after we receive the claim. To avoid missing any benefit new tenants should claim just before they move in. Existing tenants should claim as soon as they need help.

The best advice you can give to your tenants is that they should apply as soon as they need help paying their rent.

When will the Housing Benefit end?

When a tenant moves out, Housing Benefit normally ends on the day they last occupied the property.

If a tenant moves and wants to keep on claiming they must fill in a change of circumstances form, even if they move within the same house. They must mark their room and flat numbers clearly on the claim form. If they don’t report their change of address, they will usually end up having to pay back any Housing Benefit we have overpaid them.

If a tenant moves out before their period of notice is up, we may be able to pay up to four weeks extra Housing Benefit, but this depends on the tenant’s circumstances. If your tenant moves out before the notice is up please let us know.

Whilst a tenant stays in the same property, we will continue to pay Housing Benefit until they stop qualifying for it.

Your duties

Responsibility for the claim

Your tenant is responsible for making the claim, although you may be asked to help them fill in the form. If you do fill it in for your tenant, make sure you fill in the section that asks for the details of the person who helped them.

Telling us about changes

If we pay Housing Benefit to you, you have a legal duty to tell us about changes that may affect the tenant’s entitlement or how we pay you.

Examples of changes you should tell us about are:

  • if your tenant moves out
  • if your tenant changes accommodation (including changing rooms or flats within the same building)
  • if there is a change in the rent you charge them
  • if somebody else moves in, and 
  • if your own circumstances change (for example, you change your address or bank details), if we are making the payments directly into your bank account.

You are committing a criminal offence if, deliberately or without a reasonable excuse, you do not report a change of circumstances which is included in the regulations. We don’t expect any landlord to interfere with their tenant’s affairs, only to report changes they become aware of.

Notifications, payments and appeals

Notifications

When we make a decision on a claim for Housing Benefit, we will tell everyone who our decision applies to. This is called a notification.

We send a notification letter when payments start or end, or when we have been told about a change of circumstances.

Each notification letter tells the tenant how much Housing Benefit they will get, when their benefit starts or changes, and how we assessed it. The letter also tells the tenant about their responsibility to report changes in their circumstances and what they can do if they are not happy with the assessment.

If we are going to make Housing Benefit payments direct to you, we will send you a separate notification letter.

Paying Housing Benefit

Normally we pay Housing Benefit by BACS to the claimant, but we may pay you in certain circumstances. Information on when we may pay benefit direct to the landlord is detailed in our Safeguard Policy (PDF).

For us to make payments direct to the landlord, a direct payment form must be completed.

New Housing Benefit claims are paid in arrears. If we make payments direct to you, the landlord, we will pay you every four weeks in arrears. If we make payments to the tenant they will be paid every two weeks in arrears.

For more information, please see how is Housing Benefit paid?

Rent arrears and eviction proceedings

If your tenant has rent arrears and is waiting on a Housing Benefit claim please contact us before starting eviction proceedings.

We are aware that landlords can incur unwelcome costs when seeking possession of a property and we will do our best to make a prompt decision, providing we have all the information needed to assess the claim. If we are unable to make a final decision we may be able to make a payment on the account.

Appeals

Only a person affected by a decision about Housing Benefit can appeal.

The claimant will always be a 'person affected'. A landlord can also be a ‘person affected’ in the following circumstances:

  • we have made a decision to make direct payments to you
  • we have made a decision not to make payments direct to you
  • when we plan to take back money we overpaid you.

More about appeals

Overpayments

When we pay Housing Benefit direct to a landlord and their tenant's entitlement to Housing Benefit changes, we may ask the landlord to repay the money which has been overpaid.

Each case is decided on its own merits. If we decide that it is appropriate to recover the money from a landlord, we will invoice them. The invoice will show the period in which the overpayment occurred, the name of the tenant and the amount of overpayment. If a landlord has difficulty repaying the money we may be able to negotiate repayment by instalments.

If a landlord fails to make repayments of overpaid Housing Benefit, we can recover outstanding payments from any future payments of Housing Benefit due to be paid to the landlord. We are reluctant to recover overpayments in this way but occasionally we are forced to do so. If we do invoke these powers it means that for each tenant in respect of whom Housing Benefit is being paid, the amount of their entitlement will be offset against the overpayment.

In these cases the landlord must reduce the tenant's rent liability by the full value of their Housing Benefit entitlement. The landlord is not entitled to seek to recover the monies from their tenant.

The legislation that enables this is contained within Section 16 of the Social Security Administration Act 1997.

For more information please see the overpayments page.

What we can and can't discuss with you about your tenant's claim

We can tell landlords certain information about their tenant’s benefit claims with their tenant’s consent. We can't, however, tell you details about the personal circumstances of your tenant such as income, savings or household membership.

Before disclosing benefit information, we must receive authorisation in writing from your tenant allowing the sharing of information. We cannot accept authorisation over the telephone. We have a consent form which allows tenants to confirm that they give us their permission to share information about their benefit claim with their landlord.

Please be aware that tenants have a right of confidentiality, and therefore the right to not consent to the disclosure of their information to their landlord and they can withdraw their permission to disclose at any time and without reason.

In all cases, before sharing any information we need to be satisfied that we are actually speaking to the landlord, and will make appropriate checks to confirm this. This could mean checking your name and address against information held on council records, asking you to verify details on a claim such as the rent charged or the tenancy start date, or phoning you back on a known number. If we are not satisfied that the person on the end of the line is the landlord, we will not release any information.

If your tenant has given their permission for us to share information about their benefit claim with you, we can tell you:

  • if a claim has been received
  • if we have written to your tenant for further information and what that information is in broad terms (for example proof of rent, proof of income)
  • if the claimant has responded to a request for information, and the claim is awaiting assessment
  • that a claim has been assessed or refused
  • the date the claim started and if appropriate ended
  • that the entitlement has changed and confirm the new and old amount of Housing Benefit (only in relation to the address that you are responsible for)
  • that the claim is suspended and the reasons why in broad terms (for example information requested from the claimant, information not provided by the claimant, change of circumstance reported to us by the claimant)
  • that entitlement has ended because of a change of address or change in circumstance
  • that there is an overpayment outstanding which is being recovered from the current address, how much is remaining on the overpayment and how much is being deducted from weekly benefit entitlement because of it
  • about the payments that have been issued to the claimant (for example amounts and dates that the payment covers) since the start of the claim at the address that you are responsible for only.

If you are being paid Housing Benefit direct, even if we have no authorisation from your tenant to share information, we can tell you:

  • that a claim has been assessed
  • the date the claim started and if appropriate ended
  • the weekly amount of benefit the claimant is entitled to while you are being paid
  • the amounts of benefit paid to you, the dates the payments were issued and the dates the payments cover
  • that there is an overpayment outstanding, and how much is being deducted from weekly benefit because of it
  • that entitlement has ended because of a change of address or change in circumstance (but no details as to what that change in circumstance is)
  • that the claim is suspended and the reasons why in broad terms (for example information requested from the claimant, information not provided by the claimant, change of circumstance reported to us by the claimant)
  • that an overpayment has been created which will be recoverable from the claimant’s entitlement
  • that we have decided to stop payment to you and when from.

Information we can't share with landlords

We can't tell you any details about your tenant or their household’s personal or financial circumstances, for example:

  • details of who they work for, how much they earn, how much savings they have or who they bank with
  • how many people are living in the property, what their names or gender are or what their financial circumstances are
  • personal details such as their date of birth or National Insurance number
  • a forwarding address or previous address.

For prospective tenants we can't tell you any details about:

  • previous addresses
  • previous rent arrears
  • Housing Benefit overpayments, or
  • previous Housing Benefit payments paid either to them or a previous landlord.

Please be aware that the unlawful obtaining or disclosing of personal information is an offence under the Data Protection Act.

Contact Benefits

Email: revenues@dover.gov.uk

Phone: 01304 872199

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