Housing Benefit helps people on low incomes to pay their rent. This income can be from any source and tenants who are working and on a low wage can still get some help towards their rent.
Normally tenants will not receive Housing Benefit if they:
- live with, and pay rent to a landlord who is a close relative
- used to live with the landlord as a family member, relative or friend, and now pay them rent
- rent a former joint home from their ex-partner
- are responsible for a child of their landlord
- used to own the property which they now rent
Housing Benefit and Universal Credit
Housing Benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit for working age people in Bury Council's area. Universal Credit will not be replacing Housing Benefit for people above the state pension age.
Your tenant will stop receiving Housing Benefit from Bury Council, and will start to receive Universal Credit from the Department for Work and Pensions.
Universal Credit is being rolled out across the country. In Bury Council's area tenants with existing Housing Benefit claims will not move over to Universal Credit until summer 2019 at the earliest, unless they have a change in their circumstances.
If your tenant moves address within the borough they will usually stay on Housing Benefit. If your tenant moves into Bury Council's area from outside the borough they will have to claim Universal Credit.
If your tenant isn't getting benefits or tax credits at the moment and has to make a new claim, then they will get Universal Credit.
Amounts of Housing Benefit
For claims made before April 2008, which are still in payment, the Valuation Office Agency decides if the rent being charged is fair. Their fair rent figure is the maximum amount of Housing Benefit we can pay.
Claims made after April 2008 use the Local Housing Allowance scheme to work out Housing Benefit. The maximum amount of benefit is based on the size of the tenant's household, not the size of your property. For example if your tenant's household only needs two bedrooms, we will pay the two room rate of Local Housing Allowance even if your property has three bedrooms.
Sometimes this figure will be less if the tenant has a higher income.
Tenants aged under 35 who live alone are usually entitled to lowest rate of Local Housing Allowance.
Making a claim
It is your tenant's responsibility to apply for Housing Benefit.
They will need to provide us with evidence of their income, capital and identity. We will also need to see proof of the rent they are charged. Usually this is the tenancy agreement you have with your tenant.
If your tenant applies in the same week as their tenancy starts, we will normally pay benefit from the start of the tenancy, unless we have paid at a previous address. Otherwise we will pay benefit from the Monday after the date the tenant first contacts us.
Payments of benefit
Payments are usually made every four weeks, in arrears.
Housing Benefit is usually paid to the tenant. If a tenant is unable or unlikely to look after their affairs or pay their rent, we can consider making payments direct to a landlord.
We will accept requests from the tenant, or made on their behalf by their family, landlord, welfare and support groups and Social Services.
If a tenant has rent arrears of more than 8 weeks, a landlord can request payments are made directly to them without authorisation from the tenant.
Direct payments can also be made where a landlord agrees to reduce the rent and this enables a tenant to get a new tenancy or continue with an existing tenancy
Ask for direct payments using this form. It will take you about 10 minutes to complete.
Giving information to a landlord
We can only tell you about your tenant's claim if they have given us permission to do so. We cannot give you information about their income or household circumstances.
If we pay your tenant's benefit to you directly we can talk to you about:
- the date benefit started and ended
- the weekly amount of benefit and how often we pay it
- any amounts we are taking direct from the benefit to get back an overpayment
- details of any payments made to you
Changes in circumstances
We need to know if your tenant's circumstances change because this may affect the amount of benefit they are receive. If you are aware of a change or if your tenant leaves your property let us know.
If your tenant moves to a new address their benefit will normally stop at the end of the week they left your property.
We also need to know if a tenant changes rooms in a house in multiple occupation or in board and lodging accommodation.
Overpayments of benefit
If we pay too much benefit, we can ask you or your tenant to pay it back. We will only ask a landlord to pay back an overpayment if the benefit was paid direct to them.
If you do not repay overpayments when we ask you to, we can take the money out of benefit we are going to pay you for other tenants.
If you think your tenant has made a false claim for benefit, tell us straight away. We would not normally expect you to pay back the overpayment.
Appealing a Housing Benefit decision
As a landlord, you can only appeal if we:
- refuse to pay benefit direct to you
- decide you should repay an overpayment
It is your tenant's responsibility to appeal against the amounts and dates of benefit payments.