Presentations from the Landlord Event 28 June 2016 (Town Hall, Clacton-on-Sea):
The following information answers landlords’ most common questions about housing benefit for the properties they let.
Single Universal Claimant Criteria:
Please see link below regarding a deal the Government have managed to secure with the banking industry to establish new basic bank accounts that will end bank charges if a direct debit or standing order fails. New basic bank accounts will help people who do not have a bank account or who are frozen out of existing accounts because of previous money problems. New basic bank accounts
Tell us about a move
If your tenant moves and/or you take on a new tenant - use the online Landlord Move Form
Housing Benefit Payments
Local Housing allowance is usually paid direct to the claimant. Payments will only be made directly to the landlord if:
- We consider that a tenant is unlikely to pay their rent
- We think that a tenant cannot handle their own financial affairs
- We believe that paying the landlord direct will help the tenant secure or retain the tenancy
- Where a tenant is more than 8 weeks in arrears with their rent (proof of these arrears should be provided)
Please follow this link for Local Housing Allowance Rates
If your tenant has fallen into arrears with their rent and you have requested that Housing Benefit payments are changed to landlord direct, we have set procedures to follow before deciding whether to make the change. These procedures can take between 2-6 weeks to complete depending on the speed and detail of the response from your tenant. During this time the claim will be suspended and no payments will be made to either tenant or landlord.
The procedure is as follows:
- Landlord provides evidence to the Housing Benefit department that the tenant is either in arrears with rent or at risk of becoming in arrears
- Your tenant is contacted and told you have requested direct payments. We ask for their response within 28 days
- If the tenant agrees that they are in arrears or are having difficulty meeting their payments we will normally change payments to go direct to the landlord
- If the tenant disputes the arrears we will have to make a decision on the evidence provided by both parties
- If the tenant does not respond to our letter we will visit the property to confirm that they are still in residence.
If Housing Benefit has been overpaid
If you have received direct payments in respect of any of your tenants after their entitlement stops, you may be asked to pay the money back. If you disagree, you have one month to appeal the decision. Your appeal must be made in writing. The most common example of when we will ask you to repay Housing Benefit happens when you have continued to receive Housing Benefit after your tenant has moved. If you have received an overpayment, we will normally recover this money by either:
- reducing payments to you from the tenant's ongoing benefit
- reducing payments to you from other tenants' benefits (this is called blameless tenant recovery; we will notify you which tenant's benefit has been overpaid and who the blameless tenant is)
- an invoice will be sent if neither of the above collection options are viable.
Landlord Tenant disputes
- It is important for landlords to remember that just because a tenant is in receipt of Housing Benefit the Housing Benefit department has no liability to pay the tenant's rent.
- Your tenant has not been recommended by the Housing Benefit department and we have no responsibility as to the tenant's behaviour.
- The tenant is your tenant and it is your responsibility to collect your rent.
Dispute number 1 - Landlord does not agree with the date that the tenant has advised they have vacated the property
In this situation the Housing benefit department often finds itself 'piggy in the middle'. If we have received a signed declaration from your tenant confirming that they have moved on a specific date we are obliged to act on their instructions unless we have good reason not to do so. If your tenant has not cleared your property of their belongings we do not need to know. If you feel that your tenant owes you rent after the date they have declared to us or that they have moved, you should take action to recover your losses in the same way as you would when a tenant does not receive benefit. It is your tenant's responsibility to pay the outstanding rent. Data protection does not allow us to tell where your tenant has moved to.
Dispute number 2 - Tenant requests that the final payment of Housing Benefit due at old address is paid direct to them because the landlord will not return deposit
These cases are easier for the Housing Benefit department to mediate because the final payment has not yet been made. In these cases the procedure would be to suspend Housing Benefit payments until the situation is resolved between the landlord and tenant. We would write to the landlord and advise them of the situation. If the landlord and tenant cannot agree a decision each case would be considered individually.
Starting in February 2015, Universal Credit will be rolled across Great Britain for all new single claims previously eligible for Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and including those with existing Housing Benefit and Tax Credit claims. Universal Credit will be administered by the department of Works & Pensions. All Universal Credit claimants will have their housing cost element included in their Universal Credit. The local Authority will have no involvement with either the calculation or payment of Housing Benefit once the claim has transferred over. Landlords will have to collect their rent directly from their tenant as payments direct to the landlord are not normally an option.
Reporting rent arrears for tenants in receipt of Universal Credit - Reporting Rent Arrears
Duplicate Payment & Benefit Entitlement Information
When Housing Benefit payments are made directly to the landlord, detailed entitlement notifications are sent to the landlord for each new assessment. In addition payment schedules confirming both the amount and period covered by the payment are also provided via email.
More and more the Housing Benefit department is receiving requests for this information to be provided again, often for long periods and for previous financial years. As this work is extremely resource intensive please be advised that this service will no longer be provided as a matter of course. In exceptional circumstances duplicate details maybe provided, but a charge will be made for this service and it will not be given priority.
Contact details for Housing Benefit
If there is any information you cannot find or need further help, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or Benefits office, 88-90 Pier Avenue, Clacton on Sea, CO15 1TN
These Council departments also have information available for Landlords: