Housing benefit for landlords

If you are a landlord or prospective landlord wishing to rent out property, you may have tenants entitled to help from us with paying their rent. If a tenant makes a claim for this help, called housing benefit, they will normally ask you for some simple information about the tenancy. The information on this page explains how housing benefit is calculated, what information the tenant will be asked for and what information you will need to provide so that we can assess the level of housing benefit payable.

What is housing benefit?

Housing benefit gives help towards housing costs for people on a low income or those who receive Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance and other welfare benefits.

What is Local Housing Allowance (LHA)?

This is a way of calculating housing benefit for private tenants. As with the existing housing benefit scheme, LHA is administered in order to help people pay their rent.

More information on Local Housing Allowance

How is a claim made?

A claim is made by using the council tax and housing benefit application form.

More information about making a claim

A tenant does not need to tell you that they have claimed benefit. We can only discuss a benefit claim with a landlord if the tenant has given his or her permission for this to be done. This can be referred to as a third party authorisation.

What tenancy information is needed?

In addition to proof of income, every applicant for housing benefit must provide the following details:

  • date the tenancy started
  • date the tenant moved in
  • rent charged
  • number of rooms in the property
  • rooms occupied by the tenant
  • name and address of the landlord
  • tenancy agreement or a letter from the landlord which should show the date the tenancy began, the amount of rent charged and any services included in the rent (such as heating, meals etc)

How much housing benefit will be paid?

Almost all claims for housing benefit are referred to the rent officer for a decision on a reasonable market rent for the property.

Rent officers are employed by the government to help us work out how much housing benefit a tenant can have.

If a rent is considered to be unreasonably high, then the amount of housing benefit paid could be restricted. Housing benefit may also be restricted because a tenant is living in a property which is larger than needed.

For example, a couple with one child needs only two bedrooms, so their housing benefit may be restricted to the level for a two-bedroom house and not the three-bedroom house they actually occupy.

The following criteria are used when deciding whether a property is or is not overlarge.

One bedroom is allowed for each of the following:

  • a married or unmarried couple
  • a single person aged 16 or over
  • two children under 16 of the same sex
  • two children under 10
  • a child under 16

(Please refer to the housing benefit office for more information about these criteria)

Eligible rent

Housing benefit cannot be paid for that part of the rent which covers services such as water rates, fuel costs or meals. The costs of these items are deducted from the rent payable before housing benefit is calculated.

For example:

Actual rent charged = £70.00

  • minus water rates: £1.00
  • minus fuel: £5.18
  • minus part-board: £10.80

Eligible rent for housing benefit = £53.02

The remaining figure is called the 'eligible rent'.

A person who receives income support could be entitled to their full eligible rent. A person not on income support but on a low income will receive only part of the eligible rent.

Housing benefit is always paid on a four-week cycle. If a calendar monthly rent is charged, the appropriate weekly rent will be calculated and then paid on the usual four-week cycle.

For instance:

  • rent charged = £350 per calendar month
    multiplied by 12 months = £4200 per year
    divided by 365 days = £11.506 per day
    multiplied by 7 days = £80.55 per week

    So, if a tenant is entitled to full housing benefit they would expect to receive £322.20 every four weeks, which is 4 x £80.55 weekly rent.

How is housing benefit paid?

Housing benefit is paid every four weeks, in most cases four weeks in arrears. Housing benefit is paid to the tenant in most cases. Payment is usually made by BACS directly into their bank account.

If the housing benefit is paid to you as the landlord you will also receive a schedule showing which tenants' housing benefit are included in the cheque and how much benefit is in respect of each tenant.

How long is benefit paid for?

All benefit claims are reviewed periodically. Benefit will continue as long as there is entitlement and providing the all claim review forms are returned on time.

Housing benefit is only paid while a tenant lives in the property. Entitlement to benefit ends as soon as a tenant leaves the property. This condition also applies if a tenant dies, as entitlement ends on date of death.

Entitlement may continue during a temporary absence from home.

If a tenant moves out or dies and you have been paid housing benefit beyond your tenant's change of address or death, then you will have been overpaid. You will have to repay this money.

There may be times when the Housing Benefit Office finds out a tenant has left before you do. Housing benefit will still end on the date the tenant is known to have left - any further rent due is a matter for you to pursue with your tenant.

What can a landlord expect of the council?

We will:

  • pay housing benefit promptly, provided we receive all the information needed to process a claim on time
  • make payments four-weekly while a tenant is entitled to benefit
  • advise you if the tenant has asked for payments to you to stop
  • only discuss a tenant's benefit entitlement with you if the tenant has given permission

What does the council need from the landlord?

  • accurate information about the tenancy details including the start date, rent charged and any services provided
  • prompt information about tenants moving out
  • recognition by you that the tenancy agreement is with the tenant. If there are difficulties with payment of rent, your first point of contact is the tenant
  • prompt repayment of overpaid housing benefit

More advice for landlords

Visit the Landlord zone website for information and tips in the landlord industry.