Private Tenant Landlords
If your tenant has claimed Housing Benefit to help with the payment of rent you may find the following information useful.
Local Housing Allowance (LHA)
From April 2008, the Local Housing Allowance Scheme (LHA) is used in the assessment of housing benefit for most tenants in privately rented accommodation. The scheme has been designed to be a fairer and simpler way of working out benefit for people on a low income. It changes the way benefit is worked out and how it is paid.
The LHA will only apply to the deregulated private sector (private tenants who are not Housing Association tenants or Local Authority tenants). A flat rate allowance will be applied to the calculation of housing benefit based on the size of the tenant's household and the area in which they live. This amount is not directly related to the rent charged. So, the benefit paid may be higher or lower than the actual rent. The rate of LHA used in the calculation of entitlement to housing benefit will be reviewed on an annual basis.
For further information regarding LHA, please view the Local Housing Allowance page (link below)
Method of Payment
For LHA claims, benefit is normally paid directly to your tenant, payments are made 2 weekly in arrears direct payment to their bank account. Exceptionally, if payments are made to you as the landlord, these payments will be issued 4 weekly in arrears, direct to your bank account. For further information regarding the circumstances under which housing benefit can be paid direct to the landlord, please view the Local Housing Allowance page (link below).
The Valuation Office Agency Determination
Claims that do not fall under the LHA scheme will normally need to be referred to The Valuation Office Agency for determining the amount of rent to be used in the assessment of the claim. There is often a limit on the amount of eligible rent for benefit purposes. The Council can only pay the "Maximum Rent" as advised by The Valuation Office Agency. The maximum rent may be less than the rent charged, for various reasons such as:
- the rent is considered too high in comparison with rents for other similar-sized properties in the area.
- the property is considered too large for the needs of the tenants and the rent is restricted to an amount considered sufficient to obtain a property of a suitable size.
- the tenant is aged under 35 and the rent is restricted to that for a single room.
- the tenant may have income that is taken into account that reduces their benefit entitlement.
Local Housing Allowance does not affect all tenancies. Below is a list of accommodation types that do not come under LHA rules:-
- The accommodation is rented from a housing association
- The tenancy is excluded from current rent restrictions
- The tenancy includes the provision of care, support or supervision and is provided by local authorities, social landlords, charities or voluntary organisations
- The tenancy includes substantial board and attendance, such as hotel accommodation
- The accommodation is a caravan, mobile home or houseboat or ground rent
If for any reason your tenant does not receive benefit at the same level as the rent charged, your tenant will need to pay the difference.
For further information about The Valuation Office Agency, please visit their website (link below).
Service charges are not taken into account for claims that come under LHA rules. However, if the claim has to be referred to The Rent Service, charges for services (e.g. heating, cooking facilities or water rates) are not eligible for benefit. The tenant has to pay for these from their own income. The Rent Service takes the value of any ineligible services into account when the rent determination is made. The Council uses the net amount of eligible rent in calculating benefit. The Regulations give standard meal deductions and these amounts are deducted from the Rent Service decision where a tenant receives meals as part of their tenancy agreement. These amounts cannot be changed by the Council. For tenants in Supported Accommodation there are different rules about service charges. Please contact the benefits office direct if you require further information about supported accommodation.
Changes in Circumstances
People claiming benefit must tell the Council about changes that may affect their entitlement. If benefit is overpaid because of changes to circumstances, in most instances the Council will expect to reclaim the overpayment.
Where Housing Benefit for a tenant is paid directly to a landlord, the landlord is expected to notify the Council of changes to tenants' circumstances that may affect their benefit entitlement. The Council would normally look to a landlord to make good the overpaid benefit in these circumstances.
Examples of changes that you should notify us of are:
- the claimant, or partner leave the property to live elsewhere.
- other people move in or out of the property.
- the rent the claimant has to pay changes.
If you are aware of any other changes, such as changes in income or household members, which you believe may affect the amount of benefit due, please also notify us.
If your tenant is in arrears with their rent by more than 8 weeks, we may be able to pay you directly instead of your tenant. If this is the case please e-mail the details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overpayment of Housing Benefit
If a tenant is overpaid Housing Benefit, the overpayment is normally recovered from any continuing entitlement.
Where a tenant is no longer entitled to benefit, an invoice will be issued. Where payment has been made to the landlord, or agent, an invoice for payment may be issued to the landlord or agent.
Right Of Appeal
Landlords have only limited rights of appeal, restricted to where we have made a decision to:
recover an overpayment from the landlord or pay benefit direct to a landlord (or not to pay to a landlord).
An appeal is only valid if it is made in writing within one month of the date shown on the notification letter.
Landlords who are not paid direct have no Appeal rights. However, you may support an appeal made by your tenant, if you wish to.
Disclosure of Information
Where payment is made to a landlord or agent, the Council will advise the amount and the period covered.
We will also advise if a tenant's benefit changes or is cancelled. If there is an overpayment we will advise the amount and the period to which it relates.
We will only disclose information additional to this if the tenant has given permission for the disclosure of information.