Information for landlords

Tenants who are on a low income and have to pay rent can claim housing benefit. It can be claimed by tenants who aren’t working and also those who are employed.

The amount of benefit a tenant gets depends on their financial and personal circumstances.

Your tenant’s claim will be confidential, so we can only give you certain information.  We can normally tell you:

  • The amount of benefit payable if you are receiving the benefit direct
  • Information about a benefit overpayment made direct to you

You can view details of any housing benefit payments you are receiving for your tenants using the online benefits system.

We can’t discuss anything else about your tenant’s claim with you unless they give us permission on their claim form or in writing.

Only the tenant can apply for housing benefit.  You can’t apply for housing benefit on your tenant’s behalf.

Housing benefit can’t be paid to those living with a member of their immediate family, even if they pay rent or board. 

We won’t pay housing benefit if we believe an arrangement has been created to take advantage of the housing benefit scheme.

Your tenant should claim housing benefit immediately, even if they’re waiting for supporting documents.  Otherwise they may lose money.  We normally pay benefit from the Monday after your tenant first contacted us.

Your tenant must provide proof of their rent with their claim form.  This will usually be the tenancy agreement, as long as it includes your name and address, the date the tenancy started, how much rent you are charging, how often rent is paid and what the rent covers, including any service charges.  If there isn’t a current tenancy agreement, you will need to complete a housing benefit rent proof form so your tenant can include it with their claim form.

If you’re helping your tenant make a claim, make sure they read the checklist on the claim form and included all the proof we need.  It will take us longer to make the first payment if your tenant hasn’t provided proof of their rent, income, savings and so on.  If your tenant doesn’t have all the documents or proof that we need, they should send the claim form in anyway.  They can send any missing information in later. 

The amount of housing benefit awarded depends on your tenant’s income, savings, household members and the amount of rent considered reasonable for the property.

If your tenant’s income is less than or equal to the amount the Government says they (and their family) need to live on, they will normally get full housing benefit.  Full housing benefit may still be less than the rent you charge your tenant.  If your tenant’s income is more than the amount the Government says they (and their family) need to live on, their housing benefit will be reduced.

For most new claims, the housing benefit we can pay is based on the local housing allowance rules.  Your tenant will have to pay any amount over that.

There are different rules for tenants renting a caravan, mobile home or houseboat and those that have some meals provided.  For these tenancies housing benefit is normally based on the general level of rents for similar properties in the same area.  Your tenant will have to pay any amount over that.

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) gives us a valuation for each property for which there is a claim for housing benefit.  The valuation gives us the rent figure, which will normally be used to work out a claim for benefit.

For housing benefit purposes, we may need to reduce the rent to take account of service charges not covered by the benefits scheme, such as heating, meals, water charges.

If someone is single and under 35 years of age, the maximum rent used to work out their housing benefit will normally be limited to the average cost of a non self-contained room in the area where they live.  The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) will give us a figure for this.

We should pay housing benefit within 14 days of getting all the information and supporting documents we need to work out the benefit. Housing benefit will be delayed if we’re waiting for information.

Housing benefit is almost always paid to the tenant.  They have to pay you their rent.  If we think your tenant will have serious problems paying their rent and managing their finances, we may pay housing benefit direct to the landlord.

If payments are made direct to the landlord, they will normally be paid every four weeks in arrears.  Benefit is paid by secure BACS transfer into either the landlord or the tenants bank account.

Your tenant must tell us immediately if their circumstances change, as this may affect their benefit.

These changes could include:

  • Change of address, including change of room or flat
  • Change in level of rent
  • Change in household members
  • Change in income or capital

It’s your tenant’s responsibility to tell us about any changes.  However, if we are paying housing benefit direct to you, you also have a responsibility to tell us about any changes you become aware of.

We can stop paying benefit direct to you if you don’t tell us about your tenant’s change of circumstances.  You can be prosecuted if you accept housing benefit you know you’re not entitled to.

If we pay you too much housing benefit for any tenant, you may have to repay it.  We can take the amount of overpaid benefit from the benefit you get for other tenants.  This will not affect their rent.  The law says you must treat your tenants as having paid the amount we have taken from your payment.

An overpayment is when someone is paid more housing benefit than they are entitled to.  If we have paid your tenant or you too much benefit, we will usually ask for the amount we have overpaid to be paid back to us.

We will look at the reasons for the overpayment before we decide whether to recover it and who should repay it.  If we decide to recover an overpayment from you, we will write and explain how we have calculated the overpayment, the period it covers, the reason it occurred and how you can appeal.

You can find out more on our Overpayments of housing benefit and council tax support pages.

As a landlord you can only appeal against decisions directly affecting you.  You can’t appeal against the amount of your tenant’s housing benefit award.  You can appeal against our decision that an overpayment has occurred, but only if it is being recovered from you, and only on the following points:

  • The amount of the overpayment
  • Whether the overpayment is recoverable

The appeals process allows us to reconsider a decision before submitting an appeal to an independent tribunal. 

If we do not change our decision in your favour, your appeal can be submitted to the Appeals Service.  An appeal tribunal will look at the decision again.  The tribunal can’t make decisions about who should repay the overpayment, but it can consider whether we’ve made a decision we’re entitled to make.  It can only overturn our decision to recover an overpayment from you if it finds we have acted illegally.

To appeal against a decision that you’ve been overpaid, write to us giving your reasons for the appeal.  We must receive your appeal within one calendar month of the date we told you about the overpayment.

The person who lives in the property normally pays the council tax.   If your tenant is responsible for paying council tax for their home, they can also apply for council tax support.

We’ll work out your tenant’s council tax support from the details they give on their claim form for housing benefit.  They only need to fill in one application form for both benefits.

If your property is a house split into different households (a house in multiple occupation), you may be liable to pay the council tax for all residents.  If you are liable for the council tax, your tenant can’t claim.  If your tenant’s rent includes an amount for council tax, we will treat this as rent and it will be included in their housing benefit calculation.

If you’re not sure whether your property is a house in multiple occupation, ring the Council Tax team on 0300 1234 171.