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Website URL : http://www.swansea.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=1701
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Housing Benefit / Local Housing Allowance for Landlords

image depicting For rent

If you are already a landlord / landlady or are thinking about becoming one, you may have tenants who are entitled to help from their local council towards paying their rent. Should a tenant make a claim for this help, they may ask you for some information about their tenancy which is needed to support their claim. This web page explains how Housing Benefit is calculated, what information the tenant will be asked for and what information you might be asked to provide so their Housing Benefit can be assessed.


What is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit is a means tested benefit that gives help towards housing costs (rent) to people on a low income. For example people who receive Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance. For privately rented properties, there is a special type of Housing Benefit called Local Housing Allowance.


How is it claimed?

A claim is usually made by the tenant sending an application form to the Council although some people also claim Housing Benefit when they apply for their other benefits with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The DWP pass any applications they receive on to the Council.

A tenant does not need to tell you that they have claimed benefit. The Council can only discuss a benefit claim with a landlord if the tenant has given his or her permission for this to be done.


What tenancy information is needed?

In addition to proof of their income and capital, everyone who applies for Housing Benefit for a privately rented property must provide the following details:-

  • Date the tenancy started
  • Date the tenant moved in
  • Rent charged and whether it includes any service charges
  • Number of rooms in the whole property and what they are
  • Number of rooms occupied by the tenant and what they are
  • The name and address of the landlord
  • A tenancy agreement which should confirm the date the tenancy began, the amount of rent charged and any services included in the rent (such as heating, meals etc)

Please note: If a tenant fails to provide the evidence that has been requested, no Housing Benefit will be paid.


How much Housing Benefit will be paid?

Almost all new claims for Housing Benefit are assessed under the Local Housing Allowance and the amount awarded is based on rent levels set by Rent Officers Wales for different sized properties in the area. Local Housing Allowance is just one of the types of Housing Benefit that is available and is used for privately rented properties.

Rent Officers are employed by the Welsh Government not the Council. Every year, they tell us the rents to be used in the assessment of Local Housing Allowance for private sector housing for properties with up to 4 bedrooms.

These are the current Local Housing Allowance rents for Swansea.

The Council works out how many bedrooms a tenant needs (due to the size of their household) and selects which rent level to use as appropriate. 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 Rent Officer sets rents for the following size properties:

  • 1 Bedroom shared accommodation (a bedsit)
  • 1 Bedroom self contained accommodation
  • 2 Bedroom self contained accommodation
  • 3 Bedroom self contained accommodation
  • 4 Bedroom self contained accommodation

Even if a tenant's household is large enough to need a property with more than 4 bedrooms, Local Housing Allowance is capped at 4 bedrooms.

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
  • A non-resident overnight carer (see below)

Local Housing Allowance for single people under the age of 35 is usually based on the rate for 1 Bedroom shared accommodation (a bedsit) although there are some exceptions.

An extra bedroom for a non-resident overnight carer.

Where a person who is not normally resident in the property provides the claimant or their partner with overnight care on a regular basis and there is a spare bedroom for them to use, an extra bedroom may be allowed when deciding what size property the household needs. Any tenants who feel this may apply in their case should contact the Housing Benefits Section immediately for more detailed advice, as there are various conditions that have to be satisfied before the extra bedroom can be allowed.

An extra bedroom for foster children

From 1st April 2013, one extra bedroom can also be allowed where the claimant or partner are:

  • an approved foster carer who have a child placed with them; or
  • are an approved foster carer who is between placements but have had a child placed with them within the last 52 weeks; or
  • are newly approved foster carers who have not yet had a child placed with them. In this case though, only for up to 52 weeks from the date of approval

Any tenants who feel this may apply in their case should contact the Housing Benefits Section immediately for more detailed advice, as there are various conditions that have to be satisfied and possibly evidence obtained before the extra bedroom can be allowed.

Only one extra bedroom can be allowed regardless of how many children they normally foster.

A bedroom for armed forces personnel away on operations

From 1st April 2013 a bedroom can be allowed for an adult son, daughter, step-son or step-daughter of the claimant (or the claimant's partner) if they normally live with them but are away in the armed forces. Their adult child is treated as continuing to live with them, when deployed on operations.

Immediately prior to their deployment they must have been living in the property and they must have the intention to return to live with their parents. A non-dependant deduction will not be applied for the period they are deployed on operations. However, there may be a non-dependant deduction when they return home.

Any tenants who feel this may apply in their case should contact the Housing Benefits Section immediately for more detailed advice, as there are various conditions that have to be satisfied and possibly evidence obtained before the extra bedroom can be allowed.

Service Charges

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
  • Water Rates - £2.00
  • Fuel for heating the tenants rooms - £6.00
  • The amount of rent remaining which is eligible for Housing Benefit is £62.00

This remaining figure is called the Eligible Rent.

A person who receives Income Support or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance or Income Related Employment and Support Allowance could be entitled to have their full eligible rent met by Local Housing Benefit. A person not receiving one of these but on a low income, is more likely to receive only part of the eligible rent.


When and how is Housing Benefit paid?

When

Local Housing Allowance, when paid to the tenant, is paid every 2 weeks, in arrears. If paid to a landlord, it is paid 4 weekly in arrears.

If a calendar monthly rent is charged by a landlord, it will be converted to a weekly figure when the benefit is calculated. 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 £161.10 every 2 weeks.

In the minority of cases where the benefit is paid directly to the landlord, a payment of £322.20 would be made every 4 weeks.

How

Local Housing Allowance is generally paid by direct credit into a bank account but a cheque can be issued where necessary. Payments are normally made to the benefit claimant.

Local Housing Allowance can only be paid directly to a landlord (including into their bank account) in certain circumstances. For example, where...

  • The tenant is likely to have difficulty managing their own affairs. This could be due to medical.
  • conditions, language difficulties, addictions etc. tenants in this group are sometimes called 'vulnerable'
  • The tenant is unlikely to pay their own rent – perhaps they have a bad payment record.
  • The tenant is more than 8 weeks in arrears with their rent.
  • Deductions are being made from Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance to pay off rent arrears.
  • Direct payment of Local Housing Allowance to the landlord would help secure or retain a tenancy.

If you, or your tenant, consider that any of these circumstances apply, we will need to be told in writing. We may also need to ask for proof of what is declared or make further enquiries with the tenant or a third party before deciding to whom Benefit should be paid.

Benefit will be paid to the tenant in all cases unless one of the following circumstances applies: -

If a decision is made to pay the benefit directly to a landlord that decision will need to be periodically

reviewed in order to confirm that the circumstances that led to the direct payment still apply. The length of time before the review is made will be different for each case.


How long is benefit paid for?

All claims are reviewed at least once a year. Payments will continue as long as the claimant remains entitled and providing the claim review form is 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 the 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.


Changes in circumstances.

Once a person is entitled to Local Housing Allowance, they have a duty to report any changes in their circumstances that might affect the amount of benefit they are entitled to.

If a landlord is receiving direct payments of Local Housing Allowance for their tenant, they have the same duty.

Here are some examples of changes that must be reported. Please remember, these are only examples so if you are not sure about whether to tell us about a change, give us a ring to check:

  • A change in the claimant's income or in the income of a household member (e.g. partner, children or other residents).

  • If payments of Income Support or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance or Income Related Employment and Support Allowance stop.

  • Starting work.

  • A change in the number of people living in the property.

  • If a change address occurs and the tenant moves out (for private tenants this includes a change of room within the same property).

  • If a member of the household goes to prison.

  • If any children in the household leave school.

  • If the rent charged for the property changes.

  • If a household member decides to stay permanently in a residential care or nursing home.

  • If the tenant leaves the address for a temporary period e.g. if they are admitted to hospital or residential care.





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