We want to work with landlords to make sure that Housing Benefit is paid on time. We also want to make sure that overpayments and the risk of any enforcement action are kept to a minimum.
It is important that you contact the Housing Benefit office as soon as your tenant falls into arrears with their rent payments.
Wherever possible we will try to resolve the situation. In return we ask landlords/agents to respect our obligations towards client confidentiality and the Data Protection Act when they make enquiries about their tenants.
What is expected of a landlord?
In all cases the law requires that the landlord inform the Council of the following:
When the tenant is no longer living in the property even though they may still have the tenancy
When the tenant ends their tenancy
If a tenant moves between rooms in a property, which is let on a rooms basis
When someone else moves in to live with the tenant or his or her family
The landlord becomes aware of the fact that the tenant has started work or that there has been another change, which could have an effect on the award of Housing Benefit
Please remember that it is a requirement of the law that the landlords pass on this information to the Council.
Failure to do so could result in prosecution.
Payments direct to landlords
Tenants can no longer choose to have their benefit paid direct to their landlord.
However, in order to safeguard tenancies we can consider direct payment of benefit if the following terms are included in any new/existing tenancies;
The tenant hereby agrees that the initial first payment of any Housing Benefit claim be sent direct to the landlord.
The tenant agrees that the condition of offering his tenancy is subject to all/any initial and future payments of Housing Benefit are made directly to the agent/landlord.
We encourage tenants and landlords to set up a standing order or direct debit. Payment can also be made by crossed cheque.
The landlord can be paid direct without the tenant's consent if the tenant is in arrears by the equivalent of 8 weeks rent or the tenant has difficulty managing their finances. A written request must be made and supporting evidence provided.
Landlords' or agents' rights of appeal are limited to areas directly involving them and the Council.
For example, where the Council is seeking to recover an overpayment of Housing Benefit from a landlord or agent.
To appeal a landlord or agent is bound by the same rules as a claimant.
Must be in writing
Must give reasons for the appeal
Must be made within one month of the date of notification to the landlord/agent
A landlord or agent has no right of appeal relating to a claimant's benefit award
Change in circumstances
Tenants must report all changes to the Council immediately in writing.
If the tenant leaves the property then Housing Benefit will cease from the day they leave, even if you are still charging them rent.
You should not rely on the Council to keep you informed about the tenant.
Landlords have duties under the law to inform the Council of changes.
The law states that an overpayment can be recovered from either the person who caused the overpayment or the person to whom the overpayment was made.
In practice the Council will normally recover from the tenant in situations where they have had a change in their circumstances.
This will be in situations such as when their income has changed or someone has moved in with them and their benefit has been reduced.
How will the overpayment be recovered?
By deduction from ongoing benefit that the tenant may still be entitled to. This would mean that future payments would be less than their full entitlement until the recovery is complete
Where the tenant has moved and the payment was being made direct to the landlord then the overpayment can be deducted from other payments made to that landlord (such as from payments made in respect of other tenants)
By the issue of an invoice to the tenant or the landlord
If as a landlord you ever disagree with the fact that you are being required to repay the overpayment then you should write to the Council within one calendar month of receiving the notification informing you of this.
What can the Council tell a landlord?
The Data Protection Act requires that we protect client confidentiality.
By law we are not allowed to tell landlords or agents any details concerning the personal circumstances of a claimant.
If payment is being made to the landlord or we have a signed declaration regarding ' sharing information with your landlord' we will be able to confirm only the following points with the landlord.
That direct payment is being made
The start date and/or end date of the award
The amount of entitlement (but not how it is calculated)
The reduced amount of award should there be a recovery of an overpayment
Changes in the amount of housing benefit awarded
The method and frequency of payment
Payments will generally be made direct to the claimant.
We would therefore recommend the declaration regarding 'sharing information with your landlord' be completed to help us deal with the claim more quickly and reduce the risk of rent arrears due to the claim being delayed.
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