Housing Benefit Tenants

Published on 2015-08-11

The Local Housing Allowance was introduced in April 2008 and all new applications fall under this scheme. Housing benefit, also called rent rebate or rent allowance, is designed to give help towards the payment of rent for eligible tenants, based on an individual’s circumstances. Eligibility depends on a number of factors, including, for example:

  • Money coming in
  • Savings
  • The rent amount.

Number of bedrooms is considered when assessing the entitlement to housing benefit. There is the entitlement of a bedroom for the following:

  • A cohabiting couple, whether married or not
  • Any adult aged 16 or over
  • Any two children of the same sex under 16 years old
  • Any two children under the age of 10
  • Any other child.

There are a number of other factors which may also affect the local housing allowance rate, including, for example:

  • Whether the claimants are a couple and do not live with any dependents
  • Whether the claimant is severely disabled.

Calculating Local Housing Allowance (LHA)

In addition to the issues listed, calculating the amount a claimant can receive for a particular sized property is also based on individual areas around the country. These areas are quite extensive so it depends on where the property is located as to whether the allowance of rent will be equal to, less or more than the agreed rent.

If the rate is less than the rent, the claimant is required to make up the difference. If the rate is more than the rent, the claimant is only entitled to receive the amount of the rent as benefit.

Payment of Local Housing Allowance

LHA is paid directly to a tenant’s bank or savings account or by cheque. The landlord or agent can claim to have the benefit paid directly if the tenant is regarded as vulnerable or is eight weeks or more in rent arrears.

For cohabiting couples, only one person can claim housing benefit yet the income and savings of both are assessed.

Overpayments can be due to fraudulent claims, not informing an authority of a change in circumstances that may affect the level of benefit or because the benefit continued to be paid after the tenant left the property.

Clawback

If the agent or landlord directly receives an overpayment, the local authority can claw back the overpayment from other payments made to the landlord or agent up to six years after the event.

There are certain circumstances where a local authority can claim overpayments from a person other than the person it was paid to, under the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act 1997. There are also circumstances where a local authority cannot reclaim the overpayment from the person it was paid to under Regulation 101 of the Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987 (as amended).

The Housing Benefit (Information from Landlords and Agents) Regulations 1997 allow authorities to demand information from anyone receiving housing benefit.

It is a criminal offence not to respond to a local authority’s demand for information relating to a housing benefit tenancy or not to report any fraudulent claims or a change of circumstances, under the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (General) Amendment (Number 2) Regulations 1997.

Housing benefit and Local Housing Allowance is to be replaced by Universal Credit.

Categories: Residential Lettings Legal Aspects of Lettings