Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support are means-tested benefits.
This means that the amount people get depends on:
- Their income
- Their savings
- The size and condition of their home
- Their rent
- Who lives with them
To get Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support, tenants must fill in a Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support Claim Form.
What is Local Housing Allowance?
Local Housing allowance in generally paid to all tenants who have made a new claim or changed address after 7 April 2008.
For more information see our LHA Guide for Landlords.
How much Housing Benefit can be paid?
This depends on things like:
- How much income a tenant and their family has
- How much rent the Valuation Office Agency says we can use in our calculation
To find out whether your tenant may qualify for Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support fill in our online benefits calculator.
Do students have to pay Council Tax?
If all the tenants are full-time students in further or higher education, the property will be exempt from Council Tax during term time, even if it is an HMO.
Courses must be for at least one academic year, and periods of study, tuition or work experience must be at least 21 hours a week.
All the students must provide a student certificate from their college for the exemption to apply.
What about joint tenants?
If a property is rented out to more than one person and is not classed as an HMO, the tenants are responsible for paying the Council Tax.
If you rent out a joint tenancy like this, there should usually only be one tenancy agreement. It should show all the tenants' names and should have only one rent charge.
If you have any questions about Council Tax, please contact us.
What is 'eligible rent'?
'Eligible rent' is the rent we use to work out your tenant's Housing Benefit.
Eligible rent is not always the same as the rent being charged for the following reasons:
- Housing Benefit does not cover some service charges like heating, water or meals, so we cannot include those in the eligible rent
- We must base Housing Benefit on a rent level set by the Valuation Office Agency (a government agency independent of local authorities), not on the rent you charge your tenant
- All the rents that private landlords charge are referred to the Valuation Office Agency for consideration
- You can't appeal about the figures the Valuation Office Agency sets for us to work out your tenant's benefit
- Your tenant can appeal to us and we will ask the Valuation Office Agency to look at their decision again
- We must usually limit benefit for single people under 25, without children, to a 'single-room rent' set by the Valuation Office Agency
Housing Benefit is not always the same as the 'eligible rent'.
Once we have the eligible rent, we then have to take off certain amounts because of the tenant's income or savings, or because they have other adults living with them -for example, an adult son or daughter, other relative or friend.
If Housing Benefit does not cover the full rent, the tenant is responsible for paying any difference to the landlord.
Tenants are also responsible for paying rent for any periods not covered by Housing Benefit.
What are 'indicative or interim rents'?
When your tenant claims benefit, and has given us all the information we need, we speed things up by paying benefit based on a provisional 'indicative rent' provided by the Valuation Office Agency. This is sometimes called an 'interim rent' or a 'payment on account'.
Later, when the Valuation Office Agency gives us its final decision on the level of rent to use for benefits, we work out the benefit again.
How does my tenant make a claim for benefit?
They should fill in a Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support Claim Form.
If someone helps your tenant to fill the form in, we ask them to sign it too.
Your tenant must show us some documents. Your tenant can speed things up by sending these in with their claim.
What documents can you accept?
Your tenant and their partner must each provide separate proof of their identity and National Insurance number because the law says we must see these before we can deal with a claim.
We will tell your tenant what they need to provide as proof, and we usually need to see original documents.
However, no-one should delay a claim because they do not have these documents. They should send their application in straightaway and tell us that they will send us the documents later.
What proof of rent do you need?
We need proof of the rent the tenant has to pay. This is usually a tenancy agreement, which must include:
- The full name and home or business address of the landlord
- The full name and home or business address of any agent
- The date the tenancy will start
- The full address of the property they are renting
- The amount charged
- The landlord's or agent's signature
- The tenants' signatures
- The date the document was signed
- What is included in the rent, for example, meals, gas, electricity and water rates
- The amount included for these services
- The full names of those renting the property
- How often the rent is payable - usually every week, four weeks or month
- How long the tenancy will last for
When is benefit paid?
We pay benefit in weeks, and a benefit week usually starts on a Monday and ends on a Sunday. We usually pay benefit from the Monday after we get the claim.
If we get a claim in the same benefit week as the tenancy starts, we will pay benefit from the start of the tenancy unless we have paid benefit at a previous address.
Sometimes we can pay benefit for an earlier period. This is called 'Backdating' benefit, and strict rules apply.
What if my tenant's circumstances change?
You or your tenant must tell us straightaway in writing of any changes that may affect your claim.
If you or your tenant are not sure what to report, tell us anyway. We will let you or your tenant know if it affects benefit.
What should a tenant do if they change address?
If a tenant moves to a new address within Trafford, they will need to fill in an online Change of Circumstances form
- If a tenant moves to another council area, they will need to claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support from their new council.
- If they leave your property, the benefit will end even if you are still charging them rent. The tenant is responsible for any rent due after benefit ends.
You or your tenant should tell us straightaway if they are moving out.
If a tenant changes rooms in a house in multiple occupation (HMO), or board and lodgings accommodation, you or your tenant must tell us in writing straightaway and your tenant must tell us about any change to their rent and household.
What information can we give to landlords?
Landlords who are affected by decisions we make are recognised as having rights under the Housing Benefit regulations and are entitled to certain information. A Landlord can request the information given below if:
- We are seeking to recover an overpayment from him or her. We can tell you the amount, period and reasons for any overpayment being recovered
- We are paying Housing Benefit directly to him or her. We can tell you the amount, weekly benefit rate and period covered by payments sent directly to you, and the date direct payments stop
- A landlord has requested direct payments and we have refused. We can tell you why we will not pay direct
We can provide Landlords with other information if it would assist in the smooth running of Revenues and Benefits administration or if the needs of the claimant make it appropriate to give general information. An example might be where we are waiting for more information from the tenant.
Direct payment cases
Where benefit is being paid direct to the landlord, we can sometimes provide further information about a claim, but only if we have the tenant(s) permission to do so.
With your tenant(s) permission we will be able to tell you:
- Whether your tenant has made a claim and if so, whether we have made a decision on that claim
- If we need further information to make a decision about your tenant's claim we can tell you what we still need
Can we pay Housing Benefit directly to Landlords?
Tenants who do not receive Local Housing Allowance can usually ask for their benefit to be paid straight to their landlord; or we make a decision to pay landlords directly in the following circumstances:
- If your tenant is 8 weeks or more in arrears
- We think it is in the best interests of your tenant to do so
Please note: If your tenant is 8 weeks or more in arrears then you do not need to complete the Payment Direct to Landlords Authority Form -contact us on 0161 912 2220 and we will arrange for direct payments to be made.
If your tenant agrees to direct payments, you can download and fill in a Payment Direct to Landlords Authority Form. The form needs to be signed by yourself and your tenant. Please note, we pay Housing Benefit to landlords by BACS payments. If you do not have a bank account, you will need to open one to receive payments of Housing Benefit.
If you receive your tenants benefit directly you can register to view their claim online and receive your benefit letter by email. This will give you details of their award and payments.
What should I do if I am thinking of taking court action to evict a tenant?
Please contact us first! If you are considering taking court action against your tenant for rent arrears, we can check that there are no outstanding benefit issues. We prioritise urgent cases when there is a risk of eviction or loss of tenancy, which results in faster processing under the fast track scheme.
What could delay benefit being paid?
There are various things that could delay benefit being paid. For example, if:
- We have not received a claim
- The tenant hasn't filled the form in properly
- We haven't got all the proof we've asked for
- We need to make further enquiries
Please note that the tenant is solely responsible for supplying proof of identity, income, rent and so on
If these delays are leading to missed rent payments, please contact us before you take your tenant to court. We may be able to prevent unnecessary court action.
What are the general rules on payments?
If your tenant receives Local Housing Allowance we will pay their benefit directly into their bank account.
If your tenant does not receive Local Housing Allowance then they can make a choice to pay you (as landlord) or opt for payments direct.
Payments are usually made every four weeks, for the previous four weeks, by BACS, straight into your tenant's bank account.
The Housing Benefit Regulations say that if a tenant has not paid you eight weeks' rent or more, we must:
- Pay the landlord direct
- Suspend payment altogether, if it is in the best interests of the person claiming not to pay the landlord direct
Please write and tell us as soon as your tenant owes you eight weeks' rent or more or fill in a 8 weeks arrears notification form.
In some circumstances, the first cheque we send to the tenant is made payable to the landlord. This is usually because the cheque covers more than eight weeks' rent.
If we pay you direct because your tenant owes rent, we can only start paying the tenant instead if we are satisfied that they owe you less than eight weeks' rent.
We will not pay you direct if we decide that you are not acting correctly over benefit matters.
If we pay you direct, we can ask you to repay any overpayment, even if you couldn't have known we were paying too much.
But, if the overpayment was because of a change in the tenant's income or family, we may ask the tenant rather than you to repay it.
If you think your tenant is making a fraudulent claim for benefit, please tell us straightaway. We would not normally expect you to pay back the overpayment.
We do not assume any of the tenant's responsibilities by agreeing to pay Housing Benefit direct.
You must write to tell us immediately if the tenant moves out, or to tell us any other information that may affect their benefit.
If you have several tenants on benefit, we will combine all the payments in one cheque. We include a list of payment details with every cheque, and may also ask you to sign an acknowledgement sheet. You should report any changes straightaway.
What if there has been an overpayment of benefit?
If we find we have paid too much benefit, we can ask you or your tenant to pay it back. see our Overpayments Section for more information.
How can you recover the overpayment?
The main ways are by:
- Taking money from the ongoing benefit of the person claiming
- Taking money from other benefit that is due to the tenant
- Taking money from your payments for other tenants and sending a bill
By taking money from ongoing benefit
If a tenant's circumstances change and there is an overpayment, we often take the money back by weekly deductions from their continuing benefit, even if they live at an address that is different from where the overpayment happened.
The tenant should pay the difference in the rent that is due direct to you.
By sending a bill
We can send a bill to recover:
- An overpayment from a tenant who is no longer on benefit
- Payments from landlords when, for example, you have been paid after your tenant has moved out
If we send you a bill you disagree with, get in touch with us straightaway. As a landlord, you have the right to appeal against our decision to recover an overpayment from you.
If you don't repay overpayments when we ask you to, we can take the money out of benefit we're due to pay you for other tenants. We may decide not to pay you at all. If we don't hear from you, we may register the debt with the county court and ask them to enforce it.
Register to view your tenants claim online
If you receive your tenants benefit directly you can register to view their claim online and receive your benefit letter by email.