Information for landlords - Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction
Housing Benefit for people renting their homes from private landlords is also called Local Housing Allowance (LHA). Rules are set by the government but it is paid by the local council. Find further information about Local Housing Allowance.
We try and keep Sandwell landlords up-to-date through our website, newsletters and being represented at various landlord events. If you would like to receive email updates from us, please contact us.
Although your tenant might receive benefit, it is important to remember that it is always the tenant's responsibility to make sure that the rent gets paid, not the council's.
How much benefit can my tenant claim?
LHA rates are based on set allowances for different sizes of accommodation within given areas. These are uprated annually and can be viewed online at LHA Direct.
Before moving into a new home a tenant should check what size accommodation they are allowed under LHA rules. Other factors will affect how much benefit we can pay: these include the tenant's income, capital and household composition.
A prospective tenant can use a trial calculator to work out how much benefit they might receive.
Payment of Local Housing Allowance (LHA)
LHA is normally paid to the claimant. However, if the claimant has rent arrears or has difficulty managing their finances due to vulnerability, we can consider paying the landlord. You can download a form to report that your tenant is vulnerable here.
We can also pay benefit direct to the landlord if the rent is set at or below the appropriate LHA rate and it is a written requirement in the tenancy agreement that benefit is paid direct to the landlord or agent.
What if your tenant has arrears?
If you think your tenant is receiving benefit and not paying their rent, please report this to us as soon as there is a problem.
If your tenant is receiving Housing Benefit we might be able to pay future amounts to you. Data Protection rules may prevent us from discussing a claim with you but you should still report this to us. Although we may not necessarily tell you what action we may be taking or even tell you if your tenant is claiming benefit, we will still investigate reports of arrears.
If we establish that benefit is being misused, we may be able to to pay benefit direct to the landlord, without the tenant's permission.
When reporting rent arrears, please give as much detail as possible, including:
full contact details
dates of payments made or outstanding
what action you have taken to collect arrears
what response (if any) you have had from your tenant
You should provide a rent statement as evidence of arrears. It is crucial that you keep a proper written record of any payments received as well as missed payments. Please note that even if a tenant is claiming benefits, arrears are still the responsibility of the tenant, not the local authority.
Information about your tenant's claim and Data Protection
If you need information about your tenant's claim you should talk to your tenant first. Data protection rules limit what information we can give a landlord without the tenant's permission. If your tenant signs a data protection waiver form we can share some information with you but this may be limited.
Tenants can also sign a section on their application form to give permission to share information but this has strict limits about what can be shared. Tenants are free to withdraw permission at any time without having to give notice or reason. If this happens we can normally make no further comment about the tenant.
Permission is automatically treated as ending when a claim stops for any reason, including the tenant changing address. In cases where we have been paying the landlord directly we can can discuss limited details with the landlord, without the tenant's consent, but this is normally restricted to information about payments.
Your tenant and Council Tax Reduction
If your tenant is entitled to Housing Benefit, they might qualify for help with their Council Tax. This is known as Council Tax Reduction (CTR). Rules on CTR are set locally by each council and in Sandwell there is a two year residency qualification for most people before they are able to claim.
It is strongly recommended that anyone moving to a new home in Sandwell who expects to claim benefits checks their eligibility and likely level of entitlement before doing so.
Although Council Tax is normally the responsibility of the tenant (there are some exceptions) landlords may wish to consider whether a prospective tenant can realistically afford all aspects of their home before granting a tenancy.
Useful links and further information
Housing Quality Team: Offering advice and support to private landlords on all the essential issues when you rent out your property. Their twice yearly e-magazine, The Bugle is a key source of information and a 'must read' for landlords.
Midland Landlord Accreditation Scheme (MLAS): When you join MLAS and become an accredited landlord you receive a range of benefits including training on key issues, access to a special direct phone line to housing benefits, opportunities to work with the council in finding tenants and easier access to advice and support.
Homestamp: A consortium of different local authorities, housing organisations, public services and private landlords, working to improve standards in the private sector and offering support and useful, easy to access information for both landlords and tenants.