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What is Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support?

Housing Benefit provides help towards rent for people on low incomes, whether that income comes from state benefit, wages from a job or both.

Council Tax Support provides help towards the Council Tax bill for people on low incomes, again whether that income comes from state benefit, wages from a job or both.

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support can be claimed together or separately.

People who own their home or who have a mortgage are only able to claim Council Tax Support, but can claim housing benefit towards their rent payments if they pay rent under a shared ownership scheme.

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Who can claim?

People can claim Housing Benefit, for help with their rent as long as they are renting their home from either:

  • The council 
  • A private landlord or letting agent 
  • A housing association

They can also claim if they are a sub-tenant or lodger.

People cannot claim Housing Benefit if they:

  • Rent their home from a close relative who lives in the same house
  • Own their home or have a mortgage, unless they pay rent under a shared ownership scheme.

People can claim Council Tax Benefit, for help with their Council Tax even if they own their home as long as they or their partner are responsible for paying the bill for their home.

In most cases, if they and any partner have joint savings or investments totalling more than £16,000 they will not be entitled to Housing or Council Tax Benefit.

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How to claim

If someone has recently made a claim for Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance, then there is no need for them to make a separate claim for Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support as Jobcentre Plus will send us a claim on their behalf.

Other ways to claim:

Claim online

Contact the Benefits Service - see 'Contact us' below.

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What information will my tenant need to provide before benefit can be paid?

Sometimes we need people to provide us with documents to confirm what they told us when they made their claim.

We should not have to ask you for anything that we already have access to and will only ask people to provide documents when it's absolutely necessary, but we cannot make a decision or pay any benefit until we have all of the information we've asked for.

The kind of things we might need to see include:

  • Some recent payslips, if someone's working
  • Some recent bank statements
  • Evidence of their National Insurance number
  • A tenancy agreement, to confirm what rent they pay

If a tenancy agreement isn't available we can accept a letter or certificate of rent from the landlord of the property. This must be signed by the landlord and include:

  • The name of the tenant
  • The date the tenancy started
  • The amount of the rent and how often they have to pay this amount
  • Details of any charges that are included in the rent, such as heating or water

We aim to deal with claims as quickly as possible. If we do not need the person to provide any further information, we will do our best to make a decision on their claim within 14 days.

If we have asked them to provide some further information then we cannot make a decision until we have everything we have asked them to provide.

The sooner we have all the necessary documentation, the sooner we can make a decision.

Once we have all of the information we've asked for from someone we will do our best to make a decision on how much they're entitled to within 14 days.

Payment is usually made on the next available payment run.

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What date will my tenant's benefit be paid from?

Benefit is usually awarded from the Monday after we receive the application.

In some circumstances, the claim can be paid from an earlier date. This is often referred to as 'backdating'. If tenants would like their claim to be backdated they will need to show us that there were good reasons why they weren't able to apply earlier. One of our team will then decide whether we can backdate their benefit and let them know our decision and our reasons for it.

If your tenants are pensioners who have never claimed before then the law enables us to automatically backdate their claim by up to 3 months if they would have been entitled to Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit during that time.

In order for us to do this we may ask them to provide some additional information when they claim.

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How much Housing Benefit can be paid?

The maximum amount that can be paid as Housing Benefit will depend on which Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate your tenant falls into.  We take the tenant's household situation, income and savings into account before deciding how much Housing Benefit will be awarded.

The LHA rates are set on a monthly basisby the Valuation Office Agency, which is not part of the Council, and are based on the number of bedrooms required by the household. The LHA rates are different across the country depending on which area they live in and are set based on market conditions within that area.  The current LHA rates and more information about LHA can be found here.

The rate is based on market rates so it can go down as well as up depending on the current rental market conditions.

This LHA rate will be used to work out your tenant's Housing Benefit for up to 12 months or until a change in their circumstances is received, which will affect which LHA rate they fall into.  After the 12 months or after the change in their circumstances we'll select a new LHA rate to work out their Housing Benefit for the next 12 months or until another change in their circumstances.

We provide an on-line calculator that your tenant can use to get an estimate of how much benefit they could be entitled to. The calculator will provide them with an estimate based on the information they have provided.

They will need to enter some simple details about:

  • The property they live in or are thinking about moving into
  • The people who live with them
  • Their own income and the income of other household members
  • The amount of rent they pay

If they then make a claim, we'll request some more information from them and one of our team will work out how much benefit they're actually going to get.

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How is Housing Benefit paid?

They can have any Housing Benefit paid direct to the Housing Association every four weeks, in arrears.  Alternatively, Housing Association tenants can choose to have any Housing Benefit paid direct into their bank account every fortnight or four weekly in arrears. They are then responsible for ensuring that this money is used towards their rent.

If a tenant rents their home from a private landlord or letting agency we will pay any Housing Benefit direct into their bank account every fortnight or four weekly, in arrears. The tenant is then responsible for ensuring that this money is used towards their rent.

If they do not keep up with their rent payments to you, you can apply for any Housing Benefit to be paid direct to your bank account. You will be asked to provide evidence of your tenant's arrears.  If they are more than eight weeks in arrears with their rent we will pay benefit direct to you.  If they are less than eight weeks in arrears we can consider making payments direct to you depending on the circumstances.

Any payments to you will be paid four weeks, in arrears.

In some circumstances people are not in a position to take care of their own affairs for a short while when they first take on a tenancy. If, after discussion with your tenant, you feel this to be the case you can apply for any claim to be paid direct to you for up to six months from the start of the claim.

In recognition of the risk that some tenants may struggle with the responsibility of paying their rent, a 'Safeguard Policy' has been jointly adopted by all eight Dorset Local Authorities to protect vulnerable tenants or landlords of tenants that are unlikely to pay. 

If your tenant is having trouble managing their rent payments, if they are in rent arrears or if they are at risk of losing their home, you can ask for direct Housing Benefit payments.  You can do this by emailing the 'Landlord request for direct payments' form from the Safeguard Policy to Landlords.financialservices@poole.gov.uk

Please see our Local Housing Allowance page for further details.

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What information are we able to share with landlords about their tenants' claims?

Where payments are made direct to a tenant you will not be informed when a decision has been made on their claim.

We are unable to discuss their claims with you unless they have provided explicit consent for us to do so and we have a record of this.

Where payments are made direct to a landlord a letter will be sent to you telling you how much benefit the tenant is entitled to each week.  This letter will also tell you the amount of your first payment and the date it is due to be made.

We can share some other information without the tenant's consent. The information we can discuss with you under these circumstances is:

  • Details about payments that have been, or will be, made to you
  • The period a payment or payments relate to
  • Details about any overpayments we ask you to repay

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Do landlords have any responsibility for paying back overpaid benefit?

If any delay in us finding out about and dealing with a change results in too much benefit being paid we will seek to recover that amount.

Where we feel it is reasonable that the landlord could have been aware of a change that has resulted in an overpayment we can recover that money from them. For instance, we would reasonably expect you to know if:

  • Your tenant had moved out
  • Other people had moved in or out of the property
  • The amount of rent you're charging has gone up or down

If in doubt, let us know of any changes you're aware of that might affect the amount of benefit your tenant receives.  Failure to disclose relevant information about your tenant may lead to further action being taken against you.

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E-billing

You can view Housing Benefit accounts for any tenants you receive payment for via Landlord Services.

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Contact us

Email 
svpp@poole.gov.uk

Telephone  
0345 034 4569

Address 
Stour Valley and Poole Partnership
PO Box 722
Poole
BH15 2YE

Text (SMS) 
07781 472878

Text Relay 
18001 0345 034 4569