Many people who have to pay rent or rates for their home and are on a low income can make a claim for housing benefit. However, there are some groups of people who are excluded from housing benefit.
If your tenants are in receipt of certain benefits, they should automatically be entitled to housing benefit. The following benefits are classed as "passport benefits":
- Income Support
- Income Related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Based Jobseekers Allowance
- Guaranteed Pension Credit
To apply for housing benefit, a person must be expected to pay rent in their home. To prove this, the Housing Executive will often look for evidence of a genuine business agreement between the applicant and you, the landlord. The following groups of people cannot apply for housing benefit:
- people who do not have a legal liability for rent or people whom the Housing Executive suspect have created a liability to pay rent to take advantage of housing benefit
- tenants who live with their landlord, where the landlord is a close relative or the partner of a close relative
- tenants who are responsible for their landlord's child
- full time students, unless they are disabled or have dependent children
- people with savings of over £16,000
- some people who are subject to immigration control or EEA nationals who do not meet the necessary residential requirements
- people living in care or residential homes.
If you rent a room or a property to a family member, the Housing Executive may view this arrangement as a "contrived tenancy", which has been designed to exploit the housing benefit system.
To successfully claim housing benefit in this situation, you and your tenant will have to convince the Housing Executive that this tenancy is a genuine commercial agreement. The Housing Executive will investigate your circumstances and try to establish
- whether there is a history of the property being let at a market rent to paying tenants
- whether the claimant had previously paid rent to you for this property
- whether there is a professional relationship between you and the tenant, evidenced by provision of a rent book and tenancy agreement
- whether there is a genuine risk that the tenant will be evicted if housing benefit is not paid.
The Housing Executive should make a decision within 14 days of receiving all the necessary information from the tenant.
If the Housing Executive decides not to award housing benefit, your tenant can ask to have this decision reviewed.
Not all payments made to you by the tenant will qualify for housing benefit. The following costs are regarded as "ineligible" and will be disallowed when working out how much housing benefit a tenant will get:
- hire purchase payments for furniture
- payment for any part of the accommodation which is used for business
- payments for fuel or heating costs
- service charges for laundry, transport, television service or meals.
Making a claim
The Housing Executive is responsible for administering housing benefit payments. Applicants must complete a Housing Benefit Application Form and return this, along with all the necessary supporting information to the relevant Housing Executive office.
You will usually have to complete a section of the housing benefit application form to confirm that an agreement exists for the tenant to pay rent.