Many people who have to pay rent or rates for their home and are on a low income can make a claim for Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. People who are not British or Irish citizens can only claim benefits if they have a proper right to be in the UK.
Tenants who can't claim help to pay rent
The government will only help people with rent if they believe that the person has a real legal responsibility to pay rent. The law says that a person can't get benefits to help with their rent if
- they do not have a legal liability for rent
- they live with their landlord and the landlord is a close relative or a partner of a close relative
- they are responsible for their landlord's child
- they are full-time students, although there are some exceptions to this rule
- they have savings of over £16,000
- they do not have the right immigration permissions to claim benefits
- they live in certain types of care and residential homes.
Application for benefits is refused
Your tenants should get advice if their claim for benefits is refused.
The decision maker might refuse a claim for benefits if they suspect that the tenancy is not on a commercial basis or "contrived". A "contrived" tenancy is one where the decision maker suspects the tenancy was set up so that a person could get benefits or get more benefits.
It is common for benefits agencies to be suspicious when a landlord rents a property to a family member. The benefit agency might refuse to pay benefits in these cases and may say the tenancy was contrived.
If this happens to your tenant, tell them to get advice quickly. An adviser may be able to get the decision changed, but the tenant has to get help as quickly as possible.
If you're renting to a family member, it is more likely that they will get benefits if
- you've rented this, or another property out before to other tenants
- your tenant paid rent for this property before applying for benefits
- you've given the tenant all the proper paperwork, like a rent book and a tenancy agreement
- you can show that you'll have to evict the tenant if they don't pay rent.
If your tenant is told that they are not entitled to help with rent, because the tenancy is contrived, tell them to get advice from Housing Rights.
Amount benefits will pay towards rent
The amount of benefits your tenants get probably won't cover the full rent you charge. The amount they get is based on their circumstances and on where the property is. It is very common for tenants to get less in benefits than the landlord charges in rent. If this happens, your tenant should
Help to pay service charges
Benefits may not cover all costs charged to the tenant. The following costs are regarded as "ineligible" and will be disallowed when working out how much 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.
Claiming benefits to help with rent and rates
Your tenants should
- apply for Universal Credit online, via Gov.uk
- apply for a rates rebate online via NI Direct (as long as they are already receiving Universal Credit)
- apply to the Housing Executive for Housing Benefit, online or by completing a paper application form (if they are over pension age or are already claiming Housing Benefit).