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A Guide For Private Tenants


What is a private tenant?

A private tenant is someone who pays rent for the home they live in to a landlord. A landlord can be a person, a housing association or a company.

What is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit is a type of benefit we pay to help people to pay their rent. It is a “means-tested benefit”- in other words, we assess a person’s financial circumstances to decide how much benefit they are entitled to.

From the 7th April 2008, if someone makes a new claim, changes their address or has a break in their claim for Housing Benefit, we will pay them Local Housing Allowance.

What is Local Housing Allowance?

Local Housing Allowance is a new way of working out Housing Benefit. It is a flat rate payment based on

  • the level of rents charged in the area you live in;and
  • the number of bedrooms you and your household need according to the Housing Benefit Law.

How do I claim Housing Benefit?

You, your partner or someone appointed to act on your behalf must fill in a Housing Benefit application form and return it immediately to one of the following offices

The Benefit Section
Neath Port Talbot CBC
Civic Centre
Neath
SA11 3QZ
 
The Benefit Section
Neath Port Talbot CBC
Civic Centre
Port Talbot
SA13 1PJ
 
The Hub at Pontardawe
Neath Port Talbot CBC
Holly Street
Pontardawe
Swansea
SA8 4ET

If you need help with the application form, you can call into any of the above offices and an officer will help you make your claim. Please note 'The Hub at Pontardawe' is only open Tuesdays.

Or, if you are unable to visit us,you should ring the benefit section on 01639 686838 and we will arrange for our officers to visit you to provide help.

What proof will I need to provide with the application form?

You must provide supporting information and evidence with your claim. These must be original documents, not photocopies.

We will usually need to see:

  • two pieces of evidence proving your identity;
  • one piece of evidence confirming your National Insurance number (and your partner’s number, if this applies);
  • proof of all your income;
  • Proof of all your savings and investments; and
  • Proof of the income of anyone living with you who does not depend on you financially

The application form gives you details of what type of evidence we accept.

You should make your claim as soon as you can. If you do not have any of the supporting evidence when you make your claim, you can send it in later. However, we must receive this evidence within one calendar month of the date you made your claim.

If you do not provide the information we need to process your claim, there will be a delay in paying your benefit.

What savings / capital do I need to tell you about?

You must tell us about all your savings and investments.

Examples include:
  • The money you have in a bank or building society account (even if your account is overdrawn);
  • Land or property you own, other than the home you live in;
  • Stocks and shares;
  • Premium bonds;
  • National savings certificates;
  • ISA accounts; and
  • Post Office accounts

This is not a full list, and is only meant to give examples of what you must tell us about.

How will my savings / capital affect my benefit?

If you have savings and investments, we will not take account of the first £6,000 if you are working age and the first £10,000 if you are Pensionable age. If you have savings and investments of more than £16,000, you will not normally be eligible for benefit unless you receive guarantee credit with the Pension service. However we can ignore some types of savings and investments so please contact the Benefits Section for more advice.

How much Housing Benefit will I get?

The amount of Housing Benefit you will get will depend on:

  • your income, savings and investments;
  • the number of people in your household; and
  • the appropriate rate of Local Housing Allowance.

How do I calculate the rate of Local Housing Allowance?

The Local Housing Allowance used to calculate your benefit will depend on your age and the age and number of people in your household.

The following details explain the conditions for deciding how many rooms you qualify for. The rate of Local Housing Allowance will be according to the number of bedrooms we consider you and your family to need-

One bedroom for:

  • Every adult couple
  • Any other adult over 16 years old
  • Any two children under 10 years old
  • Any two children of the same sex aged 10 to 15 years old
  • any other child.

There will be a shared accommodation Local Housing Allowance rate for single people under the age of 35. This rate will also apply to single people and couples who choose to live in shared accommodation.

Bedroom entitlement calculator >>

Example-

A couple with a son of 8 and a daughter of 6 will require a two bedroom rate of Local Housing Allowance. One room for the couple and one room for the children as they are both under the age of ten.

Example-

A single parent with a son of 11 and a daughter 14 will require a 3 room rate of Local Housing Allowance. One for the single parent, one for the son and one for the daughter as the children are over ten and the opposite sex.

Even if they only occupy a two bedroom house they will have their benefit entitlement based on a three bedroom rate of Local Housing Allowance.

Where will I find the rates of Local Housing Allowance?

The monthly rates can be found by clicking on the following link... LHA Rate Search

Can I appeal against the rate of Local Housing Allowance?

No. This is because any appeal could change the rate for other tenants who have not appealed and are happy with their allowance, and because we would have to make the change for all tenants who receive that Local Housing Allowance rate.

What if the Local Housing Allowance is less than the rent I am charged?

You must pay the difference between the housing benefit received (the local housing allowance) and the rent you are charged.

What if the Local Housing Allowance is higher than the rent I am charged?

If the rent you are charged is lower than the rate of Local Housing Allowance your entitlement will be based on your rental figure. 

Who will the housing benefit be paid to?

Under the Local Housing Allowance Regulations, we will pay the benefit to you, into your bank account every two weeks for the two weeks that have passed. You can no longer choose to have your benefit paid direct to your landlord. However, we can chose to pay rent to your landlord if there is evidence that you would be unlikely to pay your rent or where there is evidence that you are unable to manage your financial affairs.

If you feel that you are unable to manage your financial affairs, you can contact us and fill in a questionnaire and provide supporting evidence to help us decide if you can be classed as “vulnerable” and have your rent paid direct to your landlord. Examples of “vulnerable” tenants may be those with learning disabilities, significant debt problems, or physical disabilities. Each case for direct payment to landlord will be looked at individually based on the evidence provided to the authority.

When will my housing benefit start?

We will generally pay benefit from the Monday after we receive your application form.

Remember, you must claim as soon as possible because Housing benefit is not automatically backdated (that is, paid from an earlier date). If you do not apply within the time limits allowed, you will need to ask us, in writing, to backdate your benefit. You will also need to tell us why you did not apply at the appropriate time. If you have good reason, we will backdate your benefit. We will look at each case individually.

You cannot normally get Housing Benefit until you have moved into the property as your home. This means that even if you would qualify for housing benefit you will have to pay the full rent until you move into the property. There are exceptions to this rule and you should contact the benefits section for further advice.

What if my circumstances change?

If you have made a claim for Housing Benefit and your circumstances change, you must report these changes, in writing, to the Benefits section. Even if you tell the Department For Work and Pensions (formerly the DSS), you must still tell the Housing Benefit section.

The following are examples of changes you must report-

  • If you stop or start to receive income support / job seekers allowance
  • If you stop or start work
  • If your household changes (for example, if someone moves in or out)
  • If you leave the property
  • If the amount of your savings and investments changes
  • If you have a change in income
  • If a non dependant has a change in income (a non dependant is a person other than your partner aged 18 or over who lives with you, for example a grown up son or daughter)

This is not a full list and many other changes in circumstances can affect what benefit you are entitled to. If you are not sure if a change affects the amount of benefit you Receive, tell the benefit section anyway and we will decide if your benefit is affected.

Although you must tell us in writing about any changes to your circumstances, you can first phone the benefits section to give us the information.

What is an overpayment of Housing Benefit?

An overpayment of Housing Benefit is when you are paid benefit which you are not entitled to. For example, if you do not tell us about a change in your circumstances at the time it happens, we might continue paying you too much benefit until we know about the change.

If you are still getting Housing Benefit, we will claim back the overpayment by reducing the amount of benefit we give you each week until we have claimed back the full amount. The Government sets the amount by which we can reduce your benefit and this amount changes every year.

If you are no longer entitled to Housing Benefit and we have made you responsible for paying the overpayment, we will send you an invoice for you to pay.

How can I pay the invoice you send me for an overpayment of Housing Benefit?

In person

You can pay by cheque, in cash or by debit card at any of the following cash offices.

  • Civic Centre, Neath
  • Civic Centre, Port Talbot

By post

You can send your cheque, made out to ‘Neath Port Talbot CBC’, to:

Director of Finance and Corporate Services
Neath Port Talbot CBC
Civic Centre
Neath
SA11 3QZ.

Please write your reference number on the back of your cheque.

At a post office

If you want to pay at a post office, please contact the Overpayments Section on 01639 686839. They will give you a payment card which you will need to take to the post office when making a payment.

On the internet

If you have a debit card, you can make a payment online.

When paying, remember to have your bill with you as you will need your reference number.

By phone

You can use your debit card to pay at any time by calling 0161 622 6919. When paying, remember to have your bill with you as you will need your reference number.

By standing order

Please contact the Overpayments Section on 01639 686839 for a form.

By BACS

Companies and organisations can pay by BACS. Please contact the Overpayments Section on 01639 686839 for more details.

What if I cannot afford to pay back the overpayment in one go?

We can make an arrangement for you to pay back the overpayment in instalments.

If you want to make an arrangement to pay in this way, you should decide how much you can pay and phone us on 01639 686839 to discuss making the payments.

You can also write to us to make an offer for how you would like to pay. If we think your offer is reasonable, we may be able to agree the repayments immediately. However, if we cannot, we will ask you to fill in an income and spending form so that we can decide if we can accept your offer.

What if I do not pay back the overpayment?

If you do not pay back the overpayment, we can apply to the county court for an order against you. This will allow us to:

  • use an attachment of earnings;
  • use bailiffs to collect the overpayment; or

If we do have to apply for a county court order, we will add the court costs to your overpayment. You will have to pay these costs as well as the original overpayment.

What do I do if I think the Council’s decision about my housing benefit is wrong?

If you do not agree with our decision about your benefit, you can:

  • Ask for an explanation;
  • Ask us to look at the decision again; or
  • Appeal to an independent Tribunal Service

You must:

  • Tell the benefits section, in writing, which decision you do not agree with;
  • Tell us why you do not agree with the decision; and
  • Sign the letter

The Benefits Section must receive your letter within one calendar month of the date you received the letter giving you our decision.

Is there any other help I can get?

You may be entitled to a Discretionary Housing Payment if you claim housing benefit but it is not enough to cover the amount of rent you have to pay. Discretionary Housing Payments are for people who have serious financial problems, have exceptional circumstances and who need extra help to pay their rent.

To apply for a discretionary award you must fill in a questionnaire and provide details of your income and spending. Please contact the Benefits Section for a questionnaire or download an application form.