We normally start paying Housing Benefit within 10 working days of getting all the information we need.
When and how we pay Housing Benefit
We normally pay Housing Benefit every two weeks in arrears to the bank account of the person making the claim. Where we pay the landlord direct, we pay every four weeks in arrears. If you have claimed Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP), we will pay this into your bank account, either with your Housing Benefit or as a separate payment if your main Housing Benefit goes direct to your landlord.
Most banks now offer basic bank accounts you can use even if you can’t get a standard current account.
We can sometimes pay to an appointee – a person who looks after your affairs for you.
Housing Benefit entitlement stops when a tenant moves out or dies. If we make any payments after the date of moving or the date of death, we will ask for these payments to be repaid.
Housing Benefit payments to landlords
We can pay Housing Benefit direct to the landlord for the following types of tenant:
- housing association, charity or other social housing tenants
- private tenants whose tenancy began before 15 January 1989
- private tenants living in a caravan, houseboat or mobile home
- private tenants who have been getting housing benefit continuously at the same address since before 7 April 2007
- vulnerable private tenants - people who might find it hard to manage their own affairs, including care leavers, people with learning difficulties, those with particular medical conditions, people with drug, alcohol or gambling problems, people who are illiterate, people leaving prison and people escaping domestic violence
- tenants who are 8 weeks or more in arrears
If you are one of these types of tenant, you can tell us you want us to pay your landlord direct in one of the following ways:
New Housing Benefit claims - tell us when you fill in the Housing Benefit claim form
Private tenants already getting Housing Benefit – use our online pay Housing Benefit direct to landlord form
Social housing tenants - contact the Benefits team to ask us to make the change.
Landlords who want rent paid direct because they think a tenant might be vulnerable can also use the pay Housing Benefit direct to landlord form. We will look at the situation and ask for written evidence from a recognised source such as a doctor, social worker, family member or Citizens Advice worker.
We can also sometimes pay money direct to landlords where either of the following apply:
- there is good reason to think the tenant won’t pay
- the tenant is having deductions made from Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance to pay off rent arrears
Landlords should contact the Benefits team with full details and a rent breakdown showing any unpaid periods or amounts. You can also upload documents.
We will then check the details of the situation with the tenant and find out why they haven’t paid. If we decide to pay the landlord direct, we will review the situation regularly. We might stop the direct payments once the tenant has cleared the arrears.
Tenant changes of circumstance when we are paying the landlord direct
If you are a landlord and we are paying Housing Benefit to you for a tenant, you must tell us straightaway about any changes in circumstance affecting the tenant. We might ask you to repay any Housing Benefit overpayments to us. It is up to you to then to contact the tenant to try to collect any rent you think you are owed.
Housing benefit payments if you have an overdraft
By law, banks are not allowed to use Housing Benefit or any other income-related benefit to repay an overdraft. But sometimes they do, which can mean there is not enough money for direct debits or standing orders and rent or other bills aren’t paid.
If you are overdrawn, or worry that you might become overdrawn, you can write to your bank to ask them to use benefit payments coming in to pay your rent or any other bills first. This is called ‘first right of appropriation’. If you want them to apply first right of appropriation for more than just one particular payment, you need to say in the letter that you want the first right of appropriation to apply to all future regular payments.
You should write as soon as you think there might be a problem, ideally at least 7 days before the direct debit or standing orders are due to go out. If your bank has already put your benefit money towards paying off your overdraft when you needed it to pay rent or other bills, you can complain.
You can use our example right of appropriation request and complaint letters (PDF, 26KB)
You can find information to help you claim back any resulting bank charges at the Reclaim Unfair Charges website
For details of organisations who can give you advice about money and benefits, see Live Well money matters.