Tenant's Toolkit

Housing Benefit or Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element) in Bromley

Universal Credit

Universal Credit will replace many existing benefits and provide both in and out of work support for working-age claimants.

Universal Credit aims to:

  • Simplify the benefits system by replacing six existing benefits into a single monthly payment
  • increase work incentives for those who are unemployed or working part-time.

For more information on how Universal Credit works, see the DWP's Universal Credit frequently asked questions.

If your tenant is uncertain about what type of benefit they are receiving, you may want to refer them to Citizens Advice Bromley on 0300 3309 039.

Housing Benefit or Universal Credit in Bromley?

From September 2018 all Job Centres across the UK will be using Universal Credit, however there may be tenants that are still claiming Housing Benefit, as the new system is being implemented in a phased approach.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA)

Local housing allowance is a way of working out how much Housing Benefit/Universal Credit a tenant can receive to help pay the rent if they have a private landlord.

Note: If the tenant is renting from a council or housing association or has a shared ownership home, different rules are used to calculate their housing benefit.

The council works out a tenant’s maximum LHA rate as a starting point. This is based on:

  • where they live in the UK
  • whether they live in shared accommodation
  • the number of bedrooms they are entitled to under the rules

More information on how LHA is calculated can be found here.

How is Universal Credit paid?

Universal Credit is usually paid directly to the tenant rather than to the landlord.

This is because if payments are going to tenants, the tenants will be responsible for paying back any overpaid benefits. This removes the possibility of landlords being asked to repay large amounts in overpaid benefit.

How often is Universal Credit paid?

Payment of housing benefit is usually paid every two or four weeks, but Universal Credit is paid on a monthly basis. It is paid in arrears with each payment covering a past rental period.

Since you will usually expect rent to be paid in advance, the tenant will need to budget for this unless an agreement can be reached.

Note: Tenants can apply for a discretionary housing payment from your council if housing benefit does not cover their full rent. For more information, visit Bromley Council’s page here.

Can Universal Credit be paid directly to the landlord?

In some cases, the rent can be paid directly to the landlord.

Your council must make Universal Credit payments direct to a landlord if:

  • the tenant has rent arrears of eight weeks or more
  • deductions are being made from other benefits for rent arrears.

In some cases, the council can choose to pay Universal Credit direct to the landlord. They could do this if, for example, the tenant:

  • has a history of not paying the rent
  • struggles to pay the rent because of a medical condition or learning disability
  • could lose their tenancy if they don't.

Access to Universal Credit/Housing Benefit information

Liberata, the company that processes Bromley residents’ housing benefit payments, currently have an established online self-serve functionality. This enables landlords to view specific payment information in relation to benefit claims such as next payment dates and payment amount.

If you have signed a declaration from the tenant that allows access to their account information, further information can be disclosed by the Call Centre, except for specific personal financial information.

If you are unable to access the above information, you can get a rough idea of the payment amount and schedule from the government's Benefits Calculator here.

How do landlords request an APA? (Alternate Payment Arrangement)

DWP should set up a managed payment for claimants if the following conditions are met:

  • a claimant is in arrears with their rent for an amount equal to, or more than, two months of their rent.
  • a claimant has continually underpaid their rent over a period of time, and they have accrued arrears of an amount equal to or more than one month’s rent.

If the DWP does not set up a managed payment, landlords can request one by completing a form on the gov.uk website. Landlords can also use this form to inform DWP of other reasons why a managed payment might be needed. APA requests can now be emailed to the DWP using a secure email address.

Note: a different form is available which can be emailed from a non-secure email address.

Arrears repayments

Landlords can request deductions from a claimant’s Universal Credit to repay existing rent arrears. This can be done via the APA form, at the same time as the APA application. Deductions will be a minimum of 10% and maximum of 20% of a claimant’s Universal Credit standard allowance.

Your tenant may be able to get certain costs covered through Discretionary housing payments. For guidance and an online form, click here.

Landlords cannot request the rate of deduction – the percentage deduction that applies in each case will depend on whether the claimant has any other deductions from their Universal Credit.

Moving from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit

If you receive Housing Benefit and you are required to claim Universal Credit, your Housing Benefit will be ended. You should receive 2 weeks payment of Housing Benefit at the beginning of your Universal Credit claim.