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Housing Benefit
31/10/2011
4:09 pm
moood
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As a fairly new landlord I was just wondering how long it usually takes for housing benefit to come through?

02/11/2011
1:16 pm
Paul Routledge
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Hi Mood,

It can take as little as 2 weeks if the tenant chases up the claim and as much as never if they don’t present what the claim office wants.

The art of getting them through quickly is to make sure you can check up on the claim (get the tenants permission to do this) and then to make sure they are submitting the right documents as soon as they are asked for by the claim department. 

Most of mine come through within 4 weeks..

Paul

02/11/2011
4:04 pm
Damien
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Paul's right, it can take as little as 2-3 weeks if everything is in order and the tenant is quick to act.

You can help as well, take a copy of the sharing of information, proof of rent form & AST, post or email these to the council. 

I found the best way to work with councils is to introduce yourself to them personally and work with them, remember they can get involved in tenancies whether the tenant is claiming benefit or not. With that in mind, if you ever have to evict a tenant, whatever notice you send them, always send a copy to the council. They will contact the tenant straight away to offer them a meeting, this will help further down the line.

04/11/2011
1:01 pm
Rigsby
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Housing benefit tenants are not for everyone and not a good idea for new landlords unless you have a basic understanding of the of the system.

If you do always get the first months rent in advance, this can be the tenants own funds or they can get an advance/loan from the council which they repay.

Always get a home owning guarentor if you can.

04/11/2011
2:24 pm
PaulBarrett
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Oh dear have you taken on a tenant without definitely knowing whether they will receive LHA.

What happens if the LHA claim is rejected?

Presumably you have given this LHA claimant AST agreement.

If so big, big mistake.

What happens when the LHA is rejected potentially.

Do you think your tenant is going to leave!?

Answer is very unlikely as they know it WILL take you up to 10 months or more to evict this now non-rent paying tenant.

Ensure the Council tax department knows that they are occupying the property.

Ensure that the ALL the utility bills are in the name of the new tenant.

After 3 months has elapsed check with the council tax department that the tenant on the AST is the only one registered on the council tax register.

Do this every 3 months.

I am afraid you might lose your property unless you have resources to cover the motgage payments whilst you are evicting your possible non-rent paying tenant.

Therefore if you wish to take on a LHA claimant some councils give a glaim guarantee which includes a deposit and a months rent in advance.

Generally they only do this for a claimant who has resided in their area.

If I was taking on a LHA claimant I woould want 2 months rent as deposit, 1 months rent in advance and to pass a RGI check and therefore qualify for a poliicy.

A guarantor will also work for such a RGI policy.

Consequently I doubt I will have many LHA claimants.

You unwittingly have exposed yourself to possibly losing your property.

Clearly I hope your LHA claimant is successful with the claim but you must appreciate that you are financially exposed if you do not have a RGI policy.

You could be bankrupted ultimately.

What is going to happen when inevitably the tenant fails to pass on the LHA.

You will have to wait 2 months of missed payments to you , then you have to go to the council and provide proof of the missed payments.

Then you have to wait whilst they are going through their admin process which takes weeks.

You will not stand a chance of recovery of 2 months worth of rent.

I hope you have the cashflow to cover the 3 months of payments that will have been missed and you will have to cover 2 months of rent losses.

Hope you can afford it.

In short why did you take on a LHA claimant when there are thousands of non- LHA claimants who should make good tenants and then you don't get involved in the vagaries of LHA claimants.

These tenants would go through a RGI check BEFORE they took occupancy of your property, thereby meaning no eviction required as there is nobody in your property.

I personally avoid LHA claimants like the plague due to all these and other problems that these LHA tenants cause.

However it is your choice as to the level of risk you wish to take.

I personally would not wish to be possibly bankrupted by a non-rent paying LHA claimant.

But hey life is all about choices!

04/11/2011
2:31 pm
PaulBarrett
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Also forgot to mention you WILL have an adverse credit record unless you have been able to make the mortgage payments in lieu of not receiving LHA payments.

This will damage your credit record so you can forget trying for another mortgage or any other form of credit for at least the next 3 years!.

04/11/2011
2:42 pm
PaulBarrett
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Further to I forgot to mention another major risk which most landlords are completely unaware of.

What happens when the LHA tenant fails to pass on the LHA and then you manage to get it paid directly;  but that subsequently it is determined by the council that that the claim was not valid?

Who do you think the council will come to for repayment of the benefit.

You've got it YOU.

This situation could be caused by any number of things not in your power to know about;  unotified changes in tenant domestic circumstances etc. etc.

If the LHA was still bing paid directly to tenant the council would have to seek recovery from the LHA tenant with obviously no possibility of recovery.

But recovery from you is a certantity as if you don't pay the council will go to court for recovery which could bankrupt you.

Does an LHA tenant look so attractive now!!?

04/11/2011
4:59 pm
Rigsby
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I would like to balance the above post.

As soon as 2 months rent is owing which means 1 month and 1 day you can write to the council quoting regulation 95 and get all further payment made direct to you.

Yes the council does normally first ask the landlord to repay any overpayment of housing benefit because they know they have more chance of getting from the landlord. But as long as you didn't know about any change of the tenants situation and you write back explaining that and they then will chase the tenant instead.(unless the tenant officially moved out)

To evict for rent arrears which is using a section 8 notice (2 month month owing) if you act straight away you could get possession in 3 and half month and maybe another 2-3 weeks if the court bailiff is needed as well.

 

There are many good housing benefit tenants out there but you have to choose the right ones and have certain criteria.  

04/11/2011
5:15 pm
PaulBarrett
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I am afraid Rigsby you are WRONG.

You may issue a Section 8 once the tenant is 1 month and 1 day in arrears providing the tenant pays rent in advance.

If he pays in arrears you HAVE to wait until 2 months have elapsed

Councils ALWAYS pay LHA in arrears irrespective of what your AST says.

Therefore you presumably received 1 months rent in advance from the tenant  from his own resources.

To the council it is irrelevant.

They will only consider paying LHA dirctly once 2 full months have gone by.

Then you have to apply which im my experience takes another month before you only receive 1 months rent and the council tells you it is between you and the tenant regarding the 2 months LHA the tenant did not pas onto you.

the costs involved and chances of rent arrears recovery from tenant £0!

04/11/2011
5:24 pm
PaulBarrett
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Rigsby mate you are living in a dream world if you think you may get rid of a tenant so quickly

Since my tenant last made a rent payment on 2nd Feb 2011 I have followed the exact letter of the law.

Using Section 8 process as still within AST period

I am only now on 8.11.11 getting another eviction date hopefully enforced.

Your timeline for ultimate eviction is out there with the fairies!!

I agree it should be carried out far quicker but in practice due to the useless county court system this ain't the case.

05/11/2011
8:24 am
Rigsby
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Paul you really need to read up on Housing Benefit (LHA) regulations, recent case law(or not so recent) possession proceedings and best practice for landlords.

Yes all councils pay LHA in arrears and the payments are either 2 or 4 weekly but that doesn’t mean you draw up the tenancy agreement with the rent paid in arrears because it adds a extra month to possession proceedings so why would anyone want to do that? No sensible Landlord would do that.

If you accept a LHA tenant you must have the 1st months rent in advance and you get your tenant to agree in writing for the council to discuss the claim with you then when the first months LHA comes in it should be around the period of the 2nd months rent due date.

Quote“They will only consider paying LHA directly once 2 full months have gone by” Paul where are you getting your info from????

 The LHA regs state LAs must make payment direct to the landlord in the circumstances prescribed in HB Regulation 951 when” “the customer is in arrears equivalent to eight weeks with rent (Regulation 95(1)(b))” 8 weeks arrears is not the same as 8 weeks owing and after Doncaster v Coventry City Council in 2009 the councils agreed that direct payments can be made after 1 month and one day.

 

So after 1 month & 1 day of rent owing you write to the council quoting reg 95 and all further payments will be sent to the landlord. The first payment may have a delay (but backed dated to when you wrote in) but will be regular thereafter as long as there are no changes to the claim.

 

Yes you will have to chase the tenant for the 2 month not paid but if you have a guarantor chase them, give notice or work out a payment plan.

 

If the council ever try to reclaim payments from the landlord all you do is write to them quoting

“Regulation 6(3) to (5) amend Regulation 101

of the HB regulations. Which state “so that the chief consideration when deciding ‘whom to recover from’

should be who has misrepresented or failed to disclose information,”So you ask for a revision of the decision as the tenant has caused the overpayment by failing to disclose a material fact and/or report any change in their circumstances.

If you pick the correct LHA tenant in the first place it is unlikely you will have to.

 

Paul let me give you the timescale for a Section 8 using ground 8,10,11

 

32 days  2 months rent owing

14 days  notice period on section 8

42 days to get a hearing date in my area (will not be more than 8 weeks. Set in statute law)

14 days notice given by judge if proven

That equals about 3.5 months. If you need a court bailiffs add another 2-3 weeks & if the tenant defends claiming disrepair that could drag it out as well.

I would suggest you get a good agent/housing act solicitor  to keep you updated.  

08/11/2011
2:36 am
PaulBarrett
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I think your distinction regarding arrears whilst I agree is correct would be lost on  most council housing benefit officers.

You would obviously be proven correct but it could take months before the council agreed with your correct contentions.

The timelines you mention are absolutely correct in dreamland; unforunately in the real world of county court closures and increased court workload any adherence to these idealised timescales is out there with the fairies.

My tenant's now disinstructed solicitor; once he discovered she was a frasudster, advised me that I had done everything correctly and he could have done it no quicker.

The ONLY way you may have a tenant on LHA is to give them an AST before you know whether the claim will be successful.

Oh really and what if the claim is declined will the tenant leave!!?

What do you think!?

There is no such thing as a correct LHA tenant you don't know until they have their claim accepted that they are correct.

By then they already have an AST from you!

Which means you will have to most likely evict them to get rid of them.

I don't think you seem to appreciate what thin ice you are on when taking on a LHA claimant.

I cannot afford to take such risks particularly after I have stitched up twice by scumbag LHA claimants.

So I will be sticking to RGI policy tenants which defacto means I won't be taking on LHA claimants.

You can have all my claimants if you want!

08/11/2011
7:57 am
Rigsby
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I can only speak for the two councils in my area who without question who pay the landlord after 1 month and 1 day. I see no reason why other councils won’t either as they all have had the same council benefit updates.

As I have used the section 8 & section 21 eviction process more than a few times over the years I can assure you the timescales are correct IF NOT DEFENDED. If defended they can drag on but you need to know the law. If your court case took longer than 8 weeks to get a hearing you need to address that with the court as I said, it is set in statute law to be no longer than 8 weeks. The defendant solicitor doesn’t normally advise the claimant & I would take with a pinch of salt what he said. Also many solicitors know bugger all about housing law or the possession procedure.

Quote The ONLY way you may have a tenant on LHA is to give them an AST before you know whether the claim will be successful” Paul once again you are incorrect you give the tenant a short letter of intent stating you are prepared to offer mr xxxx a tenancy at xxxxx for which the rent & deposit will be xxxxxx pcm ON THE CONDITION of xyz.

 

You then contact the council before signing to get confirmation. Also if you know what you are doing as a landlord you have a good guarantor as well.

 

Some benefit tenants are a safer bet than others such as OLDER single mums or retired or late to middle aged single people. Don’t touch young single mums, young couples or single men as their claim is likely to go up and down like a yo-yo.

 

For the record I am a letting agent with about 300 properties and about half have some form of benefit so I know a little bit about it. The reason I know the eviction process well is because I have taken over 3 small agencies that had crap tenants and had to be evicted.  I am well into double figures with evictions and haven’t lost yet. (On the timescales I gave). I have a number of landlords who only accept benefit tenants and a couple of the reason are you can sometimes achieve a higher rent, generally they are not so demanding and the tenancy can run like clockwork..

 

I get approached about 6-7 times a year by landlords who have tried to be clever save agencies fees then got in a pickle with their benefit tenants and I then sort out their mess. They have only a half baked knowledge of the benefit system and next to nothing of housing law.

 

The moral is to use a good professional until you know what you are doing but I acknowledge finding one isn’t easy as there are so many cowboys out there.

08/11/2011
8:12 am
Paul Routledge
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Damien said:

Paul's right, it can take as little as 2-3 weeks if everything is in order and the tenant is quick to act.

You can help as well, take a copy of the sharing of information, proof of rent form & AST, post or email these to the council. 

I found the best way to work with councils is to introduce yourself to them personally and work with them, remember they can get involved in tenancies whether the tenant is claiming benefit or not. With that in mind, if you ever have to evict a tenant, whatever notice you send them, always send a copy to the council. They will contact the tenant straight away to offer them a meeting, this will help further down the line.

Absolutely damienSmile

09/11/2011
2:03 am
PaulBarrett
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I think there are clearly differences in the country and can therefore only quote what I have been advised.

East Herts Council state you have to issue an AST before they will consider a LHA claim.

The advice they give based on your contentions may well be incorrect but what is one to do as a landlord when one is given such advice?

Consequently I don't touch LHA claimants.

I can only go on what the relevant authorities advise me;  if they are wrong how will I know they are wrong unless I am you!!

I can assure you that you can say it as many times as you like the fact is in my area with Chelmsford County Court the whole eviction process took from

1.3.11 rent not paid

8.11.11 2nd eviction achieved.(place wrecked, don't worry she is on the lrs records, RED traffic light!!)

I used the Section 8 process with Grounds 8

10,11,12,17

Yes my wrongun tenant contested;  surely  one should consider this worst case scenario.Unfortunately your idealised timescales are just that 'idealised'.

The cold hard reality was in my county court it took as long as it took.

I did everything myself correctly,  believe me a steep learning curve, but I can't afford solicitors, a solicitor advised me that I had done everything correctly and based on the slow county court process it could NOT have been done any quicker.

I may just be unlucky with my county court but that IS NOT what I am hearing form other forum posters on other sites.

One landlord had an eviction date over a month ago suspended because of an application for a  spurious reason for suspension of eviction by the tenant and the hearing to consider the application to evict again will be in Feb 2012!!!

This tenant IS NOT paying rent presently and apparently the landlord he is getting pretty desperate.

He was like this previously; what state is he going to be come FEB 2012;  if indeed he is still a landlord as his property will have probably been repossessed unless he has deep pockets or RGI(which he hasn't)

My case may not be representative of the whole country but I can only quote as I find!

The answer is RGI everytime which  means most likely no LHA claimants; though I appreciate a guarantor might work if they qualify for RGI.

Also have you any appreciation of the ramifications of the effect of introduction of UC in 2013.

It would be interesting to a lot of members what your take is on this soon to be enormous problem for previous LHA landlords based on your obvious knowledge of this part of the rental market.

09/11/2011
2:21 am
PaulBarrett
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I would also add that I ackowledge I am NOT what you could consider a property professional but have found doing the research myself has saved me thousands of pounds in LA  agent fees.

I appreciate doing things yourself is not always the way other landlords wish to proceed and in those cases obviously LA are there to assist.........and take a fee, but that's business.

There is plenty of free information out there to facilitate a landlord managing their own properties.

Indeed one learns a lot just by reading forum posts....such as yours!

With the advent of RGI policies on my tenants in future the RGI company will have to resolve my non-rent paying tenant issues if it happens again and I can sit back and watch the rent money roll in courtesy of the RGI company until they have managed top evict the tenant!

09/11/2011
11:47 am
Rigsby
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Its horses for courses and what works for you.

I have found more tenants are not just accepting be given notice and eviction and are taking independent advice from the CAB and Shelter and applying for legal aid and regardless of the reasons or how bad the tenants has been they are dragging the process out at the expense of the landlord. My timescales are for a undefended eviction and out the 20+ or evictions I have done only two have been delayed. One because the judge didn't know housing law requirements relating to section 21, which was strange as she sits on evictions every week. I won on appeal (another 2 weeks).

 

The other (still on-going) a section 8 but legal aid & Shelter  involved and is dragging out a bit.

 

I guess about another 4-6 were defended but sailed through at the hearing still within the timescales i have given.

Councils and the courts all have the same rules & regs but i acknowledge waiting times and how they are interperated do vary.  

 

The biggest bit of advice i could ever give to a landlord is get a well written inventory and a good guarantor signed up on a Deed of Guarantee.

10/11/2011
6:06 am
PaulBarrett
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Yes I totally agree with your contentions.

The problems lie with the mortgage companies who are NOT the slightest bit interested if you state you are having issues with the county court and also the tenant delaying things.

I think that there should be a standard mortgage industry response that upon the advice of a landlord that they are comencing legal action against a tenant and this can start from the 1st rent payment missed on the basis that the landlord will commence ASAP Section 8 or Section 21;  that they should suspend their normal collection

and receivership and repossession protocols.

Obviously if a landlord has an RGI policy not a problem.

Clearly it is manifestly unfair if through a tenant manipulating the system along with the present county court problems that a landlord might lose his property; with all the ramifications that could occur as a result of such a situation for the landlord.

I believe most landlords are unaware as to how exposed they are to these and other circumstances;  which you have alluded to in other  previous posts.

Clearly network referencing along with other circumstances would hopefully as near as can be guaranteed absolve such issues occurring; but there are no absolutes here unless you have RGI.

I don't believe however that BTL lenders have ANY common sense and therefore I believe the attitude WILL persist which I have expereienced and that is ,not interested in listening to the excuses, pay up or we will repossess!!

By the way bailiff attended on 8.11.11 and enforced eviction.She wasn't there but place trashed and will need redecorating  and in maybe 3 weeks be back on the market just at a time when prospective tenants ARE NOT looking to move!!

 Not til next year....Happy days!?

12/11/2011
3:30 pm
Paul Routledge
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Don,t forget you can get a deed of guarantee form free on the template in existing members if you are logged in guys

Paul R  

05/06/2017
10:48 pm
Aaron
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"If you accept a LHA tenant you must have the 1st months rent in advance and you get your tenant to agree in writing for the council to discuss the claim with you then when the first months LHA comes in it should be around the period of the 2nd months rent due date."

 

When I first applied for housing benefit it took 9 months and 6 applications before my application was finally accepted. Every time I re-applied I had to give a full history of all previous applications. By the 6th application this ran to 30 pages of A4. Eventually I threatened Edinburgh council that if they didn't take my application seriously I would take my story to the press. They accepted with 24 hours.

Now I am moving from Edinburgh to Glasgow. I am tired of renting from housing associations becauYellse of their poor standard of service so I am trying to move back to private sector lets. I also don't want to have to bid on flats for 30 years to get a move from one housing association to another.

1st try - Application with Fine Holm. After 1 week I grew concerned that they weren't keeping me informed and phoned them only to discover that they had "lost" my application. They promised to investigate and contact me to explain why. That never happened.

2nd try - Application with Edzell. After 3 weeks since I gave a £495 deposit I grew concerned that I as not being kept informed. On my 5th attempt to reach Edzell (by phone and writing) I finally managed to get through only to discover that they were assuming I had given notice on the day I gave my deposit. I said I was still waiting for my application to be accepted. So effectively I was expected to give away £495 for no gain as I would be paying double rent unnecessarily. Edzell said that all letting agencies do it this way. I wrote to them and said that I now given my notice to my current landlord but would resume searching for flats in the event they refused my application. One week later they did just that. No explanation was given and even when they tried to refund my deposit they couldn't even manage that, saying their systems were down.

3rd try - Martin & Co, today I travelled again from Edinburgh to Glasgow to view yet another flat. The flat was viewed and although the condition wasn't as good as others I'd seen I decided to put down a deposit, but after phoning the letting agent discovered that the application was not open to people claiming housing benefit. They said there was no space to put "No DSS" anywhere in the advert but that they should have admitted the limitation what I phoned them to arrange the viewing.

So, I've written a complaint to lettingweb. Not that I expect a reply. Not that I expect anything to change and not that I expect anything good to come from it.

Letting services for people claiming housing benefit are woefully poor. If I was a manager in any of these companies I would have sacked these people for pure incompetence, but because I am not in employment somehow my money isn't good enough. It's like my money is a different colour from everyone else's.

What choice do I have? I have to plug on regardless and hope I can find somewhere to live before the 21st of June. Otherwise I'll become just another statistic sleeping on the streets of Glasgow. If that happens I'll lay my sleeping bag out on the doorsteps of Glasgow Council. If I'm lucky I'll get arrested for sleeping rough and be rewarded with a nice clean police cell. It's depressing.

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