Renting from a private landlord

Most claimants who rent their homes from a private landlord will have their claim assessed under Local Housing Allowance rules. How much benefit you receive is dependent upon your personal and financial circumstances.

If you have been the owner of your current home within the last five years and you now pay rent for that home, Housing Benefit cannot be paid unless you can demonstrate that you had to sell your home in order to continue living there.  This can normally be demonstrated by providing documentary evidence that your home was at significant risk of being repossessed under the mortgage, or other loans secured on it.

If you have made a claim for, or you are already receiving Universal Credit, you cannot make a claim for Housing Benefit as your housing costs are already taken into account as part of your Universal Credit calculation. However, if there is still a shortfall in the amount of your housing costs and your rent you may qualify for further assistance from the local authority in the form of a Discretionary Housing Payment. Further information can be found in the related links to the right hand side of this page.

Will I qualify for help?

If you want to find out if you will qualify for help with your rent, you can:

• Use our online Benefit Calculator and claim form 
• Contact the councils Benefit take up and Liaison Officer on 0151 934 3946 


The maximum amount of help you can qualify for will be capped at either your contractual rent or the appropriate Local Housing Allowance rate, whichever is lower (provided you are not subject to the Benefit Cap).

The particular Local Housing Allowance rate which is appropriate to any particular claimant is determined by the number of bedrooms their household needs and the Broad Rental Market Area (BRMA) that the property comes under.

When determining how many bedrooms you need, a set formula is used. One bedroom is allowed for each of the following:

• a single claimant or any adult couple
• any two children aged under 10
• any two children of the same sex aged 15 or under
• any other adult aged 16 or over
• any other child
• a non-resident carer**

**A bedroom is allowed for a carer, who lives elsewhere and stays overnight on a regular and frequent basis to look after anyone in your household, provided there is a ‘spare’ bedroom available for them to use.

Additional bedrooms can also be allowed in certain specific circumstances:

• Foster carers - If you have foster children placed with you, have had any foster children placed with you in the last 12 months or have become an approved foster carer within the last 12 months.
• Member of the Armed Forces - If you have a member of your household who would be resident at the property but is absent because they have been deployed on operations as part of their armed service.
• Disabled Children - If you have a disabled child who would normally be expected to share a bedroom with another child, but due to the nature of their disability, it is not reasonable to do so as this would result in regular sleep disturbance to the other child.
• Disabled couples - If you and your partner sleep in separate bedrooms because it is not reasonable to share due to a disability which one or both of you may have.

Each year The Rent Service gathers details of tenancies offered for rent in each Broad Rental Market Area (BRMA), and will compile figures based on information from the rental market and provide figures for each of the following size of property. There are no appeal rights against the rates set for Local Housing Allowance by the Rent Service

• Shared Accommodation
• 1 bedroom – self-contained
• 2 bedrooms
• 3 bedrooms
• 4 bedrooms

If a single person (of any age), living alone without responsibility for children and is living in shared accommodation of any sort, their entitlement to benefit will be calculated using a shared accommodation LHA rate
If a single person is under the age of 35 living alone and not responsible for children, their entitlement to benefit will be calculated using a shared accommodation LHA rate irrespective of the type of accommodation you live in.

The shared accommodation room rate will not apply if you:

• are living with your partner
• have children living with you
• have a severe disability
• are aged under 22 and were a "looked after child" until you reached the age of 18
• have another adult living with you as part of your household
• have a carer who provides overnight care on a regular and frequent basis and stays in a spare bedroom overnight.
• Are over 25 and you have moved on from a hostel (if you have lived in a hostel and have received resettlement support for at least three months).
• Are over 25 and are an ex-offender subject to Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA)

There are 2 Broad Rental Market Areas within the Sefton area.

Southport BRMA – includes properties in the following areas: -

• Southport, (all PR8 and PR9 postcodes)
• Formby
• Little Altcar,
• Hightown
• Ince Blundell

Greater Liverpool BRMA - includes all properties in the following areas: -

• Bootle (including Netherton)
• Crosby (including Seaforth, Waterloo and Blundellsands)
• Litherland
• Maghull
• Lydiate
• Aintree
• Melling
• Thornton
• Parish of Sefton

If you are entitled to any of the following benefits, you should receive maximum Housing Benefit, less any deductions for non-dependants. 

  • Income Support
  • Guaranteed Pension Credit
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income based Job Seekers Allowance.

If you are working or receive any other type of benefit, including Tax Credits, the amount of benefit you get will be based on all income and capital that is received by you and your partner. Your benefit will be worked out by comparing your total weekly income with your applicable amount. The applicable amount is the allowance set by the Government to take account of your individual or family's needs. From 6th April 2017 the applicable amount for most families will only take account of a maximum of two dependent children. Please contact the council if you would like any further information about this.

If your income is less than or the same as your applicable amount you should receive the full amount of Housing Benefit, less any non-dependant deductions. If your income is more than your applicable amount, then your Housing Benefit will be reduced by 65p for each £1.00 that your income is over your applicable amount and by any non-dependant deductions.

 

We take a total of all income for you and your partner from all sources, including state benefits, pensions, Tax Credits and earnings.

If you are working we will disregard all Tax, National Insurance and half of any pension contributions made into a private pension. In addition we have earnings disregards of between £5 and £42.10 per week (depending on your circumstances), that can also be taken off earned income. Also if you work and pay childcare costs to a registered childminder or nursery, we may be able to deduct some or all of your childcare costs from your earnings.

Certain types of income are not counted at all as income, such as Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Child Maintenance received, Child Benefit and certain War Pensions.

All self-employed people are eligible to make a claim for both Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction, no matter what the nature of the business. This includes people who are sole traders, those who jointly run a business, those who run a business which also employs others, child minders, taxi drivers and anyone who may be a Director of a company. This list is not exhaustive.

When looking at the income of the business we will ask you to provide your last thirteen weeks income and expenses figures, this will enable us to see how your business is trading in the current economic situation. We will ask you to complete a self-employed income and expenditure form, which should be completed with your last 13 weeks details, you should also provide receipts for business expenses. You will also be asked to provide a copy of your most recent year end accounts, i.e. profit and loss and balance sheets. This will enable us to compare how your business traded in your last full year, to the current thirteen weeks details that you will provide.

With regards to taxi drivers, we have a separate taxi driver income and expenditure form for completion, as the information we require from taxi drivers differs from that of other self-employed.

If you are only just starting out in business and are unable to supply any records, we will still ask you to complete the self-employed income and expenditure form for the period of time that you have been trading and request that you provide an estimate of your income and expenditure for a forthcoming period of time. The estimated period of time will usually start from the date you are completing the self-employed income and expenditure form and the forthcoming thirteen weeks.

If you visit either Sefton One Stop Shop for help in completing the self-employed income and expenditure form you will need to bring along any weekly record book you keep, showing your income from the business and any expenses you have incurred. You should also provide receipts for expenses, i.e. receipts for petrol/diesel, goods purchased, utility bills paid, insurance premiums, telephone bill's, rent paid on business premises and any other relevant business expenses.

Once we have received all the details of your income and expenses, we will then calculate an assumed weekly income from your business on which to calculate your benefit on. This will be reviewed periodically by us and you can also ask for your income to be reviewed at any time.

The income we include will be all monies coming in to the business, but may not include certain sums of capital paid in to the business during the period being looked at.

We will then take off any allowable expenses that are wholly and exclusively incurred by the business. Examples of allowable expenses are listed below:

• Rent paid on business premises.
• Purchases of stocks and supplies.
• Advertising, postage and stationery.
• Fuel and other vehicle running costs.
• Telephone.
• Wages paid for staff employed by the business.

The list is not exhaustive. In looking at the expenses of the business there are certain expenses that we do not allow, which the Inland Revenue do, such as depreciation.

How is self-employed income worked out?
Total income minus any allowable business expenses = Pre Tax Profit

Pre-tax profit minus notional income tax, notional National Insurance contributions and half of any pension contributions = Net Profit

We will calculate your notional income tax and National Insurance deductions ourselves based on your net profit figure. These figures may differ from the figures worked out by the Inland Revenue.

Self-employed child minders
Child minders are treated differently. Instead of working out what your actual expenses are, we use a third of your gross weekly takings to calculate your income.

Where can I get help to complete my form?
We understand that this may be the first time that you have applied for benefit and the information that we request may seem daunting, but we would ask that you do not let this put you off making a claim for benefit. You can either visit one of the Sefton One Stop Shop offices in either Bootle or Southport or phone the Contact Centre on 0345 140 0845. Or email any questions to contact@sefton.gov.uk

If you are under the qualifying age for Pension Credit*, for every £250 or part of £250, between £6000 and £15,999, an additional £1 per week in income will be assumed.

If you have reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit*, for every £500 or part of £500, between £10,000 and £15,999, an additional £1 per week in income will be assumed.

If you have £16000 savings or above you will not be entitled to Housing Benefit (unless you are receiving Guaranteed Pension Credit).

*The qualifying age for Pension Credit is linked to the age that a woman qualifies for a state retirement pension. Between 6th April 2010 and 5th April 2018, this is increasing gradually from 60 to 65.

Your Housing Benefit may be subject to non-dependant deductions. These are the amount we have to reduce your benefit by if a non-dependant lives with you. Non-dependants can be adult sons, daughters, other relatives or friends who live in your home.

Non dependant deductions reduce the amount of Housing Benefit you receive, depending on the circumstances of the non-dependant living with you.

Non-dependant deductions vary from nil, if they are getting certain means tested social security benefits, to a maximum of £95.45 per week if their gross weekly income is above £430 per week. 

If either you or your partner are registered blind or receive Attendance Allowance, the care component of Disability Living Allowance or the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment, then no non-dependant deduction will apply.

The Housing Benefit rules regarding temporary absence from your home can be fairly complex, but have been summarised below.

As a general rule, Housing Benefit can be paid for up to 13 weeks during an absence from your home regardless of the reason, if:

  • You intend to return home; and
  • Your home is not let or sub-let during your period of absence, and
  • You expect your absence to be less than 13 weeks.


In certain specific circumstances, you may be temporarily absent for up to 52 weeks and still get benefit. For example, if you are:

  • A hospital in-patient
  • In a residential care home on a temporary basis
  • Receiving medically approved treatment, care or convalescence
  • Providing medically approved care or caring for a child whose parent or guardian is receiving medical treatment or medically approved care
  • A prisoner on remand
  • A vulnerable student
  • Absent through fear of violence

If anyone is outside Great Britain

If you or anyone who normally lives with you, are absent from your home and you are also outside of Great Britain for a period of 4 weeks or more, your entitlement to Housing benefit may reduce or end altogether.

If you would like to know more about the rules regarding temporary absence and if or how you could be affected by them, please contact the council directly for more information.

*Please note that Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are outside Great Britain.


It can be paid direct to you via direct payment in to your bank account. If you do not already have a bank account, you will need to open one in order to receive your Housing benefit. Most people can open a basic bank account. Alternatively, in certain circumstances, it can be paid directly to your landlord instead.

We could pay your landlord if you:
•    are more than 8 weeks in arrears
•    have learning difficulties
•    are fleeing domestic violence
•    have alcohol/drug/gambling addictions
•    have a history of rent arrears
•    your rent is affordable and direct payment to your landlord will help you secure or retain the tenancy

This list is not exhaustive.  If you wish to apply for payments of Local Housing Allowance to be paid directly to the landlord, for whatever reason, you should complete a safeguard application form detailing the full reasons for the application.

When any decision is made on your Housing Benefit claim, you will receive a letter telling you about the decision. This could be an entitlement letter showing when your entitlement commences and the amount of benefit you have been awarded. It could also be a letter refusing your application, refusing to backdate your claim or even notifying you that you have been paid too much benefit.

If you think the decision is wrong, or if you want to know more about this decision, you must contact us within one calendar month of the date on your decision letter. If you delay, we may not be able to consider any dispute.

You can contact us by phone or in writing and can either ask for an explanation. or ask us to look again at the decision. 

If the decision can be changed, we will send you a new decision. If we feel unable to change the original decision, we will tell you why.

After this, if you are still not happy, you can then ask for your appeal to be heard by an independent tribunal. You must make this request in writing to us, within one calendar month of our reply, and we will refer your case to be considered by the Tribunals Service.

If you appeal outside of this initial calendar month, your appeal will be classed as late and it would then be up to the Tribunals Service Chairman to decide if your late appeal could be heard.

If the Tribunals Service decide to hear your case, they will give you the option of having a ‘paper hearing’ or an ‘oral hearing’.

The paper hearing option would mean that the tribunal make a decision based upon the evidence submitted in the paperwork and you will not be required to attend a hearing or give evidence before the tribunal.

The oral hearing option would mean that you would have the opportunity to attend the hearing and state your case before the tribunal. One of our representatives would also attend in order to assist the tribunal with any questions regarding how we have come to the decision under dispute.

Once you start receiving Housing Benefit you must tell the benefit section about any changes in your own, or any members of your household's changes in circumstances that may affect your entitlement to Housing Benefit straight away.

It is important to notify the benefit section within one calendar month of the date of the change to prevent any loss of entitlement to benefit or reduce the amount of any overpaid benefit that may happen due to the change.

To report a change of circumstances (other than a change of address), you can notify the benefit section of the change:

  • Online
  • By phone on 0345 140 0845.
  • In person to either of the Councils One Stop Shop's, in Bootle or Southport. Or at one of the following libraries: Southport, Crosby, Formby, Maghull or Netherton. 
  • By email
  • By post to Sefton Council, Finance Department, P.O. Box 21, Bootle, L20 3US.

Why has my claim been suspended?
We usually suspend a claim when we have been informed of a change in circumstances, such as a change of address or entitlement to a Department of Works and Pensions benefit ending. The claim is suspended to try and reduce the amount of any overpayment of benefit. If we need more information to action the change we will write to you, you must reply to us within one month of the date of the letter. Once we have all the necessary information to action the change this will be done and the suspension lifted.

What if I wish to cancel my claim?
If you wish to cancel your claim you must contact the benefit section as soon as possible. You should also, if requested to do so, confirm in writing the reason why you wish your claim to be cancelled and the date you wish your claim to be cancelled from.

What is an overpayment?
An overpayment occurs when you have received benefit that you were not entitled to. Overpayments of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction can occur due to various reasons, such as:

  • You moving out of your home. 
  • Someone else moving in to or out of your home. 
  • You or a member of your household may have started work. 
  • You or a member of your household may have had an increase in income or capital. 

If you have been paid too much benefit you will normally be asked to pay back the overpayment, this is known as a recoverable overpayment.

When an overpayment occurs we will write to you, the letter will tell you:

  • The reason you have received too much 
  • A breakdown of the overpayment. 
  • How much the overpayment is. 
  • If you have to pay back the amount. 
  • How the overpayment will be recovered. 
  • How you can appeal if you think the overpayment is incorrect. 


We will look at who has caused the overpayment and to whom benefit has been paid and then make our decision if the overpayment is recoverable and if so, who to recover it from.

With regards to overpayments of Housing Benefit, this will either be recovered from any ongoing entitlement to Housing Benefit you still have in the form of clawback deductions, or you will receive an Invoice for the total amount of the overpayment, if you no longer qualify for benefit.

If you wish to have the amount of any clawback that is being taken from your ongoing entitlement to benefit reduced, you can request this by contacting the Housing Benefit Overpayment Team on 0151 934 4348. If you wish to make arrangements to pay on an invoice received, then you should contact the Accounts Recoverable Section on 0151 934 4147.

What if I do not agree with the overpayment?
If you disagree with the overpayment you must write in to the Benefits Section within one calendar month of the date on the decision letter. Your full appeal rights will be shown on the overpayment letter and the decision letter

If the amount of Housing Benefit you receive does not cover all of your rent and this, along with other circumstances causes you hardship, you can apply to the council for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

This is not a payment of Housing Benefit but is a discretionary payment paid to claimants at the discretion of the council to help meet the housing costs of the claimant and their family.

If you intend to move out of your private rented accommodation, you need to let us know. Your Landlord or Letting Agency should also notify Sefton Council of the change in circumstances so that our Council tax records can be amended.  If you are also receiving Housing Benefit then this can also be declared and we will suspend the claim for benefit to ensure any overpayment of Housing Benefit is reduced. 

Landlords or letting agents can fill out this form if they notify us.

If a tenant is moving a tenancy agreement must be uploaded with the form in order to process the change.

To notify Sefton of a change to Council Tax or Housing Benefit payments, complete the 'Council Tax Landlord Tenancy Change Form' in the 'Do it online' section of this page.