Forms and procedures for LHA Landlords
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LHA Top Tips for landlords. Article 4 in a series of 8
The most important things are that you need everything in writing; you need to keep it clear and simple for the tenant and you must understand timings.
- Before you offer any tenant your property let them know that you would like to use a tenant referencing agency to do a basic background search. A number of free services exist and you can find some of these tenant referencing services in the Property Services Directory at Property118.com.
- Not all tenants will be familiar with the claims procedure and complex forms or long interviews will put off many tenants. Simplify any forms you have, both in layout and wording, be prepared to explain when paperwork must be completed to secure the tenancy and offer to help with completing the forms.
- Produce a standard list for the tenant of the information you will need them to provide to complete their application. Proofs of identity, NI number, banking details etc.. to enable you to reduce delays in submitting their application. The council will advise what they are likely to require.
- Ensure that the tenant understands their obligations with regard to giving notice on their current home and if appropriate obtain a Housing Benefit overlap form from your local council. This can be paid for up to a maximum of four weeks where an overlap is unavoidable.
- It is always preferable to have rent paid direct to you rather than via the tenant. Explain to the tenant that you will seek direct payments so any information they can offer to help with this would be appreciated; for example evidence of a medical condition or debts.
- Once you have decided which prospective tenant you want you will need to contact the council and give them the composition of the family, ages and their income details to get confirmation of what LHA rate they qualify for. Don’t forget you will already have an idea as to what rate the tenant qualifies for, but this will confirm it. Always ask for the confirmation to be emailed so you have a copy in case of any problems. If the tenant only qualifies for the single bedroom rate but it is a two bedroom property, try applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment, which is a fund that allows the council to top up any Housing Benefit. It cannot be used to pay off arrears. For the council to allow this the tenant must be vulnerable and at risk of not getting the property, also the rent cannot be higher than the LHA rate for that property.
- You can submit a claim for Housing Benefit up to 13 weeks prior to a tenancy start date. The sooner this process is started the more margin you have for unexpected delays. It is worth stating on the paperwork that it is an “Advanced Claim”.
- Always ask your prospective tenant to sign a declaration that states you can contact the council about your tenants’ circumstances that relate to the property. The council may otherwise refuse to speak directly with you due to the Data Protection Act.
- If there is likely to be a rent top up required from the tenant make sure they understand how much, when it will need to be paid and that you will require this to be done via a standing order. This will hopefully prevent any problems at a later date. If you are intending to use a letting agent they can ensure that payments are set up as a direct debit.
- Contact the council to ensure that there are no overpayment claims pending for your tenant which may affect ongoing payments or affect the tenants ability to afford top-up rent where due. When dealing with some councils this is not an option as the length of time it takes to get an answer could be weeks, by which time you could have lost the tenant. Always try though.