The Housing Executive will only give you £1 per week housing benefit if it believes that you are a protected tenant and the tenancy is classed as a "restricted" tenancy. This is because restricted protected tenancies are generally in a poor state of repair.
Landlord asks for extra rent
If the Housing Executive has stated that you will get £1 per week housing benefit, you don't legally have to pay more than £1 per week rent to your landlord. The landlord needs to improve the condition of the property in order to increase the rent. If the landlord improves the condition, the Rent Officer will then determine what is an appropriate rent to pay. The Housing Executive should increase your Housing Benefit if the Rent Officer has determined a new, higher rent for the property.
You won't have to pay the rent you agreed with the landlord when you moved in, unless your landlord can prove that the tenancy is not protected.
It is a good idea to put aside your normal rent since your landlord may be able to prove that the tenancy is not protected. Your landlord would be able to claim back the full amount of rent that you should have paid, if s/he manages to prove that the tenancy is not protected.
Claiming back overpaid rent
You may be able to claim back up to two years of overpaid rent if you have a protected tenancy and have been paying extra rent on top of your housing benefit, or you've been paying a higher rent than the amount set by the Rent Officer.
Write to your landlord asking:
- for a lump sum of the extra rent you paid since moving in
- for the amount owed to be deducted from your rent.
Speak to an adviser at Housing Rights if you have a rent controlled tenancy and have been paying your landlord more than the rent set by the Rent Officer.
Wrong amount of housing benefit paid
Your landlord cannot ask you to pay any additional rent on top of the £1 of housing benefit if the property is a restricted protected tenancy. If the landlord can prove that the tenancy was not restricted, the landlord can ask you to pay the full amount of rent from the date your housing benefit was restricted to £1 per week. The Housing Executive will reassess your housing benefit application, if it turns out that you are not a protected tenant.
If your tenancy isn't protected, you should be entitled to more housing benefit. The Housing Executive can backdate housing benefit for up to 4 weeks if you can show good cause as to why you did not make a claim sooner. Once you claim is reassessed you might find out that you do not get enough housing benefit to pay your full rent. If this is the case, you'll have to make up the shortfall out of your own pocket. You can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to get some extra housing benefit in the short term, but this application may not be successful.
Finding out if a tenancy is protected can be complicated. An adviser can help you work out if you are getting the right amount of housing benefit. You can get advice from Housing Rights and other advice organisations.