Here is a question to the blog clinic from Brendan who is a landlord
I am a landlord, recently I received a letter from the council telling me that I have to repay housing benefit because they received notice that one of my tenants vacated the property two months previously.
They have said that because the money was paid directly to me then I am the one who has to pay it back.
My tenant did not give me notice and left the place in a tip, I was forced to change the locks because she did not hand her keys back either. The deposit only went part of the way to cover the cost of putting this right.
Do I have to pay the money back to the council? This is the tenants fault, not mine.
This is the downside of direct payment of benefit to landlords, which everyone has forgotten about.
I am afraid that you are probably liable to repay the money to the Council , if it was paid to you at a time when the tenant was not entitled to receive it.
In fact, back in the day when direct payment of benefit to landlords was the norm, some landlords refused it, to avoid having to pay the money back in these sort of circumstances.
The council have to serve the proper form of notice on you before the money is payable.
I think also there is an exception to the rule if the landlord is the person who tells the benefit office that the tenant is no longer entitled to the benefit (a rule introduced to encourage landlords to keep the benefit office informed).
Otherwise, they are supposed to claim the money back from the tenant first, but if the tenants whereabouts are unknown, then they will come to you. Sorry!