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Local Housing Allowance Safeguards for Tenants and Landlords

Local Housing Allowance

Safeguards for Tenants and Landlords

1. Introduction

From April 2008, a new scheme called Local Housing Allowance will be introduced. Local Housing Allowance changes the way we pay Housing Benefit to new claimants. It only affects claimants living in private rented sector accommodation, with some exceptions including:

  • Registered Social Landlord tenants
  • Supported accommodation provided by local authorities, social landlords, charities or voluntary organisations
  • Tenancies that started before 1989
  • Tenancies in caravans, houseboats, mobile homes and hostels
  • Tenancies with substantial board and attendance

Local Housing Allowance is usually paid to the tenant. A tenant cannot simply request that payment is made to a landlord to cover their rent.

2. DWP Guidance

The Department for Works and Pensions have provided guidance on when direct payments to the landlord may be appropriate.

In most cases the Council decides whether it is appropriate to pay Local Housing Allowance to the landlord however, this must be paid to the landlord where:

  • The tenant is 8 full weeks or more in arrears with their rent
  • The tenant is having deductions made from their Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance to pay rent arrears.

3. Tameside Council Safeguards

The safeguards will ensure that the guidance provided by the Department for Works and Pensions is applied correctly, to help minimise the risk of tenants falling into arrears with the rent and losing their home. The safeguards are also in place to reassure landlords that payment can still be made direct to them in certain circumstances.

The circumstances where the Council will consider paying the Local Housing Allowance to the landlord are if:

  • The tenant is unlikely to pay their rent because they have rent arrears and consistently failed to pay, or has previously absconded from a property leaving rent arrears.
  • The tenant is unable to pay their rent because they have financial difficulties which mean they are unable to open a bank/building society account, have severe debt problems, are bankrupt or they are considered to be vulnerable and unable to manage their own financial affairs.

Claimants considered vulnerable might include people with medical conditions such as:

  • People with mental ill health
  • Alzheimer’s disease or a terminal illness
  • People with learning difficulties
  • People with physical disabilities and are housebound
  • Illiteracy or inability to speak English
  • A person who lives alone with no support
  • A person receiving assistance from a homeless charity
  • A person with alcohol/substance/gambling addiction
  • A person receiving funding from the Supporting People Grant
  • A person who has recently experienced changes in their lifestyle that means they are temporarily unable to deal with their financial affairs. E.g. bereavement, fleeing a violent relationship, leaving prison, leaving care, homelessness.

The list is not exhaustive and there may be other causes of vulnerability that the Council may decide direct payment of Local Housing Allowance is not appropriate. Each case will be considered on its own merit and there will not be a blanket approach to making this decision.

The aim of this document is to:

  • Provide a safeguard for vulnerable tenants and reassure them that their benefit and rent will be paid
  • Prevent rent arrears and tenants being put at risk of eviction
  • Help to sustain tenancies for vulnerable tenants
  • Help tenants to take responsibility for receiving direct payments of LHA, where appropriate.
  • Help to put tenants in touch with other agencies where necessary and give people the opportunity and support to manage their own financial affairs
  • Reassure landlords that their rent will be paid if they have vulnerable tenants
  • Work with landlords where the tenant consistently fails to pay the rent.
  • To make reasonable, fair and consistent decisions
  • Promote a transparent and simple process that is understood widely
  • To treat each case individually and not make assumptions about people’s situations

This document is not intended to:

  • Remove the opportunity for tenants to be in control of their own income and expenditure
  • Ignore the services already available for tenants requiring money advice or debt advice
  • Be used by landlords to circumvent the aims of Local Housing Allowance
  • Be a blanket process for agencies providing support to private tenants

4. Decision Making Process

4.1 Receiving an application

The tenant, landlord or tenant’s representative will make a request for Local Housing Allowance to be made directly to the landlord. The request must be made in writing and should include evidence in support of the application. You need to fill in the Request Payment to Landlord Form 232.69 KB PDF File

4.2 Gathering evidence

A Team Leader will consider the information and evidence that has been received and whether this is sufficient to make an appropriate decision.

A visiting officer will visit the tenant, or a letter will be sent to gather more information in support of the application if required. Telephone contact may also be made if appropriate.

You need to fill in the Request Payment to Landlord Form 232.69 KB PDF File which contains a list of accepted sources of evidence to support a request for direct payments to the landlord.

The Council will not hold up a claim for Housing Benefit whilst waiting for this evidence, the landlord will be paid until a decision is made.

4.3 Making a decision

Using the information and evidence available a decision will be made to establish if it is in the best interest of the tenant to pay Local Housing Allowance to the landlord.
Files will be kept with details of each application, the decision made and the reasons. Each application will result in one of the following decisions:

Payment Made Direct to Landlord

In all cases the decision will be reviewed as follows:

For tenants who are:

  • 8 full weeks in arrears with their rent
  • having deductions made from their Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance to pay rent arrears

A review period of six months will be set to see if the rent arrears have reduced below 8 weeks or if deductions from Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance have ceased.

For tenants considered unlikely to pay:

A review period will be set to see if circumstances have changed, and the tenant is now able to accept the responsibility of receiving Local Housing Allowance and make payments of rent to their landlord.

For tenants unable to pay because:

  • they have financial difficulties which means they are unable to open a bank account, have severe debt problems or are bankrupt

A review period of six months will be set to allow time for the tenant to receive support and advice, which will enable them to accept direct payments of the Local Housing Allowance.

  • they are considered to be vulnerable and unable to manage their own affairs

An appropriate review period will be decided by taking account of the permanent or temporary nature of the inability of a claimant to manage their own affairs and after a dialogue between the Council and the tenant and/or their representative. If Local Housing Allowance is above the tenant’s contractual rent, a split payment will occur and the tenant will receive the excess (top up). To receive this, tenants will be encouraged to open bank accounts if they do not already hold one.

Payment Made Direct To Tenant

If the tenant has issues that are not deemed to be serious enough to qualify for payments to the landlord, Local Housing Allowance will be paid to the tenant. LHA Direct Payment Advice and/or referral to appropriate support services will be considered.

4.4 Notifying affected parties

When a decision has been made, affected parties will be notified in writing using standard notification letters.

The availability of Braille and large print documents will be included in all notification letters.

Where payment of the LHA will be made to the Landlord we will:

Write to the tenant and/or their representative advising them of:

  • The decision
  • Reasons for the decision
  • If and when this decision will be reviewed
  • Appeal rights
  • Write to the landlord advising that Local Housing Allowance, up to the contractual rent, will be paid directly to them on behalf of the tenant
  • Request bank details if not previously received

Where payment of LHA will be made to the tenant we will:

Write to the tenant and/or their representative advising them of:

  • The decision
  • Reasons for the decision
  • Appeal rights
  • Any advice agencies, voluntary or statutory organisations that offer help and support

4.5 Reviewing a Decision

The tenant and/or representative will be contacted 4 weeks from the end of the review period to request an update of their circumstances.

Tenants will not be required to complete the standard application form.

Payment will continue to the landlord until the review is completed.

If the situation has not changed, a further review period will be set on the claim.

Where the circumstances of the tenant have changed, which means they can accept the responsibility of direct payments and pay the rent to their landlord, a new decision to pay the Local Housing Allowance to the tenant will be made.

Written confirmation will be sent to the tenant and/or their representative advising them of:

  • The decision
  • Reasons for the decision
  • The date the first payment will be made to them
  • Appeal rights

Written confirmation will be sent to the landlord advising them of:

  • The new decision
  • The date payment to the landlord will cease
  • Appeal rights

4.6 Appeals

The tenant, or the person making the application or referral, can ask the Council to review any decision made regarding direct payments of the Local Housing Allowance.

They can:

  • ask for an explanation of the decision
  • ask the Council to reconsider the decision
  • appeal against the decision

In all cases the person must appeal in writing setting out their reasons, within one month of the date of the decision. The decision will then be reviewed taking account of the reasons for the appeal. The appellant will receive notification of the review decision or, if requested, an explanation of the decision in writing.

Page last updated: 16 March 2011