The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is a new scheme of Housing Benefit for people living in private sector rented accommodation.
In accordance with Government intention for financial inclusion and personal responsibility, LHA is normally paid to the tenant. Unlike the Housing Benefit scheme for non-LHA claimants, a tenant cannot secure direct payment to their landlord by simply requesting it.
The Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) state that LHA must be paid to the landlord where:
- the tenant is eight weeks or more in arrears with their rent
- the tenant is having deductions made from their Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance to pay for rent arrears.
The landlord must request payments to be made directly to themselves.
The DWP also advise that LHA may be paid to a landlord where:
- a tenant is likely to have difficulty managing their financial affairs, or
- it is improbable that a tenant will pay their rent.
The stated intention of these exceptions is that any direct payment will ensure that rent is paid on time and the claimant and their family can continue to maintain their home.
Thus the term ‘safeguard’ is used where direct payments to a landlord helps claimants who might not otherwise pay their rent themselves.
Aims of the policy
- to provide a safeguard for the most vulnerable tenants and reassure them that their benefit will be paid
- to help prevent rent arrears and tenants being put at risk of eviction
- to help sustain tenancies for vulnerable tenants
- to help put tenants in touch with other agencies where necessary, in order to give people the opportunity and support so that they can manage, or work towards managing, their own affairs
- to reassure landlords that their rent will be paid if they have vulnerable tenants
- to work with landlords where the tenant consistently fails to pay their rent
- to make reasonable, fair and consistent decisions.
Epsom & Ewell Borough Council's Safeguard Policy
Epsom & Ewell Borough Council (EEBC) fully supports the intention that direct payments be made where it is in the best interest of the claimant and their family to maintain their home.
EEBC will make direct payments to a landlord where we are satisfied that:
- a tenant is likely to have difficulty managing their financial affairs (for example, the tenant may have learning difficulties, a medical condition, educational needs or other vulnerabilities that suggest that they may have difficulty in handling their own financial affairs)
- it is improbable that a tenant will pay their rent (this could be indicated by past behaviour, such as persistent rent arrears).
The Procedure for applying the Safeguard Policy
Making an application
A tenant, their representative, or a landlord must make a request that we pay LHA direct to a landlord.
The request may be by letter, email, telephone call or by completing our ‘LHA application for payment to landlord’ form and should be accompanied by written evidence.
Written evidence can be from:
- Social services
- Support or advisory services such as the CAB
- A local authority housing department
- Jobcentre Plus, Pension service, or DWP
- The tenant’s family or friends.
Ordinarily we are unable to accept evidence from a landlord alone.
If the evidence supplied is not sufficient, further information may be requested. This may be done by telephone or in writing. A maximum time limit of one month will be given for a response. If we do not receive a response to the request for information, we will consider the case based on the information available to us.
Whilst the Benefit Section will assist in gathering information when appropriate, it remains the responsibility of the applicant to provide all relevant evidence.
While a decision on who to pay benefit to is pending, we will ordinarily make payment to the landlord.
Making a Decision
A benefit officer will consider the case on its individual merits and recommend whether it is in the best interest of the tenant to pay the Local Housing Allowance to the landlord. This decision will be approved by another officer.
Notifying affected parties
The tenant and/or their representative and the landlord will be written to and advised of:
- the decision
- if and when the decision will be reviewed
- appeal rights.
Reviewing our decision
Decisions made to pay a landlord direct will be reviewed periodically and at least once a year. We will review cases more frequently where appropriate.
Anyone affected can ask us to look again at the decision made regarding direct payments of LHA. The request must be made in writing and this must be done within one month of the date of the decision.
An officer not involved in the initial decision will look at the decision again. If appropriate, we will refer the decision to the Tribunal Service.
Safeguard Form (pdf - 86kb)
Local Housing Allowance