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LHA safeguard guidelines

Local Housing Allowance is a way of working out Housing Benefit for people living in private-rented sector accommodation. The Local Housing Allowance provides for a transparent system by basing payments on a flat rate of rental charge which takes into account household size and composition as well as the area in which the claimant resides.

There are some exceptions to the scheme, including:

  • Local Authority tenancies
  • Housing Association tenancies
  • 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

The Government are keen to encourage the direct involvement in budgeting and payment of rent by the tenant. Subsequently, Local Housing Allowance is usually paid to the tenant. Under Local Housing Allowance a tenant cannot simply request that payment is made to a landlord to cover their rent, but authorities have the discretion to make payments to the landlord when certain criteria are met. In general, direct payments will only be made to landlords for vulnerable tenants. These guidelines set out the factors to be considered by officers making decisions to safeguard payment of Local Housing Allowance. They have been developed in consultation with stakeholders.

Aims and objectives of the guidelines

  • to provide a safeguard for the most vulnerable tenants and reassure them that their benefit will be paid direct to their landlord
  • to help prevent rent arrears and tenants being put at risk of eviction
  • to help sustain tenancies for vulnerable tenants
  • to reassure landlords that their rent will be paid if they have vulnerable tenants or are approached by vulnerable tenants
  • to ensure our officers make reasonable, fair and consistent decisions
  • to promote a transparent and simple process that is widely understood
  • to treat each case individually and to avoid making assumptions about people's situations

The guidelines are not designed to:

  • supersede support that is being received by tenants to help them be responsible for their own income and expenditure
  • be a blanket policy for agencies providing support to private tenants
  • be used by landlords to circumvent the aims of Local Housing Allowance

Examples of where safeguards might apply

Long term

  • The tenant has a learning disability that prevents them from managing their financial affairs on a daily basis
  • The tenant suffers from a medical condition that makes it hard for them to cope with routine tasks, for example, schizophrenia; dementia, terminal illness
  • The tenant has a physical disability which means that they are often housebound, making it difficult for them to manage their affairs

Short term

  • The tenant has experienced recent changes which has meant that they need additional support in managing their affairs, for example, bereavement, (violent) relationship breakdown, a period in hospital, leaving prison
  • The tenant speaks English only as a second language, presenting obstacles to them in opening and running bank accounts, or reading and dealing with invoices and bills
  • The tenant is dealing with (or has a history of) addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling and a substantial monetary payment to them would present a risk of relapsing
  • The tenant has a history of homelessness and/or rough sleeping and is receiving help to sustain a tenancy in the private sector

There will be a need to regularly review tenants' circumstances where they may appear to be vulnerable for a limited period of time.

Financial

The tenant has severe debt problems, for example, County Court Judgements, bankruptcy, or bad credit rating preventing them from opening a bank account

Procedure for applying safeguards

Alerting us to potential cases for safeguards

The tenant, or their representative, makes us aware that they would prefer their Local Housing Allowance to be paid to the landlord. The request needs to be supported with written evidence from a third party, but initially can be by:

  • a letter/e-mail
  • a telephone call
  • completing an application form

Gathering information and evidence

Officers will consider the information that has been received and whether there is enough evidence to make an appropriate decision. Evidence can be from:

  • Social Workers, Probation Officers, Support Workers
  • General Practitioners/Hospital
  • Support, or advisory services, like the Citizens' Advice Bureau and Shelter
  • a tenant's family or friends
  • a letter from a bank confirming that you are unable to open a bank account
  • a copy of a Court Order or County Court Judgement.
  • Rent records and letters proving attempts to collect monies or evidence from a previous landlord

Evidence from a landlord must be supported by evidence from another source.

Making a decision

One of the following decisions will be recommended and approved by the Benefits Manager, or Benefits Team Leader:

  • the tenant needs the safeguard and payment of Local Housing Allowance to be made to the landlord; or
  • the tenant does not need the safeguard and payment of Local Housing Allowance to be made to the landlord

Notifying affected parties

The tenant and/or their representative will be written to and advised of the following:

  • the decision and reasons for it
  • if, and when, the decision will be reviewed
  • appeal rights
  • contact details for advice if they do not have a bank account and will be receiving excess Local Housing Allowance themselves

The landlord will also be written to and advised:

  • if safeguards apply for their tenant, we will pay them Local Housing Allowance up to the contractual rent
  • if, and when, the decision will be reviewed
  • if a request for bank details has not been received
  • if safeguards do not apply for their tenant, the landlord's appeal rights against this decision