Local Housing Allowance safeguard guidelines

Local Housing Allowance is a way of working out Housing Benefit for people living in private-rented sector accommodation. Local Housing Allowance provides for a transparent system. Local Housing Allowance payments are on a flat rate of rental charge, taking 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 is keen to encourage the direct involvement in budgeting and payment of rent by the tenant. Local Housing Allowance is usually paid to the tenant. Under Local Housing Allowance, a tenant cannot request that we make a payment to their landlord to cover their rent. Authorities do have discretion to make payments to the landlord when the tenant meets certain criteria. We will only make direct payments to landlords for vulnerable tenants. These guidelines set out the factors for consideration by officers making decisions to safeguard payment of Local Housing Allowance. We developed these guidelines in consultation with stakeholders.

Aims and objectives of the guidelines

  • To provide a safeguard for the most vulnerable tenants and to reassure them that we will pay their benefit direct to their landlord
  • To help prevent rent arrears, with tenants put at risk of eviction
  • To help sustain tenancies for vulnerable tenants
  • To reassure landlords that we will pay their rent 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 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. Examples are: 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 means that they need additional support in managing their affairs. Examples are: 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

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

Financial

The tenant has severe debt problems. Examples are: 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 us to pay their Local Housing Allowance to the landlord. Please support this with written evidence from a third party, but can also be by:

  • A letter/e-mail
  • A telephone call
  • Completing an application form

Gathering information and evidence

Officers will consider the information 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

You must support evidence from a landlord from another source.

Making a decision

 The Benefits Manager, or Benefits Team Leader, will  recommend one of the following decisions:

  • The tenant needs the safeguard and payment of LHA to be made to the landlord; or
  • The tenant does not need the safeguard and payment of LHA to be made to the landlord

Notifying affected parties

We will write to the tenant and/or their representative to advise of the following:

  • The decision and reasons for it
  • If, and when, we will review the decision
  • Appeal rights
  • Contact details for advice if they do not have a bank account and are receiving excess LHA themselves

We will write to the landlord and advise:

  • If safeguards apply for their tenant, we will pay them Local Housing Allowance up to the contractual rent
  • If, and when, we will review the decision
  • If we do not receive a request for bank details
  • If safeguards do not apply for their tenant
  • The landlord's appeal rights against this decision