As a benefits service provider, Broxbourne Council realises the importance of effective partnerships with landlords. Our aim is to ensure landlords receive benefit payments promptly. The Data Protection Act prevents us from disclosing certain information regarding tenants. When making enquiries regarding your tenants, please respect that we are required by law to adhere to the claimant's confidentiality and the Data Protection Act.
Local Housing Allowance (LHA) affects any landlord who enters into a deregulated private tenancy agreement with a person awarded Housing Benefit. By deregulated we mean entered into since 1989 and not covered by one of the exceptions listed below.
Who is not affected by Local Housing Allowance?
LHA does not affect:
- local authority landlords who let to council tenants
- tenancies with registered social landlords
- protected cases, such as supported housing provided by certain local authorities, social landlords, charities and voluntary organisations
- tenancies which are excluded from current rent restrictions
- tenancies in caravans, houseboats and hostels
- tenancies where the rent officer decides that a substantial part of the rent is for board and attendance, such as hotel accommodation.
How does Local Housing Allowance affect landlords?
The tenant will be responsible for paying their rent to the landlord. In recognition of the risk that some tenants may struggle with the responsibility of paying their rent, safeguards will be put in place. Benefit can still be paid directly to the landlord if we consider that the tenant is likely to have difficulty managing their own affairs. Examples of this could include:
- tenants with a learning disorder or a drug or alcohol problem that would mean they may have problems managing a budget.
- if they think the tenant is unlikely to use their LHA to pay their rent. This could be if we know that the tenant has consistently failed to pay their rent in the past
- if the tenant has built up rent arrears of eight weeks or more and payment direct to the landlord has been implemented (under current Housing Benefit regulations), the council can decide to continue making payments direct to the landlord after the arrears have fallen below eight weeks
- if the tenant is having deductions from their Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance to pay off rent arrears.
The full safeguard policy is available here. To implement any of these safeguards, we must have documented evidence. Please contact us if you need any further information.
You can download an application for payment direct to landlord here.
The regulations were changed from 1 April 2011, to give greater discretion to pay landlords or agents direct. This is in response to the changes to LHA and concerns aired by landlords about payments to tenants.
This change is designed by the DWP to encourage landlords to set or reduce rents at renewal at or below the relevant LHA rate. The law now says we can consider, at our discretion, to pay a landlord or agent, where to do so would secure or protect a tenancy agreement. If the new rent is deemed to be at a satisfactory level and a written agreement between the landlord and tenant reflecting the new rent and terms of the tenancy has been received, future payments of benefit can be made directly to the landlord. Evidence will also be considered from The Homelessness Prevention Team or Housing Advice if the tenant has been forced to seek guidance on the matter.
Once a decision has been made to pay a landlord direct, under the circumstances described above, both the customer and landlord need to be aware that direct payments are conditional on the rent being kept at an affordable level whilst the tenant is resident at the property. If notified of a change of circumstances, such as a rent increase, in the future it is at the discretion of the local authority to review whether direct landlord payments should still apply. Requests will be considered on a case by case basis.
Change to a tenant's circumstances
You must inform the benefits section in writing immediately if your tenant moves out or temporarily moves out. If you are aware of any other change to their circumstances that may affect their entitlement please advise us straight away. Examples of circumstances we need to know about are:
- wages increase, decrease or tenant starts of stops work
- income support or jobseeker's allowance starts or finishes
- increase or decrease of any other income
- increase or decrease in their capital or savings
- people moving in or out of the property or the birth of a baby
If you are in doubt whether a change of circumstances will affect your tenants benefit, please inform us anyway.
When we pay housing benefit direct to a landlord and their tenant's entitlement to housing benefit changes we may ask the landlord to repay the money, which has been overpaid. Therefore it is important that you tell us about any changes in your tenant's circumstances.
The recovery of overpayments
If your tenant's entitlement to housing benefit changes and the benefit is paid direct to you, an overpayment could have been created and we may ask you to repay the overpaid monies. If it is appropriate to recover the overpayment from you, an invoice will be issued, which will show the period and amount of overpayment. Arranging the payment of the overpayment is your responsibility and details of how to repay can be found on the invoice.
If you have difficulty repaying the money, our recovery team will be happy to negotiate repayment by instalments.If you fail to make repayment of overpaid housing benefit we can recover outstanding payments from any future payments of housing benefit due to be paid to you.
Further information you can download the leaflet information for landlords here.
If you have any queries on the Local Housing Allowance, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01992 785555.