Local Housing Allowance - Safeguard Policy

Under Local Housing Allowance (LHA) a tenant cannot simply request that payment is made to their landlord. Direct payment will only be made to landlords for vulnerable tenants. This policy sets out the guidelines by which officers will make decisions on vulnerability and has been developed in consultation with stakeholders.

Aims and objectives

  • To provide a safeguard for the most vulnerable tenants and reassure them that their benefit will be paid directly 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 Council Officers make responsible, 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.

      This policy is not designed to:

  • Supersede support that is being received by tenants to help them be responsible for their own finances.
  • Be a blanket policy for agencies providing support to private tenants.
  • Be used by landlords to circumvent the aims of LHA.

 

Procedure
1. Alerting the Council of potential vulnerability
The tenant or their representative makes the Council aware that they would prefer their LHA paid to their landlord. The request needs to be supported with written evidence from a third party, but initially can be by:-

  • A letter/e-mail
  • A phone call
  • The application form

2. 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
  • GP/hospital
  • Support or advisory services like the Citizens Advice Bureau and Shelter
  • A tenants 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 providing attempts to collect monies or evidence from a previous landlord
    Please note that information from a landlord cannot be accepted without supporting evidence

3. Making a decision
One of the following decisions will be recommended and approved by senior benefit officers

  • The tenant is vulnerable and payment of LHA will be made to the landlord
  • The tenant is not vulnerable and payment will be made to the tenant

4. Notifying affected parties 
The tenant and/or their representative will be written to, and advised of the following:

  • the decisions and the reasons for it
  • if and when the decision will be reviewed
  • appeal rights
  • contact details for advice if they don’t have a bank account.
    The landlord will also be written to, and advised:
  • if their tenant has been found vulnerable that the Council will pay them LHA up to the contractual rent
  • if and when the decision will be reviewed
  • request bank details if not previously received
  • if their tenant has been found not to be vulnerable, the landlords appeal rights against this decision

Examples of vulnerability
1. Long term

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

2. Short term

  • tenant has experienced recent changes that has meant that they need additional support in managing their own affairs e.g. bereavement, (violent) relationship breakdown, a period in hospital, leaving prison
  • tenant only speaks English as a second language, presenting obstacles to them opening and running a bank account or reading and dealing with invoices and bills
  • 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
  • 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 short period of time.

3. Financial

  • tenant has severe debt problems e.g. County Court Judgements, bankruptcy, bad credit rating, preventing them from opening a bank account