The National Landlords Association (NLA) has recently started a campaign to change the rules for the payment of housing benefit/local housing allowance (LHA). As has been described elsewhere in this blog, LHA cannot normally be paid direct to the landlord in the way that housing benefit was. The NLA consider that this is unfair, particularly in view of the fact that LHA is paid direct to social landlords and local authority landlords.
LHA can be paid direct in limited circumstances, these are (1) if the tenant is deemed to be ‘vulnerable’ or if (2) he is in arrears of rent of over 8 weeks. However benefit offices are not acting consistently in interpreting these rules. For example many are refusing to accept that rent can be in arrears if it is payable in advance (benefit is paid in arrears) which means it can be well over three months before benefit starts to be paid direct to landlords where tenants are in default. Landlords are finding this unacceptable.
The NLA have recently carried out a survey of their members which shows that over 52% say they are less likely to take on tenants in receipt of benefit and 59% say that they are concerned about rent arrears or local authority maladministration.
They are asking for the following:
- an ‘automatic trigger’ for direct payment to landlords after one month’s rent arrears (as opposed to two months/8 weeks as now)
- Better local authority administration of LHA
- Better determination of the vulnerability of tenants by local authorities, with clear guidelines being laid down
- the creation of local authority links with local deposit guarantee schemes so each new LHA application is accompanied by a deposit guarantee bond.