RESIDENTIAL LANDLORDS ASSOCIATION GUIDE TO HOUSING BENEFIT CLAIMS AND
Requesting direct payments from the Council
A landlord requests direct payment of housing benefit/local housing allowance (LHA) because the tenant is 8 weeks in arrears. The landlord confirms the request in writing and supplies whatever details of the arrears which the local authority requires. The landlord then sits back, expecting that from then on, the rent will start to be paid direct to him/her; and not to the tenant anymore. No money arrives and it transpires that, even after the local authority has received the landlord's request, the tenant has still been paid. Rent arrears mount up further. The landlord, therefore, wants to appeal or make a claim against the Council but it is not necessarily that simple.
The law on this is settled. In essence the position is as follows:-
- Once a landlord has notified 8 weeks arrears there still has to be a decision by the local authority to make payment direct to the landlord. Until this decision is made by the local authority payment is still due to the tenant. The authority obviously have to be satisfied that there are in fact 8 weeks arrears; that it is not in the overriding interest of the tenant not to pay the landlord (e.g. because of a repairs dispute); and that the landlord is a fit and proper person to receive direct payments.
- In the meantime the Local Authority has the power to suspend payments (in reality it can be this failure to suspend payment which is at the heart of the problem).
- So long as the original decision in place to pay the tenant is unchanged and payment is made to the tenant (despite the 8 weeks arrears of rent), payment of benefits cannot be made a second time around to the landlord once the payment has actually been made to the tenant. This is due to the operation of Regulation 98 (offsetting). As decision R(H) 208 states where payment had already been made under an existing decision to pay the tenant which is still in force what has been paid to the tenant would have to be treated as paid on account and offset against any money due to the landlord. The intention is that there cannot be twice over payment for the same period.
- Only if a decision has actually bee made to pay the landlord but payment is then made to the tenant does payment have to be made twice over in the event of the tenant being paid in error (this is the effect of Decision  UK UT31 (AAC)).
The rest of this Guide to Housing Benefit contains information regarding complaints, universal credit as well as how to deal with a tenant in arrears for longer than 8 weeks.
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