Local Housing Allowance
Claims for Housing Benefit made after 7 April 2008 by tenants who rent their home from a Private landlord fall under the Local Housing Allowance scheme (LHA). LHA is based on the number of bedrooms people are allowed, not how much rent is and what Broad Market Rent Area (BMRA) the property is in. The number of bedrooms allowed depends on who lives with the tenant.
There are some exclusions from LHA:
- 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
The eligible rent for these tenancies are decided by the Valuation Office.
Payment of Local Housing Allowance
LHA is normally paid directly to tenants, unless they get into rent arrears of 8 weeks or more. LHA only affects landlords or private rented properties. Some landlords may still have tenants who are receiving housing benefit under the old system. 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. Rather than introduce a precise list of circumstances when payment could be made to the landlord, we have been given discretion in identifying such cases would be more effective.
We can decide to may payment direct to a landlord in a number of circumstances including:
- Medical conditions (affecting their mental or physical health)
- Learning disabilities or physical disabilities
- English not being a tenant's first language
- Some changes that mean the tenant needs extra support
- Addiction (to alcohol or drugs)
- Severe debt problems
- Extreme old age
- Rent arrears in current tenancy
We have a joint Safeguard Policy with Spelthorne and Runnymede Borough Council.
An application for the direct payment can be made by the tenant/claimant, their representative/third party or the landlord.
If you are a landlord applying for direct payment, please complete the:
Any landlord who receives benefit payments from us must keep us informed about any changes or problems. We need you to tell us about:
- Changes to the amount of rent charged
- Changes in services included within the rent
- Changes in the number of people living in the property
- If the tenant is eight or more weeks in arrears with their rent
- Any circumstance resulting in rent payments being withheld
Information we can give you
When someone applies for benefit we are restricted by the Data Protection Act about what information we can give you about your tenant's housing benefit. However, if you are a landlord who receives payments directly from us, we can tell you about:
- The tenants that benefit payments relate to
- The periods of time the payments relate to
- The weekly amount of benefit awarded
We will also let you know:
If payments stop and the reasons why
If a tenant requests future payments to be made to them
If a deduction is being made for a previous overpayment
Failure to disclose information
This relates to cases where benefit is paid and a landlord or letting agent withholds information that affects the payment of benefit (for example, the claimant has moved out).
If we decide that the landlord knew about the change in circumstance but failed to disclose it, there would be grounds for prosecution. However, the authority would have the option to fine the landlord instead.
Fines are 30% of the total amount of benefit overpaid as a result of failing to disclose the information and is recoverable in the same way as benefit overpayments.