Government to re-examine LHA payments

Nia Williams

December 16, 2009

‘Supporting people into work: the next stage of Housing Benefit reform’, published today by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has acknowledged that problems exist: “Some stakeholders have raised concerns about the operation of direct payment of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to customers and we know that, in some cases, safeguard procedures are not being operated well enough.’

The NLA, along with housing charities, has also welcomed the commitment to improve the guidance which is offered to local authorities so that the quality and consistency of decision-making can be improved in relation to Local Housing Allowance.

LHA was introduced for new tenancies in April 2008 when it replaced the old housing benefit system. Under the new rules, instead of rent being paid directly to private landlords to cover housing costs, it now goes straight to the tenants who are responsible for passing on the rent money to their landlord. In practice, many tenants are failing to make these payments and this is causing major problems. In the most serious cases, landlords are refusing to let to tenants who are in receipt of Housing Benefit because of rental arrears.

David Salusbury, Chairman, NLA, said: “This consultation is by no means perfect but the issues which affect LHA can no longer be ignored. The NLA’s response on behalf of landlords across the UK will focus on ensuring that tenants are truly empowered by having the option of being allowed to have rent payments made directly to their landlord if they wish.

“We will also be campaigning for proper safeguards which ensure that councils up and down the country are able to deal quickly and effectively where tenancies start to get into difficulties. This means a more creative engagement between town halls and their local private-rented sector.”

The public consultation can be downloaded at: www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/hb-consultation.pdf


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