Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar Further information You can get further information on LHA from the Housing Benefit section at the Comhairle: Benefits Service Town Hall Point Street Stornoway Isle of Lewis HS1 2XF Telephone: 01851 707 450/461 Local Housing Allowance Housing Benefit is changing on the 1st April 2008 Or visit our website www.cne-siar.gov.uk/benefits Information is also available on the Department for Work and Pensions website (www.dwp.gov.uk) Independent Advice The Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to give you free help and advice. Barra 01871 810608 Harris 01859 502431 Lewis 01851 705727 Uist 01870 602421 Information for landlords What is Local Housing Allowance? LHA is a new way of working out Housing Benefit. LHA is for people on a low income who rent from private landlords. LHA is based on the number of rooms people are allowed, not how much the rent is. The number of rooms allowed depends on who lives with the tenant. Follow this link to read more on Housing Benefits, www.cnesiar.gov.uk/benefits Rather than introduce a precise list of circumstances in which payment could be made to the landlord, we have been given discretion in deciding when that would be more effective. We can decide to make payment direct to a landlord in a number of circumstances including: • Which landlords does Local Housing Allowance affect? LHA affects any landlord who enters into a deregulated private tenancy agreement with a person awarded Housing Benefit. By deregulated we mean entered into since 1989 and not covered by one of the exceptions listed below. • • Who is not affected by Local Housing Allowance? LHA does not affect: • Tenancies with registered social landlords • Protected cases, such as supported housing provided by certain local authorities, social landlords, charities and voluntary organisations • 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. How does Local Housing Allowance affect landlords? The only change for most landlords is that LHA will be paid to the tenant. 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. • • if we consider that the tenant is likely to have difficulty managing his or her own affairs. We have called this ‘vulnerability’. Examples of this could include tenants with a learning disorder or a drug or alcohol problem that would mean they might have problems managing a budget. We have detailed advice for on what counts as ‘vulnerable’ for LHA if we think the tenant is unlikely to use their LHA to pay their rent. This could be if we know the tenant has consistently failed to pay their rent in the past when the LHA has been backdated or there has been a delay in processing a claim and a large amount of benefit is to be paid. In these cases we can decide to make the first payment of LHA by cheque payable to the landlord, although it would be sent to the claimant (this is the same as Housing Benefit Regulation 94.) Making the first payment direct to the landlord is also expected to provide a good indication that the tenancy has actually been established if the tenant has built up rent arrears of eight weeks or more and payment direct to the landlord has been implemented (under current Housing Benefit regulations), we can decide to continue making payments direct to the landlord after the arrears have fallen below eight weeks if the tenant is having deductions from their Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance to pay off rent arrears. To implement any of these safeguards, new and existing, the Comhairle must have documentary evidence. The Comhairle can continue to pay benefit to the landlord if this was in place before the transfer. This can continue for six months or until the tenant’s benefit review is due, whichever is sooner. This allows time for the Comhairle to make decisions about whether or not payment to the landlord needs to be continued in individual cases.
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