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					      Crawley Borough Council



  LOCAL HOUSING ALLOWANCE

Safeguard Policy for Tenants and Landlords

    Vulnerability and Direct Payments
          Policy and Procedure


                April 2008
             Safeguard Policy for Tenants and Landlords
1. DWP Guidance
Under Local Housing Allowance a tenant cannot simply request that payment is made
to their landlord.

The Department for Work and Pensions has provided guidance on when direct
payments to the landlord may be appropriate.

In most cases, the Council decides whether it is appropriate to pay the landlord the
LHA. However, the LHA must be paid to the landlord where:
   • The tenant is 8 weeks or more in arrears with their rent
   • The tenant is having deductions made from their Income Support or Jobseeker’s
      Allowance to pay for rent arrears.


2. Policy
This policy sets out the guidelines by which officers in Crawley Borough Council will
make decisions on whether LHA should be paid direct to landlords. The policy will
ensure that safeguards are in place to minimise the risk of tenants losing their homes
due to eviction by falling into arrears with their rent and allay fears that landlords may
have regarding potentially vulnerable tenants and those who are unlikely to pay.

The circumstances in which the Council will consider paying the LHA directly to the
landlord are where:

   •   The tenant is unlikely to pay their rent because:
          o   They have rent arrears and have consistently failed to pay
          o   They have a history of arrears with previous landlords

Landlords are encouraged to notify the Council if a tenant is not paying their rent.
Where a request for direct payments on the grounds of rent arrears is made, both the
landlord and tenant will be given one calendar month to provide evidence. Once all the
evidence has been gathered a decision will be made on whether the payment of benefit
directly to the landlord is in the best interests of the tenant and both parties will be
notified in writing.
.
    • The tenant is unable to pay their rent because:
            o     They have financial difficulties which mean they are unable to open a
                  bank or building society account, have severe debt problems or are
                  bankrupt
            o     They are considered to be vulnerable and unable to manage their own
                  affairs.




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The aim of the Vulnerability Policy is to:
• Provide a safeguard for the most vulnerable tenants and reassure them that their
   benefit and rent will be paid
• Prevent rent arrears and tenants being put at risk of eviction
• Help to sustain tenancies for vulnerable tenants
• Reassure landlords that their rent will be paid if they have vulnerable tenants or are
   approached by vulnerable tenants
• Help to put tenants in touch with other agencies where necessary and give people
   the opportunity and support to manage their own financial affairs
• Make reasonable, fair and consistent decisions
• Promote a transparent and simple process that is understood widely
• Treat each case individually and not make assumptions about people’s situations

The policy is not designed to:
• Replace support that is being received to allow tenants the opportunity to be
   responsible tenants and be in control of their own income and expenditure
• Be used by landlords to circumvent the aims of LHA
• Be a blanket policy for agencies providing support to private tenants
• Undermine the rights of tenants to receive payments themselves


2. Decision Making Process for Potentially Vulnerable Tenants

I.    Alerting the Council of Potential Vulnerability

      The tenant or a representative may make the Council aware that a person is
      potentially vulnerable.

      This may be by letter or telephone call from the landlord, tenant or their
      representative asking for payments to be made to the landlord on the grounds of
      vulnerability or financial difficulty.

      It is very important to get written evidence to support the request before a
      decision is made.

II.   Gathering information and evidence

      A Manager or Senior Benefit Officer will consider the information that has been
      received and whether there is enough to make an appropriate decision. Evidence
      should be in writing and may be from:
          • Social workers, probation officers or support workers
          • GP or hospital
          • Support or advisory services such as Citizens Advice Bureau and Shelter
          • A tenant’s family or friends
          • A letter from a bank confirming they are unable to open a bank account
          • Copy of a Court Order or County Court Judgement
          • Rent records but do not accept evidence from the landlord alone.

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       If the evidence is not sufficient, then further information may be requested from
       the tenant or their representative by telephone. A discussion with the tenant or
       their representative may assist in making a decision.


III.   Making a decision

       One of the following decisions will be recommended and approved by a Manager
       or Senior Benefit Officer:

       a)    The tenant is vulnerable and payment of LHA will be made to the
             Landlord

             If it is considered the tenant has a short-term difficulty and can receive
             help to overcome any problems, an appropriate date will be set to review
             the decision. In some cases tenants will have long term difficulties in
             which case payments to the landlord will be ongoing.

             If the LHA is above the tenant’s contractual rent, a split payment will occur
             and tenants should be encouraged to open bank accounts in which to pay
             the excess LHA, if they have not already got one.

       b)    The tenant is not vulnerable and payment of LHA will be made to the
             tenant

             If the tenant has difficulties that are not considered serious enough to
             warrant vulnerability status, there may be support that they can get from
             other agencies to which they should be referred.


IV     Notifying affected parties

       a)    Where the tenant is vulnerable and payment of LHA will be made to
             the Landlord:

             A letter will be issued to the tenant and /or their representative advising
             them of:

                 The decision
                 Reasons for the decision
                 If and when this decision will be reviewed
                 Appeal rights
                 Any advice agencies, voluntary or statutory organisations that may
                 help them




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               A letter will be issued to the landlord advising that:

                  LHA up to the contractual rent will be paid directly to them on behalf of
                  the tenant
                  The length of time the arrangement will stand, if the decision is to be
                  reviewed
                  They should inform the Council of their bank details, if not previously
                  received
                  They must complete the Landlord Indemnity form before payment is
                  made direct to the landlord.


        b)     Where the tenant is not vulnerable and payment of LHA will be made
               to the tenant:

               A letter will be issued to the tenant and / or their representative advising
               them of:

                  The decision
                  Reasons for the decision
                  Appeal rights
                  Any advice agencies, voluntary or statutory organisations that may be
                  able to help them



V       Reviewing a Decision

        Where a tenant may need short term help they will be contacted again to
        determine whether their situation has changed. For example, someone with
        English as a second language may have received help and support and after a
        year feels confident enough to manage their financial affairs and wish to receive
        their LHA directly.

        Following a review, if payment to a Landlord is stopped, then a letter should be
        sent to both the tenant and the Landlord informing them of the decision.


Prepared by:

Date:




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    4. Possible indicators of vulnerability

                     Grounds                                             Evidence
Long Term
Tenant has a learning disability that prevents      •   Care / support      •   Adult Social Care
them from managing on a daily basis                     Workers             •   DWP – (evidence of
                                                    •   GP                  •   benefits)
Tenant suffers from a Medical Condition that        •   Care / support      •   Adult Social Care
makes it hard for them to cope with routine tasks       Workers             •   Hospital
E.G. schizophrenia, dementia, terminal illness    •     GP
Tenant has a physical disability that means that •      Care / support      •   Adult Social Care
they are often housebound making it difficult for       Workers             •   Hospital
them to manage their affairs.                     •     GP

Temporary / Short Term
Tenant has experienced recent changes that          •   Care / support      •   Hospital
has meant they need additional support in               workers             •   Probation officers
managing their affairs                              •   GP                  •   Family / Friends
E.g. bereavement; (violent) relationship            •   Adult Social Care
breakdown; period in hospital; leaving prison,
leaving care
Tenant speaks English only as a second              •   Written evidence from support organisations
language, presenting obstacles to them in               that arrears / debts have occurred as a result
opening and running bank accounts; reading              of not understanding correspondence
and dealing with invoices and bills.
Tenant is dealing with (or has a history of)        •   Support             •   Hospital
addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling and a             Organisations       •   Care / support
substantial monetary payment to them would          •   GP                      workers
present a risk of relapsing.                        •   Adult Social Care   •   Supporting People
Tenant has a history of homelessness and / or       •   Housing Advice      •   Homelessness
rough sleeping and is receiving help to sustain a   •   Advice / Welfare        Teams
tenancy in the private sector.                          Agencies            •   Big Issue


Financial
Tenant has severe debt problems                     •   Creditors           •   Solicitors
                                                    •   Court orders        •   CAB
E.g. CCJs, Bad credit rating that prevents                                  •   DWP are paying
opening bank accounts; undischarged                                             benefit direct to utility
bankruptcy                                                                      company




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