If a home is rented from a private landlord, how we pay Housing Benefit (HB) depends on when the claim was made and the type of tenancy and landlord.

In this section

Claims made before 7th April 2008

If the LHA rules do not apply, there is more choice about who we can pay. A tenant is exempt from LHA rules for the following categories:

  • claims made before 7th April 2008
  • tenants of Registered Social Landlords; or
  • tenants of Registered Housing Associations; or
  • tenancies which started before 15 January 1989; or
  • certain supported housing, where the landlord is a registered social landlord, charity or non profit making voluntary organisation, that provides the tenant with care, support or supervision; or
  • hostel dwellers; or
  • tenancies where the Rent Officer has decided that a substantial part of the rent is for board and attendance.

If the pre LHA rules apply a tenant can request that we pay either:

  • themselves; or
  • the landlord;
  • the landlord's agent; or

On their claim for HB, a tenant must choose either:

  • to have direct credit to their bank for building society account; or
  • to have direct credit to the landlord or their agent's bank for building society account.

Exceptions

Even if the tenant asks us to pay them, we will pay the landlord direct if:

See Paying the landlord direct for more details.

Claims made after 7th April 2008

Most claims made by private tenants after this date will be paid under the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules. There are some exceptions to this. See Claims made before 7th April 2008 for further details.

Under the LHA rules we must pay HB to the tenant. There is no longer the choice to ask us to pay a landlord or their agent, even if the tenant would like us to.

Tenants may need money advice because they are not used to paying bills or do not know which ones are priorities. Please see our LHA leaflet for further details.

Exceptions

There are some people who will either:

  • have problems paying their rent; or
  • are unlikely to pay their rent, because of the past history or
  • paying the landlord will secure affordable accommodation for the tenant.

In these cases we are able to consider paying HB directly to a landlord or their agent. See Vulnerable tenants and To secure a tenancy below for more details.

Even if we do not consider the tenant is vulnerable or needs a direct payment to secure a tenancy, we will pay the landlord direct if:

See Paying the landlord direct for more details.

Paying HB to directly to landlords

First HB payment

If we believe it is in the best interests of the tenant, we can make the first payment to the landlord and then make the regular HB payments to the tenant. We will do this is the amount of the first payment is substantial. We would not normally do this if the tenant has previously been receiving HB and has not had problems with paying their rent and has no record of arrears. Please see our Safeguard policy for more details.

NOTE: Landlords should note that if HB is overpaid to them they may be liable to repay the overpayment if we believe they could have known the HB was overpaid (e.g. if the tenant moved out with out notifying us). See Benefit overpayments.

Tenants in arrears

If the tenant is eight weeks or more in arrears with their rent, we must pay the landlord, unless the tenant has a legitimate reason for withholding the rent, for example, they are in dispute with the landlord regarding repairs and maintenance.

This applies to all tenants in the private rented sector- not just those being paid HB under the LHA rules. Eight weeks arrears includes any period where the rent should have been paid in advance, in accordance with the tenancy agreement.

If the tenant is in arrears equivalent to more than 8 weeks landlords can fill in our on line form.to report this to us as soon as possible. We would encourage landlords to contact us once any rent in advance has not been paid and this creates arrears of 8 weeks or more.

We will usually suspend Housing Benefit, until we can make a revised decision on who we pay.

Please see our Safeguard policy for more details.

Vulnerable tenants

Under the LHA rules we must pay HB to the tenant. However, there are some people who:

  • will have problems paying their rent; or
  • are unlikely to pay their rent because they have a past history of not paying their rent.

In these cases we are able to consider paying HB directly to a landlord or their agent.

Merton has a policy that prevents vulnerable tenants who are unable to manage their financial affairs and those tenants who are unlikely to pay their rent, from falling into arrears. Please see our Safeguard policy for more details.

If you have evidence that a tenant falls into this category you can fill in our Request for direct payments to a landlord form. Further information can be found in our LHA leaflets.

To secure a tenancy

Payment for private rented accommodation can be made to the landlord, if the we agree that it will assist the tenant to secure a new tenancy or retain an existing tenancy.

This is designed to provide landlords with an incentive to reduce rents to a level that is affordable to tenants who claim HB. If a landlord is willing to reduce a rent to or near to a new LHA rate, we will look at paying HB directly to them, as soon as the landlord confirms the reduced rent in writing.

Please see our Safeguard policy for more details.

Frequency of payments

If we pay the tenant we will pay HB for the previous two weeks to a bank account. If they do not have a bank account we can help HB claimants get a Basic Bank Account. See Basic Bank Accounts for HB customers.

If we pay the landlord or the landlords agent we will HB for the previous four weeks to a bank account.

What if I disagree with who you pay HB to?

Please see our LHA leaflet for more details about what to do if you disagree with a decision about direct payment to landlords.

If you think the Housing Benefit decision is wrong, please go to Benefit appeals

See also

Contact us

Merton Benefits Service
PO Box 610
Merton Civic Centre
London Road
Morden
SM4 5ZT

Email: housing.benefits@merton.gov.uk
Telephone: 020 8274 4903
Textphone: 020 8545 3959
Fax: 020 8545 3960