The Department of Work and Pensions guidance to local authorities states that a local authority should “consider” direct payment, even if the tenant is not in eight weeks arrears:
“When rent arrears have reached the equivalent of eight weeks or more, in most cases, a local authority should arrange to make payments direct to the landlord. However, landlords should be encouraged not to wait for the eight week period to be reached before contacting the local authority. If the landlord informs the local authority that a tenant is in arrears with their rent, but that the arrears have not yet reached the equivalent of eight weeks, a local authority should consider interviewing the claimant to discuss the non-payment of rent. After interview, you may consider making direct payments immediately or making a referral to help or advice services before the arrears reach the eight week point.” [HB Reg 95(1)(b)] [para 6.60 DWP Guidance]
See here for the guidance referred to.