One of the key issues of the moment is the removal of direct payment of housing benefit to landlords unless the tenant is eight weeks or more in arrears. However, in the Department of Work and Pensions December monthly update to local authority staff called Housing Benefit Direct there is a tantalising prospect of middle ground being found. It states:
From April 2011, we are temporarily widening the direct payment safeguard provision to enable you [local authority staff] to consider making payments to landlords when it would help customers secure or retain a tenancy. We intend to issue detailed guidance relating to using this safeguard soon. However, this measure is intended for use only when landlords reduce their rent to a level that is affordable to tenants (which will usually be on or around the LHA rate). This should by no means be considered a return to direct payments to landlords as a matter of course and we will continue to engage with you over the next few months in the run up to April in relation to implementation of the package of measures, including the application of this safeguard.
An HB/CTB Adjudication circular providing more detail will be issued imminently and more information is available at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/local-authority-staff/housing-benefit/claims-processing/local-housing-allowance/
We are sending a toolkit of implementation products to benefit managers shortly.