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articles > How to Make Sure Your LHA Claim is Paid in 14 Days
Article > How to Make Sure Your LHA Claim is Paid in 14 Days

Article kindly supplied by John Paul

www.thelhaexpert.com
Suite 1, Easington Business Centre,
Seaside Lane, Easington, Durham, SR8 3LJ

01915878132

 
LHA - How quickly should a claim be paid?

Once the Local Authority has received all of the information and evidence it requires from the Claimant, it must:

• Reach a decision on the claim within 14 days or as soon as reasonably practicable after that

• Notify the persons affected (Claimant and Landlord or Letting Agent) as soon as the claim has been decided

• Make payment within 14 days of the receipt of the claim or as soon as practicably after that

Now the above information is taken straight from the DWP guidance and by using the words “practicably after that” could be taken to mean “when we get round to it”.

However we have used this information to our benefit on numerous occasions to different Local Authorities. As soon as you feel the claim is taking too long, (any time after 2 weeks) phone the Council and ask them why the decision is taking too long.

Local Authorities have a duty to allocate sufficient resources to their caseload so that the majority of claims are to be processed within 14 days. The fact that some Local Authorities fail to meet this standard is not an excuse. Providing that all information and evidence have been received, the majority of Local Authorities will hit this target. We regularly get our cases completed within the 14 day target.

The Local Authority is expected to meet the target with regard to 14 days and there are options open to Local Authorities or Landlords in order to remedy this:

• Complaints to the appropriate Ombudsman – See www.lgo.org.uk for further details on how to complain.

• Action in the county court or sheriff court to require Local Authorities to make a payment if they have agreed that the
claimant is entitled.

If a full decision of payment cannot be made, a payment on account must be made within the 14 days if the following circumstances are met:

• The Claimant qualifies for and is to be paid housing benefit

• The Local Authority is unable to make a full decision on the amount of LHA payable within 14 days of receipt of the claim

• That inability has not arisen out of the Claimant’s failure, without good cause, to provide necessary information or evidence (which the Local Authority has requested in writing from the Claimant)

Payments on account must be made by the Local Authority, based on whatever information was available to it about the Claimant’s circumstances, such as income etc.

The payment on account is not discretionary by the Local Authority, and must be made, providing all information and evidence that has been asked of the Claimant has been provided.

Payment on account is basically part payment, the remainder of the payment will be made once a full and final decision has been made.

Many Local Authorities fail to make payments on account or only act when the Claimant’s tenancy is at risk. These practices are unlawful and may expose the Local Authority to judicial review or a complaint to the appropriate Ombudsman.

 

Maladministration
This is when a Local authority has carried out poor administration and had not performed as expected. The claimant or landlords can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman. For further guidance on how to complain, what constitutes maladministration and recent ombudsman reports on housing benefit etc see www.lgo.org.uk

I must insist that this MUST be the last report to get a decision made or overturned. I strongly recommend working with your local authority and explain the situation to the parties concerned, only after it is clear there is no way forward should you contact the ombudsman. Please give the local Authority every chance possible!! There will be situations that may be 50/50 in regard to backdating claims, or paying you direct. If the relationship has been soured, I suspect your local authority won’t be doing you any favours any time soon.

We know from speaking to the different Councils, what information and evidence they require in order to process the claim as soon as possible and although they aim to process the claim within the 14 days, inevitably it doesn’t always happen. There has to be a fine line between gentle complaining and threatening to take the Local Authority to the Property Ombudsman.

We tend to gently remind the Local Authority that they have to process the claim within the specified time limit, rather than go stomping around and threatening further action. After all, we have to deal with the Local Authority in relation to many other matters and reputations can be made or lost very quickly.

 

Case study
One case that we were unhappy about was when a tenant and her 3 children moved into a property around Christmas 2009. We handed in all evidence to the LA, it was a simple case, she was on income support and qualified for the 3 bedroom rate. Her children were 9, 10, and 12 all boys. We chased the case up after 10, 14, 16, 20, and 21 days only to be told that it had not even been looked at. We e-mailed a letter to the head of benefits expressing our disappointment and reminding the LA about the 14 day deadline. We also stated we were going to the ombudsman regarding the situation.

Within 24 hours the case was processed and the claimant and we had both been notified of the result and payment. Working with your local authority is of the utmost importance and we certainly do not recommend threatening your LA with court action every time a claim goes over the 14 day deadline. We, and our landlords accept that when dealing with DSS tenants a reasonable amount of time to wait is 4-5 weeks. It is not in our interest to argue with the LA and we do not wish to have that relationship with them. It doesn’t hurt now and again to make the council aware that you fully understand the system and of what is expected of the Local Authority.

ITS HERE !
John has written a LHA E-book that is full of tips and tricks that can be used to improve your cash flow and understanding of Local Housing Allowance. It will be a must for any landlord dealing in this sector.

 

 
 

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