In most modern cases, the initial assumption is that payment of housing benefit is made directly to the tenant. It is only possible to be paid directly to landlords in certain cases.
3.16.1 Mandatory Direct Payment
A local authority must pay a landlord direct if the tenant is the equivalent of 8 weeks or more in arrears with their rent. The landlord must notify the local authority about the arrears before payment to the landlord can be made.
Where the rent is payable monthly in advance under the tenancy agreement, it is confirmed by the current Government guidance that direct payment should be made after one month and one day of non-payment as that is the equivalent of 8 weeks arrears – see paragraph 4.060 Local Housing Allowance guidance and good practice for local authorities https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-housing-allowance-guidance-and-good-practice-for-localauthorities.
Direct payment is also available when a tenant is receiving Universal Credit but is known as a “managed payment”. The tenant should be two months or more in arrears and an application for a managed payment must be made to the central handling department. Further guidance and a form is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universalcredit-and-rented-housing.
3.16.2 Discretionary Direct Payment
There are a number of circumstances where the local authority may make direct payment to a landlord if they choose. However, even if the circumstances exist, they still don’t have to make direct payment because these rules do not have to followed and are discretionary only:
the local authority considers that the claimant is likely to have difficulty with the management of his financial affairs; or
the local authority considers that it is improbable that the claimant will pay his rent; or
a direct payment has previously been made to the landlord after being 8 weeks or more in arrears; or the local authority considers that it will assist the claimant in securing or retaining a tenancy.
Similar discretionary payments will also be available where the tenant is claiming Universal Credit.