Rent will be paid direct to landlords where tenants are in arrears, where the Universal Credit scheme is being currently piloted.
The provision – apparently a last-minute U-turn – is in advice to housing benefit staff.
It allows landlords with rent arrears cases of under two months to refer such cases, so that staff can discuss the arrears with tenants as part of the ‘personal budgeting support process’.
Where arrears are over two months, direct rent payment will be made automatically to the landlord.
The Residential Landlords Association said this was a step-change in policy by the Government, which has previously insisted that direct payment to landlords would only be allowed in exceptional circumstances, and even then, not automatically.
Richard Jones, policy director of the RLA, said the change was significant but added: “However, government promises of automatic direct payments do not yet extend to the national roll-out of Universal Credit later this year, and we are eager to ensure that it will apply when this happens.
“At the same time, the RLA will continue lobbying for a shorter time period in which automatic payments can be triggered, and for more details about the direct payments process.
“It is important for landlords to know that if tenants fall into arrears an immediate stop will placed on further payment of housing costs to the tenant until direct payments to the landlord have been established.”