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When are your benefits paid directly to your landlord or utility company?

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Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2017

A payment directly to a landlord, a mortgage company or a utility company is called a “vendor payment.” Vendor payments can be voluntary or involuntary.

Voluntary Vendor Payments

You can ask DTA to pay all or part of your benefits directly to your landlord, mortgage company or utility company.

Agreeing to a vendor payment for rent can sometimes help prevent eviction. If you want a vendor payment and are having trouble getting DTA to set it up quickly enough, consult an advocate.

For rent vendor payments, DTA may request verification that the housing meets health and safety standards.

You can cancel voluntary vendor payments in writing and get the benefits yourself. 106 C.M.R. § 706.630. DTA usually gives the vendor one month’s notice before it stops a vendor payment. 106 C.M.R. §§ 706.680-706.690. See DTA Online Guide (Vendor Payments – Cash).

Involuntary Vendor Payments

If you are behind on your bills, DTA may decide you have “mismanaged” your benefits and send all or part of your benefits to a landlord or utility company. DTA may presume that you have mismanaged your benefits whenever your housing expenses have not been regularly paid for three or more months without reasonable cause. DTA should not presume you have mismanaged your benefits and should not put you on vendor payments if:

  • Your income does not meet your basic needs.
  • Putting you on vendor payments would increase your risk of domestic violence.
  • Putting you on vendor payments would increase your risk of becoming homeless, for example if you are doubled up, don’t have a lease, or would be at risk of eviction if DTA paid your landlord directly. 

If DTA decides that you should go on vendor payments for rent, it will require you to get a health and safety inspection report for your address. If your property passes inspection, DTA will put you on vendor payments. If it does not pass inspection, DTA may refer your case to the Department of Children and Families. 106 C.M.R. §§ 706.620-706.680; DTA Operations Memo 2013-48 (Sept. 12, 2013 DTA Transitions, Oct. 2013, p. 4-5.

DTA can also put you on vendor payments if you lose your part of the grant because you do not meet the child support requirements, if you do not meet the Work Program requirements or the terms of an Employment Development Plan, or if you do not meet certain other program requirements. 106 C.M.R. § 706.610.

Advocacy Reminders:

  • DTA has to give you advance notice and an opportunity to appeal before it starts sending your benefits to a landlord or utility company. 
  • A vendor payment for housing must be the amount of the monthly payment. A vendor payment for fuel or utilities must be the average monthly cost. DTA can pay your entire grant to your landlord or your utility company even if you are left without any money for other expenses. 106 C.M.R. § 706.650.
  • Consult an advocate if DTA wants to put you on vendor payments and you are having difficulty getting a health and safety inspection report. DTA says that it may refer your case to the Department of Children and Families if you are unable to get a health and safety inspection report. To the best of our knowledge, the Department of Children and Families does not have procedures for doing an investigation of families who are referred to it because they could not get a health and safety inspection report.
  • Consult an advocate if you are on vendor payments and DTA does not make payments to the vendor on time even though the funds were withheld from your TAFDC benefits.

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