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Local Housing Allowance (LHA)
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Local Housing Allowance?
- Will I be affected by Local Housing Allowance?
- How does Local Housing Allowance work?
- What if I am under 35 years of age?
- Do you or your partner require overnight care?
- How much Local Housing Allowance will I get?
- What if the rent charged by my landlord is higher than my Local Housing Allowance rate?
- How long will my Local Housing Allowance last?
- I have asked for my claim to be backdated. Which rate of Local Housing Allowance will my claim be based on?
- I would like my Local Housing Allowance to be paid to my landlord. Is this possible?
- I am moving to a new home. How can I find out what my maximum Local Housing Allowance will be?
- What happens if the number of people resident in my household changes?
- I disagree with the Local Housing Allowance rate. Can I appeal?
Local Housing Allowance (LHA) was introduced on 7 April 2008 and is used to work out most new claims of Housing Benefit for tenants who live in private rented accommodation.
LHA has been designed to be a fairer and simpler way of working out Housing Benefit for people on low income. The scheme changes the way the maximum amount of benefit allowed is worked out and how it is paid.
LHA is a flat rate housing allowance, based on the size of the tenant's household, not the actual rent charged for the property by the landlord. This means that tenants with the same household criteria and living in the same area will be entitled to the same rate of LHA.
Local Housing Allowance will affect you if:
- You make a new claim
- You change address
- You have a break in your Housing Benefit entitlement of one week or more
Local Housing Allowance does not affect:
- Tenants of Registered Social Landlords (Housing Association)
- Tenants who have a registered or 'fair' rent
- Tenancies which commenced before 1989
- Protected Housing Benefit cases, such as supported housing provided by Social Landlords, Charities or Voluntary Organisations
- Tenancies in caravans, houseboats or hostels
- Tenancies where the rent includes a substantial amount in respect of meals
If your claim falls into one of these categories your Housing Benefit will be worked out under existing rules.
The Rent Officer Service, which is an independent agency, is responsible for setting the Broad Rental Market Areas (BRMAs) and LHA rates. There is one BRMAs in Ceredigion.
The Rent Officer Service provides the Local Authority with a set of rates ranging from shared to four-bedroomed accommodation and from April 2012 the LHA rates have been fixed for one year. The Government has announced that the LHA rates from April 2013 will be increased by the 30th percentile of local market rents in the previous September and that they will cap the increases to 1 per cent in 2014/15 and 2015/16.
The LHA rate that will be used in the calculation of your weekly entitlement depends on the 'category of dwelling' (i.e. number of bedrooms) allowed for your household.
The number of bedrooms you will be entitled to will be based on the number, age and gender of the people you have living with you in the household. You are entitled to one bedroom (up to a maximum of four bedrooms) for:
- every adult couple (married or unmarried)
- any other adult aged 16 or over
- any two children of the same sex aged under 16
- any two children aged under 10
- any other child
- a non-resident overnight carer - see 'Do you or your partner require overnight care?'
Single claimants under 35 will be entitled to the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) - see 'What if I am under 35 years of age?'. Single claimants over 35 and couples with no children will be entitled to the 1 Bedroom self-contained rate of LHA, providing they rent property of at least that size.
A child/children that only stay with you at weekends cannot be included as part of your household unless you receive Child Benefit in respect of them.
Government rules limit the amount of Housing Benefit/Local Housing Allowance that single people aged under 35 and who have no children living with them can claim. You will only be able to claim a Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) to help with your rent.
You will be exempt from the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) if:-
- You are a person under 22 who was formerly in Social Services care,
- You receive Housing Benefit/LHA for a non-resident carer,
- You are entitled to the Severe Disability Premium in your benefit calculation because you receive the middle or higher rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance, Daily Living Component of Personal Independence Payment or Armed Forces Independence Payment
- You are aged between 25 & 35 and have spent at least 3 months in a specialist homeless hostel,
- You are an ex-offender who poses a risk to the public
You may be entitled to an increase in your LHA rate if you, or your partner, requires overnight care.
To qualify for this increase, you or your partner should be in receipt of Attendance Allowance or the care component of Disability Living Allowance at the highest or middle rate OR from April 2013 the daily living component of Personal Independence Payments or an Armed Forces Independence Payment. You will also be required to provide sufficient evidence which satisfies the Authority that you require overnight care e.g. a letter from your doctor, certificate of disability, etc.
Your carer must not occupy your dwelling as their home and there must be a bedroom available for the carer to use when they stay overnight.
There are no changes to the benefit entitlement rules; the amount you will receive still depends on the money you have coming in each week, what savings you have and who else lives with you.
The maximum LHA rate that will apply to your claim will be the rate from the April of the financial year you claim i.e. April 2013 LHA rates will apply for claims made or treated as made during the period 01.04.2013 to 31.03.2014
Knowing in advance the maximum LHA rate that will apply to you will give you the choice of which properties you can afford to live in.
If you choose to rent a property where the actual rent charged is higher than the LHA rate then you will have to pay the difference to your landlord.
If you must take on a property where you have to make up a shortfall to your landlord you may wish to consider making a claim for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP)
From January 2013, due to a change in legislation, your rate of LHA will be reviewed annually from the beginning of April each year unless there is a change in your circumstances which will affect the number of bedrooms used to calculate LHA, for example, when another person moves into or out of your property.
I have asked for my claim to be backdated. Which rate of Local Housing Allowance will my claim be based on?
If you ask for your claim to be backdated and we agree to do this, your LHA rate will be based on the figures that apply for the financial year you have asked your claim to start from.
Please see Backdating for more information.
One of the major changes of the LHA scheme is that tenants will no longer have the option of asking the Local Authority to send their benefit direct to their landlord.
LHA payments will normally be paid direct to you and it will be your responsibility to pay the rent to your landlord. Safeguards are in place, which permit the Local Authority to make direct payments in the following circumstances:
- Where deductions are being made by the Department for Work and Pensions from the tenant's Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit to pay rent arrears.
- Where there are rent arrears of eight weeks or more and the Local Authority considers it is in the overriding interest of the tenant to make direct payments.
- Where the Local Authority decides the tenant is unable to deal with their financial affairs.
As well as the existing rules, we can now pay the landlord where they have helped secure or retain your tenancy by charging a reduced rent that you can afford (this will normally be the LHA level or below).
You will need to:
- work out how many bedrooms your household needs, please see 'How does Local Housing Allowance work?'
- View current rates
If somebody moves in or out of your household, you must tell us immediately. We will then change your maximum benefit to the correct LHA rate for the required number of bedrooms for your household.
Failure to inform the Local Authority within one calendar month of the change may mean that we are not paying you enough benefit and you could miss out on money you are entitled to or it may mean that we are overpaying you and you will have to pay it back later.
There is no right of appeal against the LHA rates or any part of a decision made by the Rent Service because an appeal would call into question the level set for the whole area. Any changes to the published maximum rents would require Local Authorities to identify and adjust all claims that had been made using that rate. It would undermine the transparency and certainty of the scheme for other customers.