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This guide for RCN members provides information on Local Housing Allowance and eligibility to claim.
Housing laws vary between England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. It is important to consider this when exploring your housing rights and the options available to you.Back to contents
Since 7 April 2008 Local Housing Allowance (LHA) has been paid to tenants, renting a property or room from a private Landlord, who have made new claims for housing benefit. If you are a private tenant and you have been getting paid housing benefit since before 7 April 2008 LHA will only apply to you if you change your address or have a break in your claim.
Your local council (local housing executive in Northern Ireland) may award you LHA if you need help to cover the cost of your rent.
LHA is not usually paid if:
LHA can help cover the cost of your rent and some service charges you may be required to make as part of your tenancy agreement, such as paying for the upkeep of communal areas. It cannot assist with expenses such as heating, hot water, lighting, cooking or laundry.Back to contents
Your local council (or housing executive in Northern Ireland) will take into consideration where you live and the number of people living with you. If you have a family the council will decide how many rooms you need. They will also consider the maximum rent allowed for properties in your local area.
LHA is means tested so takes into account your household income, whether you are receiving certain other welfare benefits, any savings or investments you have and whether you have any non dependants (e.g. adult children) living with you that could make financial contributions to help you pay your rent.
The amount of LHA you get will be based on your own income and the income the government thinks you need to be able to live. This is referred to as the applicable amount.
If your income is more than the applicable amount, this will affect your LHA which will be paid at a reduced rate. This ensures that other people, with similar circumstances, living in the same area receive the same amount of support towards their housing costs.
LHA payments are reassessed every 12 months. This is known as the anniversary of your claim. You should inform your local council if your household circumstance changes within the 12 month period (e.g. changes to your income, if someone moves in or out of your property or your children leave school) so your claim can be reassessed and any readjustments made.Back to contents
Since April 2011 new limits have been introduced for the maximum weekly rate of LHA that could be paid to any household.
In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland the maximum LHA award that can be made for a one bedroom property is £250, for a property with 2 bedrooms it is £290, for 3 bedrooms it is £340 and four 4 bedrooms it is £400. It is possible to rent a property with additional bedrooms but the maximum LHA given would be based on a property with 4 bedrooms.
If you live in Wales or Scotland the rate you will receive will depend on the ‘broad rental market area’ (BRMA) in which you make your claim.
The Welsh Assembly Government has set up the BRMAs in Wales. For further information see www.assembly.wales.
If you live in Scotland the BRMAs would have been established by the Scottish Government. Please see www.gov.scot.
If you live in England or Northern Ireland and would like to check the rate in your local area please contact your local council (or local housing executive if you live in Northern Ireland).
In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland local authorities make decisions about how many bedrooms you need based on the following people in your household:
Foster children are not included in this calculation.Back to contents
During April 2013 the ‘benefits cap’ was introduced across England, Scotland and Wales. This means that the maximum benefit is limited to £500 per week for single parents and couples with children, and £350 per week for single people. The ‘benefits cap’ should not affect you if you work enough hours to qualify for working tax credit.Back to contents
Since January 2012, if you are single and aged under 35, most tenants will only receive LHA at shared accommodation rate. This is paid at a lower rate than properties with 1 bedroom, regardless of whether you live in a house of multiple occupation (renting a room in a shared house) or you live in a self contained property.
From April 2013 LHA rates will increase every April to take into consideration the consumer price index (inflation). It will be calculated using the rate of LHA during the previous year, increased by the consumer price index or the rent paid to the cheapest 30 per cent of properties in your local area; whatever is paid at the lower rate.Back to contents
If the amount of LHA you are awarded doesn’t cover your rent in full you need to decide how you will pay the shortfall. Your local council may be able to offer you a Discretionary Housing Payment but you may need to consider moving to a property that is more affordable or to try to negotiate cheaper rent payments.Back to contents
LHA is usually paid directly into the bank account or building society of the person who has made the claim.
However, your local council (local housing executive if you live in Northern Ireland) may decide to pay it straight to your Landlord if you have rent arrears of 8 weeks or more; or deductions are already being taken from your other welfare benefits towards your rent arrears; or you have a health condition that affects your ability to pay your rent to your Landlord.
Since April 2011 your local council (local housing executive if you live in Northern Ireland) may pay LHA straight to your Landlord if they have agreed to reduce your rent to a more affordable level (usually the LHA rate for the property) or you are a new tenant and it will help you to secure the tenancy.
They may also be able to pay your benefit straight to your Landlord at your request.Back to contents
Shelter the housing and homelessness charity work closely with Citizens Advice Centres offering lots of specialist advice about housing issues occurring in England and Scotland.
Please see www.shelter.org.uk for further details.
Shelter doesn't operate in Wales and Northern Ireland, but is affiliated to Shelter Cymru and works closely with the Housing Rights Service in Northern Ireland:Back to contents