Local housing allowance
Local Housing Allowance (LHA) was introduced on the 7th April 2008. It is a way of calculating your rent allowance. LHA pays a flat rate of benefit, depending on the number of bedrooms that your household requires. The payments, wherever possible, will be made to yourself rather than your Landlord. This results in a simpler and fairer system that promotes responsibility and choice.
- Who does LHA affect?
- Who decides the LHA rates?
- How are my LHA rates worked out?
- Current LHA Rates
- What are Broad Rental Market Areas (BRMA)?
- How much LHA will I get?
- What if I have a carer who stays at my property?
- Will my LHA rate remain the same throughout my claim?
- Size Criteria
- How much can a single person under 35 get?
- What if my LHA is higher than my rent?
- What if I have service charges included in my rent?
- How will LHA be paid?
- Can my LHA still be paid to my Landlord?
- What if I am awarded Backdated Benefit?
- Your appeal rights
Updates - changes in LHA Regulations
Changes from April 2012
From the 1st April 2012 LHA rates will no longer be redetermined on a month by month basis by the Rent Officer. The rates set from the 1st April 2012 will be frozen until the 1st April 2013.
LHA rates are currently reviewed on a annual basis, subject to each individuals own 'anniversary review date'. Their 'anniversary review date' has previously been determined based on each individuals own unique date of claim, change of address date, increase/decrease in household composition or significant birthday date.
Under these new changes all LHA rates will be reviewed on the first of April from April 2013. These rates will then apply until the following April.
changes from January 2012
As part of the Governments program of welfare reform the age threshold, for single person's with no dependant children being assessed under the 'shared accommodation' bedroom rate, has been increased from 25 years old to 35 years old. Please click here for further details regarding this.
LHA applies to:
- Claimants who claimed for the first time after the 7th April 2008;
- Claimants who have changed address after the 7th April 2008; (Please note that this also includes people who have changed rooms within the same property)
- Claimants who are reclaiming after a gap in their claim of at least one week;
LHA does not apply to:
- Existing Housing Benefit claimants (who do not fall under any of the above);
- Tenants of Housing Associations or other Social/Charitable Landlords;
- Council Tenants;
- Tenants who live in Hostels (NACRO)/Houseboats/Mobile Homes or Caravans;
- Tenants whose tenancy began before 1989;
- Tenants whose rent includes a substantial element of Board/Lodging;
- Tenants in shared ownerships;
- Any letting that is 'exempt' accommodation; (where the care, support or supervision provided by the Landlord and is on a more than 'minimal' basis)
- All 'non-LHA' tenants will continue to be assessed under the 'pre LHA' Housing Benefit scheme.
The LHA rates are decided by the Rent Officer. This was also the case with the 'pre April 2008' Rent Officer Decisions. The Rent Officer will set the rates annually each April, taking into account the Consumer Price Index (CPI) when determining the forthcoming years rates. The figures are then passed through to us to advertise to our customers and to use in the assessment of claims.
The amount of LHA you receive is determined by:
- The area you live in, this is known as the Broad Marker Rental Area (BRMA); and
- Who lives in your House with you, known as the size criteria.
Central Government have introduced 'caps' to the amount of LHA from the 1st April 2011. This now means that no area in the UK will receive LHA rates above the following:
- £250.00 per week for a one bedroom property
- £290.00 per week for a two bedroom property
- £340.00 per week for a three bedroom property
- £400.00 per week for a four bedroom property
With effect from April 2012 the LHA rates will be frozen for a period of one year. Then from April 2013 the rates will be reviewed annually in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This will replace the previous requirement to review the LHA amount used for each individual based on their unique annual anniversary date. This date was previously determined based on their date of claim, date they changed address or the date there was a significant change in their household circumstances.
Pre April 2008 the Authority was required to refer your rent to the Rent Officer to determine the maximum (eligible) rent that should be used in your claim. The 'Rent Officer Decisions' were determined on an individual property basis.
For LHA purposes the Valuation Office Service no longer value properties on an individual basis. Instead the LHA rates are set by establishing the average (median) rent charged by Landlords, based on the size of the property and the area it is located.
In order to determine this you will need to calculate several factors.
- Your Size Criteria: This will tell you the Bedroom rate that you require for LHA purposes. To work out your size criteria please use the Bedroom Calculator.
- The BRMA that your property is located in: You will need to insert the post code of the property you will be claiming for. You will need to select the Bedroom Rate (that you have already worked out above) and the month that you wish to know the LHA rate for from the drop down.
- Benefits Calculator: Once you have determined your LHA rate you can then use the Benefits Calculator to input your income and LHA rate. From this you will be able to obtain an estimate of any Benefit that you may be entitled to.
Please note that any figures given are for guidance purposes only and in no means constitute an actual benefit assessment.
From the 1st April 2011 an extra bedroom will be awarded if the Local Housing Allowance claimant or partner requires 'overnight' care from a non-resident carer and a bedroom is available for their use.
The following conditions must be met:
- The person requiring 'overnight care' is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or can provide certificates, documents or evidence 'sufficient to satisfy the Local Authority' that they require care overnight.
- The Local Authority is satisfied that the person reasonably requires the overnight care and has made arrangements for one (or more) persons, who do not occupy the house as their home, to provide 'overnight' care on a 'regular' basis. It is also significant that the 'overnight' carer be provided with the use of an additional bedroom for that purpose. This bedroom must be in addition to ones occupied by the person being cared for any other member of the claimants household. It is not enough to require a carer only by day and the overnight stays must be on at least a 'regular' basis.
If you feel that you may be entitled to an extra 'bedroom' in your LHA bedroom rate calculation please contact us on 01246 242436.
Your LHA rate will be reviewed after a year, on the anniversary of your LHA start date. This will continue to apply until April 2013. Upon review your LHA will be amended to the current rate of LHA, based on your household circumstances.
However, if you have a change in circumstances that requires the LHA rate to be amended before that date, the change of circumstances date becomes your annual review date.
Any changes that means you are entitled to more or less bedrooms will lead to a review of your LHA rate. Examples of changes in circumstances that would lead to an LHA review are:
- A single claimant turning 35;
- A Partner joining or leaving the Household; (if you are aged under 35)*
- The birth of a new baby;
- A Child or Non-Dependant Adult joining/leaving the Household;
- A Child turning 10 or 16 years old.
* If you are aged over 35, a Partner moving in or out will not affect the LHA rate that is payable to you. This is because the 'One Bedroom Rate' is applicable to both couples and single persons aged 35 and over. For single people, aged under 35, only the 'Shared' room rate of Local Housing Allowance is payable.
The LHA rate is based on the number of bedrooms required by the household only. A claimant is entitled to one bedroom each for:-
The claimant (and Partner if applicable);
Any other adult aged 16 or over;
Any two Children under 16 of the same sex;
Any two Children regardless of sex under the age of 10;
Any other Child.
If you would like to calculate the number of bedrooms that your family would be entitled to under Local Housing Allowance Regulations please click here.
If you are a single person, aged under 35, you can only get the lowest rate of Local Housing Allowance. This is referred to as the 'Shared Accommodation' rate. This applies regardless of the type of property that you actually live in.
You may also only qualify for the 'Shared Accomodation' rate if you are aged over 35 and part of a couple (with no children) that lives in 'Shared Accommodation'.
'Shared Accommodation' is defined to be having the exclusive use of only one bedroom, and sharing the use of one or more of a: Kitchen, Bathroom or Toilet
If your LHA rate is higher than the amount of rent that you are liable to pay, then your 'eligible' rent will be restricted to the amount of rent that you are liable to pay.
LHA takes no account of any services or charges included in your rent. No deductions are made from your LHA for these.
LHA, wherever possible, will be paid to you. We are unable to pay Housing Benefit into a Post Office account. You will need to have a Bank or Building Society Account.
Local Housing Allowance must be paid to you, unless you are; unable to manage your finances, you are unlikely to pay your rent or you are the equivalent of eight weeks or more in rent arrears. This is referred to as being a 'vulnerable' tenant.
Therefore, if you do not have a bank account, you will need to open one in order to receive your benefit. Basic bank accounts are available from many of the banks throughout the local area.
Yes, but only in exceptional circumstances.
If your Landlord contacts us, requesting direct payment of LHA because you have rent arrears of eight weeks or more, we will request proof of the amount of your rent arrears. If the amount of arrears on your rent account is confirmed to be in excess of eight weeks or more we will pay your Housing Benefit directly to your Landlord. Housing Benefit will revert back to you once the arrears have been cleared.
If you feel that any of the above explanations apply to you, and you would like to request that Local Housing Allowance be paid directly to your Landlord please complete our 'application for Local Housing Allowance to be paid to Landlord' form. You can also contact us and request a copy of this form on 01246 242436.
Your Housing Benefit claim will be assessed based on the amount of LHA that is applicable at the 'start' of your claim.
If you apply for backdated benefit, and we consider that 'good cause' has been proven to backdate your claim, the 'start' of your claim will change.
This may mean that the Local Housing Allowance rate, that should be used in the assessment of your claim, may change. This will only apply if the backdated benefit start date is a different month to the normal start date.
The amount of LHA that will be used to assess your claim will be the amount that is applicable in the month that your claim is 'commenced' from, should this be the 'backdated' month or the 'normal' month.
You can not appeal against the LHA rate itself. This is a flat rate, which is used for all similar sized properties in the area. The rates are determined by the Valuation Office, which is independent to us, for us to use in the assessment of your claim.
However, you can appeal if you think that we have used the wrong level (i.e. - Bedroom rate) of LHA in the assessment of your claim. For example; You believe that you are entitled to more 'bedrooms' than we have allowed when assessing your claim.
You can also appeal against a decision over who LHA will be paid to.
All appeals must be received, in writing, within a calendar month of the date of our decision. You should accompany your request with evidence and reasons as to why you do not agree with our decision.
Further information can be found about the appeals process.
If you have any questions regarding Local Housing Allowance you can contact us at LHABenefits@bolsover.gov.uk or on 01246 242446.
Other Advice and Support agencies:
- Citizens Advice Bureau
- Derbyshire Uneployed Workers Centre
- 2 Shires Credcit Union
- Mortgage Rescue Scheme
Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 14:11