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Ribble Valley Borough Council

Housing Benefits and Council Tax Support

Local Housing Allowance (LHA)

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Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is a new scheme for the way in which housing benefit claims for privately rented properties are treated from April 2008. .

Who can get LHA?
If you have a low income and pay rent for your property to a private landlord you may be able to claim LHA. You can't claim if you have savings over £16000, unless you are aged 60 or over and receive the guaranteed element of pension credit. There are special rules if you are a full time student or live abroad.

How much LHA will I get?
The LHA is set each month by the rent service and gives allowances for households who need up to four rooms. Most tenants receive the LHA based on the number of rooms their household needs not the number of rooms in the property they rent or the rent that they are charged. The LHA awarded when you make a claim lasts for one year unless your household circumstances change. After one year it is updated. The current rates can be viewed at the bottom of this page.

How many rooms am I allowed?
You are allowed one bedroom for:

  • each adult couple
  • any other adult (aged 16 or over)
  • any two children under 10
  • any two children of the same sex aged 10 to 15 or for
  • any other child.

We do not take any other rooms into account when this is worked out.

Single people over 25 years old and couples with no children: (*)
If you are single and over 25 or a couple with no children you will get the one room LHA rate but you must rent a property with at least two rooms or less than two rooms if it is self contained. This means that the accommodation has its own bathroom/toilet and kitchen. If the property has less than two rooms and is not self contained you will be entitled to the shared room LHA only.

Single people under 25: (*)
If you are single and under 25 you get the shared room LHA no matter what size of property you rent.

* Please note that this is due to change to age 35 from 1 January 2012 - please see changes from 1 January 2012 below.

Joint tenants
Joint tenants are people who are not a couple but share a property and are named on the tenancy agreement. Joint tenants will get the LHA for their own household not including the family of the other joint tenants.

Local housing allowance rates
The rates are set each year by the Valuation Office Agency. Your rate will only be updated every 12 months unless there are any changes.

Payments of local housing allowance
Local housing allowance will usually be paid directly to yourself by cheque. Payments can only be made 4 weekly in arrears. Its up to you to make sure your rent is paid to your landlord.

Bank accounts
You should be able to open an account either at a bank or building society to get your local housing allowance. If you are having difficulty opening an account please let us know as we may be able to help.

Safeguards
Some people may have difficulty getting the local housing allowance and paying their rent. Payments of local housing allowance can be made direct to a landlord if:

  • we consider that a tenant is unlikely to pay their rent
  • we think that a tenant cannot handle their own affairs
  • we can also make payments directly to landlords where a tenant is more than 8 weeks in arrears with rent

If someone else looks after your money for you, or there is a power of attorney, payments can be made to the person who looks after your money or the person with the power of attorney.

What to do if your circumstances change? You must tell your local council if:

  • any of your children leave school or leave home
  • anyone moves into or out of your home (even on a temporary basis)
  • you or anyone living with you becomes a student or goes on a training scheme
  • your income, or the income of anyone living with you, changes
  • your capital or savings change
  • your rent changes
  • you move
  • you or your partner or civil partner are going to be away from home for more than a month
  • any other changes

It is an offence not to tell us about any change of circumstance that affects your benefit. We may take court action against you and if we pay you too much benefit you will probably have to pay it back.

The LHA rate also depends on which Broad Rental Market Area (BRMA) you are living in, please see the table below. Eg. Clitheroe comes under East Lancs, Longridge comes under Central Lancs and Read/Simonstone comes under West Penine.


The Current Local Housing Allowance Rates

 


Broad Market Rental Area
LHA Category (all figures are  weekly)

 Central Lancs 57

 

East Lancs 56

 

West Pennine 34

 

Shared accommodation

£51.10 £53.50
£63.36
   1 bedroom self contained
£87.69 £78.46 £76.65

2 bedrooms

£109.62 £90.00
£85.00

3 bedrooms

£126.92
£103.85
£97.09

4 bedrooms

£160.38
£138.46
£138.23

Changes starting from 1 April 2011

From 1 April 2011 there will no longer be a 5 bedroom rate. 

For new claims from 1 April 2011 the Local Housing Allowance rates will be calculated using the 30th percentile of rents.  The table above now shows an indication of what the new lower LHA rates would be if they were based on the 30th percentile of rents rather than the median as they are now.

Existing claims may be affected from the anniverary date or as a result in some changes in household circumstances.

Changes starting from 1 January 2012

New rules starting in January 2012 for single private tenants aged 25 to 34

The shared accommodation rate that currently applies to single people under 25 who are tenants of private landlords will also apply to people aged under 35.

The new rules mean that if you are a single person aged 25 to 34 living on your own in self-contained accommodation, we can no longer base your Housing Benefit on one-bedroom self-contained accommodation. Instead, we must use a 'shared accommodation rate', which is a much lower rate and may be lower than the rent you pay.

From 1 January 2012, the shared accommodation rate will apply to single private tenants under 35. This affects people making new Housing Benefit claims from 1 January straightaway and will affect people who are already claiming Housing Benefit after this, depending on when they claimed. Many single private tenants aged 25 to 34 living alone in self-contained accommodation will find that their Housing Benefit doesn't cover their rent.

When the new rules don't apply

We will not have to use the shared accommodation rate for some single people under 35. The new rules will not apply to you if:

  • someone else (for example, a partner, child, elderly relative, friend or grown-up child) lives with you as part of your household.
  • you rent from a housing association 
  • you live in supported housing provided by a housing association, registered charity or voluntary organisation and get a package of care or support from your landlord (or from somebody else on behalf of your landlord). 
  • your private tenancy began before January 1989.  
  • you are severely disabled and get the middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance. 
  • you need an extra bedroom for a carer who does not live with you but who provides you with overnight care. 
  • you are aged under 22 and have been in the care of a local authority since the age of 16, or have been accommodated by a local authority since the age of 16. 
  • you have lived in a hostel for homeless people or a hostel that provides rehabilitation and resettlement within the community for at least three months. You must have received resettlement support to help you live in the community. 
  • you are an ex-offender and your housing has been arranged for you through Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) for managing the risk posed by sexual and violent offenders. 

When will the new rules start for someone single, aged 25 to 34, who is renting a self-contained home from a private landlord?

The new rules are set by the government and are extremely complicated. The date they start depends on the date you claim Housing Benefit, or if you are already claiming, the date you claimed.

If you claim on or after 1 January 2012
We have to use the shared accommodation rate straightaway to work out your benefit. The shared accommodation rate, like the other LHA rates, can change each month so we can't say how much it will be in the future. To give you an idea, the shared accommodation rate for October 2011 is £58.50, £50.50 or £49.00 depending on which part of the Ribble Valley the property is in. You can check the current month's shared accommodation rate on the Directgov website - you need your postcode to do this.

If you are already getting benefit under the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules and you were claiming before April 2011, the new rules usually apply nine months after your first 'anniversary date' after April 2011. Your 'anniversary date' is the date we look at your LHA rate again on the anniversary of your claim. For example, if you claimed in September 2010, your anniversary date was in September 2011. We have to use the shared accommodation rate from nine months after this, so from June 2012 we will use the June 2012 shared accommodation rate.

If you get benefit under the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules
and you claimed (or start claiming) between 1 April 2011 and 31 December 2011
, the new rules usually apply 12 months after you claimed. They apply from your 'anniversary date' - the date we look at your LHA rate again on the anniversary of your claim. For example, if you claimed benefit in July 2011, your anniversary date is in July 2012 and we must apply the shared accommodation rate from July 2012, using the July 2012 rate.

If you are already getting benefit and the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules don't apply to you (this usually means you claimed before 7 April 2008) the new rules usually apply 12 months after your first annual review after April 2011. Your annual review is a year after you claimed and is the date we look at your claim again. For example, if you claimed benefit in May 2007, your first review after April 2011 was in May 2011 so we must use the shared accommodation rate 12 months after this, in May 2012. We will use the May 2012 shared accommodation rate.

You may be affected sooner if you move or have a change in your household
We may have to use the shared accommodation rate from a different date if you move or have a change in your household that means you need a different number of bedrooms.

For example:
A couple both aged 27 have been claiming Housing Benefit since November 2010. They live in a self-contained one-bedroom flat and so they get the one-bedroom rate of LHA. Their anniversary date is November 2011. They split up and one person moves out in February 2012. The person staying on in the flat tells us about this change straightaway and we have to look at their LHA rate again in February 2012. We must use the shared accommodation rate from the date of the change, February 2012, because this is after the new rules start, they are now a single person living alone, aged under 34, and the new rules apply straightaway.

Another example:
A single person aged 26 claimed Housing Benefit in August 2011 and is getting the one-bedroom rate because they are renting a one-bedroom self-contained flat. Their anniversary date is August 2012 and we must start using the shared accommodation rate from August 2012. However, they move to another self-contained one-bedroom flat in November 2011. Because of the move we have to look at their LHA rate again, so their new anniversary date is November 2012. We use the shared accommodation rate from November 2012.

If' they had moved to their new flat in March 2012 instead of November 2011, we would start using the shared accommodation rate from March 2012 because the move (and our review of the claim) was after the start of the new rules in January 2012, so the new rules apply from the date of the move.

What can you do?

  • Work out if the new rules apply to you.
  • If they do, work out when they will take effect and contact 01200 414453 if you need help with this. 
  • Look at the LHA rate to get an idea of how much extra you will need for your rent. 
  • Discuss your options with your landlord - they may consider reducing the rent. 
  • Consider if you need to move to shared accommodation. 
  • If the new rules will cause you hardship and your circumstances mean it's difficult for you to move, apply to us for a discretionary payment. However, even if we decide to pay this, this will only be a temporary solution. 
  • Could you make a change to your household? If you live on your own, have more than one bedroom and get the one-bedroom LHA rate, could someone else come to live with you? If someone lives with you as part of your household, the shared accommodation rate won't apply. However, we may have to take a non dependant deduction off your benefit for them.

To find out which area your address comes under, check the GOV.UK housing benefit information.

If you have any queries about local housing allowance more information can be found on the Department of Works and Pensions website. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/housingbenefit/claims-processing/lha/faqs.asp. This also includes changes being introduced from April 2011.