Local Housing Allowance guidance
Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is Housing Benefit paid to most tenants of private landlords when you:
- make a new claim for Housing Benefit;
- claim after a gap in benefit because of a change in circumstances; or
- move to a privately rented home from another type of home such as a housing association property.
Local Housing Allowance rules
The amount of benefit you get depends on the following criteria:
- who lives with you
- where your home is
- how much money you have coming in
- your savings
- how much rent you pay
LHA rules do not apply to you if:
- you have been claiming without a break, for the same address, since before April 2008
- you are a private tenant who tenancy began before January 1989
- you are a tenant of a housing association, Eastbourne Homes or Lewes District Council
- you live aboard a caravan, mobile home, houseboat or hostel
- you live in board and lodgings accommodation
If LHA rules apply to you, you can find the LHA rate for your home. You need to know:
- How many bedrooms the rules say you need and
- which LHA area your property is in
How many bedrooms do you need?
The number of bedrooms that the rules say you need may differ to the number of rooms in your home. There are different rules if you are single and under 35. (Link to page on Under 35)
Unless you are single and under 35 the rules say you are allowed 1 bedroom for each of these:
- a couple
- a single adult or young person aged 16 or over
- two children under 10 of either sex
- two children under 16 of the same sex
- other child
- a carer providing you or your partner with regular overnight care but not living with you
- a child with severe disability who can't share a room
- a foster child (or children) - if you're an approved foster carer but waiting for a child to be placed you can count an extra room for them for up to 52 weeks
- a former non-dependant (usually a son or daughter) who is a member of the armed forces but away on operations and intending to return.
Once you have worked out the rules you check your rate online at the Valuation Office Agency website.
Rules for single under 35s
If you are single, under 35 and live alone in a privately rented property, you usually get the shared accommodation rate of LHA, even if you live in a self-contained one bedroom flat or in a house where you have sole use of more than one room.
There are some exceptions to this rule:
- If someone lives with you as part of your household, for example a child or an elderly relative.
- If you get the middle or higher rate care part of Disability Living Allowance, or the daily living part of Personal independence Payment.
- If you are under 22 and have been in a care of a council since you were 16, or housed by a council since you were 16.
- If you need an extra bedroom for a carer who doesn't live with you but provides you with overnight care.
- If you are an approved foster carer.
- There are some other exceptions if you are single and aged between 25 and 35 and have self-contained accommodation or sole use of rooms, you will not be restricted to the shared accommodation rate:
- If 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 also received resettlement support to help you live in the community or
- If you are an ex-offender and your housing has been arranged for you through Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). You don't need to tell us if this applies to you, one of the agencies will tell us.
Local Housing Allowance for joint tenants
Joint tenants are people who live together but who are not in the same household, for example, three single friends who share a house. If each has their own room and shares kitchen, bathroom, toilet, living room, dining room, they each get the shared room rate of LHA.
If each has more than one room of their own they get:
- The one bedroom rate if they are over 35
- The shared room rate if they are under 35, unless exempt from the shared room rate.
LHA for people in shared accommodation
The LHA rate for shared accommodation is lower than the one bedroom rate. There are some exceptions where you could qualify for a one bedroom rate:
- If one of you is severely disabled and gets the middle or higher rate care part of Disability Living Allowance, you get the one bedroom LHA rate instead.
- If you are under 22 and have been in a care of a council since you were 16, or housed by a council since you were 16, you get the one bedroom LHA rate instead.
- If you need an extra bedroom for a carer who doesn't live with you but provides you with overnight care, you will receive the two bedroom LHA rate.
- There are also some exceptions for single over 35s who live alone and share some parts of the accommodation:
- If you have sole use of at least two rooms (counting only bedrooms and living rooms) you get the one bedroom rate of LHA instead of the shared rate, even though you share part of the accommodation with other households.
- If you have sole use of one room and sole use of a bathroom, a toilet and a kitchen or cooking facilities, you get the one bedroom rate of LHA.
- If you and your partner, if you have one, live in shared accommodation (sole use of one bedroom and shared use of any other rooms like the kitchen, bathroom, toilet or living room), you usually get the shared accommodation rate of LHA.
An extra room for a carer
If you (or your partner) need and receive regular overnight care from a carer who does not live with you, you are allowed an extra bedroom in the LHA calculation, up to a maximum of four bedrooms.
As well as needing overnight care you (or your partner) must either:
- Get Attendance Allowance, middle or highest rate care part of Disability Living Allowance, enhanced rate of living component of Personal Independence Payments.
What happens if your Local Housing Allowance rate is different from your rent
It is likely that the LHA rate for your property will be different from the rent that your landlord is charging.
- If the rate is less than your rent you will have to pay the extra rent yourself.
- If the size of your household changes we will reassess your benefit for the change. It might mean that we have to use a different LHA rate if the number of people in your household changes.
- If special circumstances mean it is difficult to pay the extra yourself, or that you must live where you do, but the landlord won't reduce your rent to the LHA rate, you might be eligible for a Discretionary housing payments to help.
- If the LHA rate is more than your rent we will only pay the rent you are being charged, not the higher LHA rate.
Should you change to LHA if your currently get 'old style' Housing Benefit
If you are getting Housing Benefit under the old rules, you can check the LHA rate for your home to see if you will be better off changing to LHA.
If you check and decide that you do want to change you can fill in a form to end your current Housing Benefit claim and make a new claim under LHA rules.
You must take into account the following advice before you make a decision:
If you request to move onto LHA and complete a new claim form, there will be a gap between your claims of one week. You will not be entitled to benefit for any gap between claims. You must make an arrangement with your landlord to pay your rent for that period. The gaps may be longer if you delay in any way. For example, if there is another change in your circumstances and you don't give us evidence about the change.
The LHA rate for your property can change if there is a change in your household. You must tell us about changes so that we can check the rate.
New LHA rates are set every April. If the rate has changed we will use the new rate to work out your benefit, even if it is lower.
You will probably not be able to have your benefit paid direct to your landlord. We will pay you and you will have to arrange to pay your own rent.
How we usually pay Local Housing Allowance
We usually pay you not your landlord. You cannot choose to have your rent paid direct to your landlord because you prefer it or because it's more convenient.
- We can only pay your LHA into your bank account.
- We cannot pay into a post office card account.
- We make payments at the end of the period they are for (in arrears).
- We will pay you every two weeks in general.
When can we pay your landlord direct?
We can decide to pay your landlord if:
- You don't use your Housing Benefit to pay your rent
- You have rent arrears of eight weeks or more or a history of rent arrears
- You find it difficult to manage finances
- Your landlord helps you to get a new tenancy or keep your current tenancy, by reducing your rent so that you can afford it.
If you, your landlord or somebody acting for you, tell us that any of these apply to you we can pay your landlord. We will ask for written evidence to support this from someone like:
- Your landlord
- A welfare agency
- A social worker
- A health worker
- An advice worker
- Friends or family
We may decide to pay your landlord if you, or somebody acting for you, tell us that you have difficulty managing finances which may lead to you not paying your rent. For example:
- You have severe debt problems
- You can't open a bank account
- You have learning difficulties
- You suffer from ill health
- You have just left care.
We will ask for written evidence to support this.