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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Local Housing Allowance

If you are a private tenant renting a property or room from a private landlord and you are on a low income, you may be able to claim and receive Local Housing Allowance. Find out more, including how it's paid.

What is the Local Housing Allowance?

If you are renting a property or room from a private landlord, the Local Housing Allowance is used to work out how much Housing Benefit you get.

The amount of Housing Benefit you get will depend on where you live and who lives with you.

Local Housing Allowance rates are set for different types of accommodation in each area. The rates range from a single room in a shared house, up to properties with four bedrooms.

If you have been getting Housing Benefit since before 7 April 2008, the Local Housing Allowance will only apply to you if you:

  • change address
  • have a break in your claim

How much you will get

Your Housing Benefit will be based on the Local Housing Allowance that applies to you.

The way that Local Housing Allowance rates are worked out is changing from April 2011. You may get a lower amount of Housing Benefit.

If you already receive Housing Benefit, it is important that you consider these changes - especially if you are thinking of moving or signing a new tenancy.

Find the Local Housing Allowance rates for where you live

Local Housing Allowance rates are published at the end of each month for the following month. For example, the December rates will be made available at the end of November.

You can check these and your LHA bedroom entitlement by using the 'LHADirect bedroom calculator and rate finder' or by visiting your local council's website

Checking the rates will help you find out how much help with your rent you might get - before you find somewhere to live. Knowing this will make it easier for you to decide which properties you can afford.

Moving or signing a new tenancy?

There are changes you need to think about before moving or signing a new tenancy.

There are important changes to Local Housing Allowance from 1 April 2011.

If you are making a new claim, these changes will apply to you from this date.

If you are already claiming Housing Benefit, you may have more time before these changes apply to you. If your circumstances don’t change, you will continue to get the same rate of Local Housing Allowance as you get now. After 1 April 2011, this will continue for nine months after your local authority next assesses your Housing Benefit.

Limits for Local Housing Allowance

A limit will be introduced so that Local Housing Allowance will not exceed:

  • £250 a week for a one bedroom property (including shared accommodation)
  • £290 a week for a two bedroom property
  • £340 a week for a three bedroom property
  • £400 a week for a four bedroom property

The maximum rate of Housing Benefit will be limited to the rate for a four bedroom property.

£15 weekly-excess payment removed

Currently, if the rent you pay is less than the weekly Local Housing Allowance rate, you can keep up to £15 of the difference.

From April 2011, if the rent you pay is less than the weekly Local Housing Allowance rate, you will only receive the amount you need to pay for your rent.

This will apply to you if you already receive Housing Benefit, or if you are making a new claim. 

Reductions to Local Housing Allowance rates

Rates for Local Housing Allowance will be reduced across the country.

To help you plan for the changes next year, you can compare the current rates for where you live against what the new rates are likely to be.

How to claim

You can claim Housing Benefit as soon as you have a rent agreement with your landlord.

How it's paid

The payment will normally be made straight to your bank or building society account.

Payments to landlords

Payment is not normally made to your landlord - it is up to you to pay your rent to your landlord. If you don't pay your rent, you may be taken to court and evicted from the property.

If you are worried about managing your money, ask your local council if they can help you. In some cases they may be able to pay your benefit to your landlord.

What to do if your circumstances change

If you are getting Housing Benefit and you move to a new address or other circumstances change, you should tell your local council straightaway.

See 'Housing Benefit' to find out more about changes of circumstance.

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