Changes to local housing allowance
Local housing allowance rate increases are based on the consumer prices index
From April 2013 local housing allowance rates are increased every April at the lower of:
- the LHA rate for the previous year increased by the consumer prices index, or
- the rent paid for the cheapest 30% of the rents in your area.
Local housing allowance claims to be reviewed every April
LHA claims are assessed every April, instead of on the anniversary of your claim. This is because LHA is put up in line with the consumer prices index, so there’s no need for LHA claims to be assessed on the claim anniversary date.
However, if your rent goes up or down during the year you'll be able to have your claim reassessed. For example, if your rent is £100 per week and the LHA rate is £110 and your rent goes up to £105 part way through the year, you can have your claim reassessed. This means that your housing benefit should cover your rent.
Cap on benefits to be applied through housing benefit in 2013
From 15 July 2013 a cap on benefits will be introduced to Scotland. At first this will be applied by reducing the housing benefit you receive. If you're single and have no dependants the cap is £350 p/w. For everyone else the cap is £500 p/w, this includes couples and families. If someone in your household is claiming disability living allowance then you won't be affected by the benefit cap.
Under 35s now receive the shared accommodation rate
From 1 January 2012 if you're under 35, not part of a couple, or responsible for any children, you will only be able to get the local housing allowance rate for a room in a shared house or flat. This is called the ‘shared accommodation rate’. There are some limited exceptions to this, see the page on housing benefit for under 35s for more information.
The £15 weekly excess has been removed
From 1 April 2011 the extra £15 you could receive if your local housing allowance was below the maximum you could claim for was removed.
Local housing allowance rates are reduced
The way that local housing allowance rates are worked out changed on 1 April 2011. Now around 3 in 10 properties should be affordable to people on local housing allowance. Previously, about half of all properties were affordable. How much your benefit will fall by depends on where you live. For example, using the March 2011 LHA rates, the difference between the old and new rates is:
|Old rate p/w||New rate p/w|
|3 bed property||
|1 bed property||
You may be able to pay the difference between your rent and your LHA from other income, or you may want to think about moving to a cheaper home.
A maximum of four bedrooms per claim
The maximum number of bedrooms you can claim local housing allowance for changed to four on 1 April 2011. Previously, the maximum was five bedrooms.
You can still claim LHA for properties with more than four bedrooms. However, the maximum you can receive is the four bedroom rate and you'll have to pay any difference between your LHA and your rent.
Use LHA Direct's online calculator to work out how many bedrooms you can claim for.
Extra local housing allowance for disabled people who need overnight care
From 1 April 2011 if you rent privately and you need overnight care from someone who doesn’t normally live with you, then you can get help to pay for an extra bedroom. It is important that you tell your local council’s housing benefit department that you need this extra help as soon as possible. This is to make sure you get the right amount of local housing allowance.
Increased deductions for non-dependants
The money that can be taken off your local housing allowance if you share your home with adults who aren't dependent on you, e.g. adult children, relatives and friends, has been increased. Money is taken off your benefit because it is presumed that these people will help pay your rent.
The weekly deductions for 2013/14 are:
- For people aged 25 and over and claiming income support, jobseeker’s allowance or main phase employment support allowance - £13.60
For people aged 18 and over and earning a total of:
- Less than £124 per week - £13.60
- Between £124 and £183 per week - £31.25
- Between £183 and £238 per week - £42.90
- Between £238 and £316 per week - £70.20
- Between £316 and £394 per week - £79.95
- Over £394 per week - £87.75
This will not affect you if you share your home with adults who are:
- under 25 and claiming jobseeker’s allowance or income support
- non-working full time students, or
- receiving pension credit.
If the benefit you receive is reduced you will have to pay the difference between your rent and your local housing allowance either yourself, or by asking the adults in your home to pay more towards your rent.
Will my housing benefit claim be affected?
If you are renting from a private landlord and claiming housing benefit then it's likely that you'll already be affected by these changes.
However, these changes will not affect you if all of the following apply:
- you made your claim before 7 April 2008 (when the LHA scheme was introduced),
- you have not moved since you made your claim, and
- there has been no break in your claim.
What if local housing allowance doesn’t cover all of my rent?
If your rent is higher than the benefit you receive you'll have to pay the difference yourself. If you are having difficulty making up the difference it may be possible to:
- talk to your landlord to see if they will consider lowering your rent, or
- apply for a discretionary housing payment from your local council to help make up the difference.
If you are in financial difficulty because of the changes to housing benefit you should get advice immediately.