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Local housing allowance

Local housing allowance (LHA) is a benefit to help tenants of private landlords pay their rent.

What is local housing allowance (LHA)?

Local housing allowance (LHA) is the way that housing benefit is calculated and paid to tenants of private landlords.

You won't receive LHA if you are a tenant of the council, a housing association or a sharing owner. In this case you'll receive housing benefit instead.

If you rent a mobile home, caravan or houseboat you can still claim housing benefit but special rules apply. See the page on mobile homes and housing benefit for more information.

If you were already receiving housing benefit before 7 April 2008, you won't receive LHA until you move address or there is a break in your claim.

What does local housing allowance cover?

Local housing allowance covers:

  • your rent
  • some services charges, that are conditional on you living in the property.

It does not cover charges for heating, hot water, lighting, laundry or cooking.

How will my local housing allowance claim be calculated?

The amount of local housing allowance that you'll receive depends on:

  • how many bedrooms you need for your household 
  • the area in which you live and
  • your income
  • if you live with adults who aren't dependent on you, as money will be deducted from your benefit.

The deductions for non-dependent adults will not affect you if the adults are:

  • under 25 and claiming Jobseeker's allowance or income support
  • non-working full-time students, or
  • receiving pension credit.

If you are under 35 and not part of a couple or responsible for any children, you will only be able to get the LHA rate for a room in a shared room or flat, the 'shared accommodation rate'. There are some limited exceptions to the 'shared accommodation rate'.

There is a benefit cap that affects how much LHA or housing benefit you can receive but if someone in your household is claiming Disability living allowance then you won't be affected by the cap.

How many bedrooms can I claim for?

The maximum number of bedrooms that any household can claim for is four. You'll be assessed as needing a bedroom for each of the following that you have in your household:

  • adult couple
  • any other adult aged 16 or over
  • any two children of the same sex up to the age of 16
  • any two children regardless of sex under the age of 10
  • any other child (foster children are not included)
  • a carer if you or your partner are disabled and require overnight care.

You can still claim LHA for a property with more than four bedrooms, however the maximum benefit you'll get is the four bedroom rate. Use the LHA bedroom calculator to check how many bedrooms you might be eligible to claim for. It is possible that your rent will be higher than your housing benefit. If you think you might struggle to pay your rent you can apply for a discretionary housing payment from your local council.

In addition, if you need overnight care from someone who doesn't normally live with you, you can get extra help to pay for an extra bedroom. Tell your council's housing benefit department that you need this help as soon as possible so that you get the right amount of Local housing allowance.

The local housing allowance rate for your area

Your local council should publish the LHA rate for your area, this will usually be on their website. You can also check the amount of LHA you are likely to receive on the LHA Direct website.

From April 2015 most LHA rates are the lower of:

  • the 30th percentile on the list of rents (based on data about rents in this area collected over the previous 12 months), or
  • the existing LHA rate plus 1 per cent.

Some rates have been increased by 4 per cent.

How does my income affect my claim?

The amount of local housing allowance that you'll get is based on your income compared with what the government thinks you need to live on. This is called the 'applicable amount'. If your income is more than the applicable amount then there is a good chance that you will receive less LHA. For more information see the page on how housing benefit is calculated.

What if I am a joint tenant?

If you're a joint tenant then the amount of local housing allowance you receive will depend on whether:

  • you have a non-dependant living with you
  • you are over the age of 35, and in addition to your bedroom, you have exclusive use of a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.

If you answer yes to one or more of the above then you should get the two-room rate, if the answer is no then you will get the shared room rate.

How do I claim local housing allowance?

If you think that you are eligible for local housing allowance you should make a local housing allowance claim. You can claim:

  • in writing - using a housing benefit claim form
  • by phone if your council has a special phone number for benefits claims
  • by email or online if your council allows it.

Your local council's housing benefit department will be able to help you make a claim.

When should I claim local housing allowance?

If you think you're eligible for local housing allowace you should claim as soon as possible.

If there are no changes in your circumstances your claim will be reassessed every April. 

It's important that you tell your council about any changes in your circumstances that could affect your claim. For example, a rent rise or people moving in or out of your home.

I am going to claim, can I stop paying rent?

Don't stop paying your rent. You may not be entitled to LHA or you might only get help with part of the rent, leaving you to make up the rest. Claims can sometimes take a while to process and you could be left with huge rent arrears. If possible, try to find out roughly how much you'll get when you hand in your form.

If you're having difficulty paying your rent and you're unsure if you'll be entitled to the full amount of LHA, try to keep making payments at a level you can afford. You should also tell your landlord that you've claimed LHA.

When will I receive the local housing allowance?

Your local housing allowance should be paid from the Monday after you handed in your claim form. Sometimes claims can take a while to process, if this happens your LHA should be backdated to the Monday after you claimed.

If have not received a payment within 14 days of handing in your form and you provided all the information required, you are entitled to a payment while you are waiting for your claim to be processed. This is called a payment on account or an interim payment.

You should get this payment automatically. However, this does not always happen, so you may have to ask your council to make a payment. Download a sample letter asking for a payment on account. It's a good idea to do this as soon as possible after the 14 days, so you don't fall behind with your rent.

If your council does not make this payment you can make a complaint.

The amount you're paid may be less than your rent. Once your LHA claim is assessed, any difference between your LHA and the payment on account will either be refunded or claimed back from you.

Who does local housing allowance get paid to?

Local housing allowance is paid directly to you. However, it can be paid straight to your landlord where:

  • you have rent arrears of eight weeks or more
  • you are already getting deductions from your income support, employment and support allowance or jobseeker's allowance to pay for rent arrears
  • your council helped you get your private rented accommodation. 

The council can also pay your LHA straight to your landlord if it believes you are:

  • likely to have problems managing your financial affairs because you have a learning disability or a drug or alcohol problem
  • unlikely to pay your rent and are aware that you have consistently failed to pay rent in the past, without good reason.

To come to a decision the council can consider information from various sources such as:

  • yourself
  • your family
  • your landlord
  • your doctor
  • your probation officer
  • community mental health teams
  • social services departments
  • welfare officers.

If your landlord is willing to reduce your rent to a more affordable level (normally to the LHA rate for the property) then they may be able to get LHA paid directly to them.

If the council decides to pay LHA straight to your landlord this decision will be reviewed after 12 months. 

If you need help you should contact your local council or speak to an adviser in your area.

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