Local Housing Allowance


What is it?
From April 2008, the Local Housing Allowance Scheme (LHA) is used in the assessment of housing benefit for most tenants in privately rented accommodation.

The LHA is based on the rent levels for the area as determined by the Valuation Office Agency and how many people there are living in the household, not the actual rent charged for the property. This means that tenants with similar circumstances will be entitled to similar rates of LHA. It is intended to give tenants choice between the quality and the price of their accommodation.

If the actual rent charged is greater than the LHA, the tenant will have to pay the difference to the landlord. In most cases payment of the LHA will be made direct to the tenant and it will be the tenants responsibility to pay the rent to the landlord. We will only make benefit payments direct to a bank account. Customers will need to open a bank account if they do not already have one. Basic bank accounts are available from most banks. For information about payment of LHA to vulnerable tenants please see our Safeguards Policy.


Who is not affected by LHA?
Local Housing Allowance does not affect all tenancies.
You will not be affected by the changes if:

  • The accommodation is rented from a housing association
  • The tenancy is excluded from current rent restrictions
  • The tenancy includes the provision of care, support or supervision and is provided by local authorities, social landlords, charities or voluntary organisations
  • The tenancy includes substantial board and attendance, such as hotel accommodation
  • The accommodation is a caravan, mobile home or houseboat or ground rent
     

Who is affected by LHA?
LHA only applies to new claims and claims following a change of address from 7th April 2008. Claims that were in payment as at 6th April 2008 will not be affected until the tenant changes address or has a break in their claim.

Calculation
The LHA is a flat rate maximum entitlement to housing benefit. The amount depends on the number of people living in the tenant’s household and the number of bedrooms they need, referred to as the size criteria.

The size criteria
One bedroom for:

  • Every adult couple
  • Any other adult aged 16 or over
  • Any two children regardless of gender aged under 10
  • Any two children of the same gender aged up to 16
  • Any other child
     

For single tenants under 35 years old there will be a "shared" rate of LHA that replaces the single room rent. This rate will also apply to single people over 35 and couples with no other occupiers who chose to live in shared accommodation.

To work out how many bedrooms you are entitled to and which Local Housing Allowance rate would apply to you, you can use the LHA Direct website (see links below) 

How much rent will be taken into account?

To view the rate for a particular property, provided you know the postcode, you can visit the LHA Direct website (see link below).

Once you know what your LHA rate will be you can then use the on line benefits calculator and use the LHA rate and details of your income and household to get an estimate of your entitlement.

Local Housing Allowance Payments
In most cases payment of the LHA will be made direct to the tenant and it will be the tenant’s responsibility to pay the rent to the landlord. Whilst operating the scheme we recognise that there are circumstances where it may not be appropriate to pay the tenant.
These include:

  • where the tenant has 8 weeks rent arrears or more,
  • the tenant is having deductions being taken from their Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance to pay off rent arrears,
  • where the tenant is 'unlikely to pay',
  • where the tenant is 'unable to manage their affairs'
     

Safeguard Policy
Some of the most vulnerable tenants will not be able to manage paying rent themselves. In these cases we will consider making direct payments of LHA to the landlord.

Officers will decide whether a tenant is ‘vulnerable’ and ‘can’t pay’ so the LHA can be paid directly to the landlord. The tenant or their representative must make this office aware that a person is potentially vulnerable. Briefly, reasons for asking for direct payments to landlords could be because of long term problems, such as medical conditions, or medium to short term problems, such as bereavement, language problems, drug or alcohol addictions, severe debt problems. We will need evidence of the problems which cannot be from the landlord alone. If these circumstances apply please e-mail benefits@testvalley.gov.uk



Rent Arrears
Where a tenant goes into arrears of 8 weeks or more, or perhaps the arrears are less than 8 weeks but you believe for some reason the situation is unlikely to improve, landlords can e-mail the details to benefits@testvalley.gov.uk