If you are a private tenant and you make a new claim for help with your rent, change address or have a break in your claim, we will work out your new housing benefit under the local housing allowance (LHA) rules.
Every April the Government sets a local housing allowance figure based on:
- the area where you live
- the number of bedrooms you need
The LHA figure determines the maximum amount of rent that can be used to calculate the amount of help we can give.
If you are charged more rent than the LHA figure, the part of your rent that is above the LHA amount will not be covered by the help you get from us.
- Does LHA apply to me?
- I have been on benefits since before April 2008. How can I move on to LHA?
- How do you work out my LHA rate?
- How many rooms am I entitled to?
- What if I suffer a bereavement?
- What if I have just lost my job and could previously afford my rent?
- What if my rent is lower than the LHA rate?
- When will my LHA rate change?
- What if my rent increases?
- How will you pay my housing benefit?
- Can you pay housing benefit direct to my landlord?
- Can I appeal against the amount of housing benefit I am being paid?
LHA will not apply to you if:
- you pay rent to the Council or to a registered social landlord
- your housing benefit claim started before 7 April 2008 and you have continued to claim at the same address
- you began your tenancy before 1989 or have a registered rent (the Valuation Office has set your rent)
- you have a tenancy where a large part of the rent covers board and attendance (such as hotel accommodation)
- you live in a caravan, mobile home, hostel or houseboat
If you have a break of more than one week in your housing benefit claim, you will automatically move on to LHA.
So to move on to LHA you need to end your claim in writing and then make a new claim a week later. There must be a one-week break in your Housing Benefit claim.
If you are only part way through your tenancy agreement you should not sign a new one at a higher rent, as we may continue to pay you benefit using the rent on the original agreement until the original agreement ends.
The country is separated into broad rental market areas (BRMAs). A BRMA is made up of a number of local neighbourhoods and contains a mix of property types within a reasonable distance of local services. Hackney has three BRMAs. Each separate area has its own LHA rate.
From 1 April 2017, there will be a 3% increase to the shared accommodation rate in the Inner North London, and Central London Broad Market Rental Areas. All other LHA rates in Hackney remain frozen and will not increase.
LHA rates from 1 April 2017
Inner East London
Inner North London
The LHA rate is the maximum rent we can use when working out your housing benefit and it depends on the number of bedrooms you need.
Under LHA rules, we work out how many bedrooms you need. You need one bedroom for each of the following:
- a couple
- a person over 16
- two children of the same sex aged under 16
- two children of any sex who are younger than 10
- a single child under 16
- one bedroom for an overnight carer if appropriate
Extra rooms may also be allowed for the following:
- armed forces personnel - adult children who are in the Armed forces, but who continue to live with parents will be allowed a room, even when deployed abroad on long term operations
- disabled children - disabled children who can not share due to severe disability, where the other sibling would have their sleep regularly disturbed if they had to share a room, will be allowed an extra room
- foster children - approved foster carers will now be allowed a maximum of one extra room if they have foster children. Even if they don't currently have a child placed with them, they will be allowed a room where they have fostered a child in the last 12 months or become an approved foster carer in the last 12 months
Maximum number of bedrooms
The maximum number of rooms which a household can qualify for is limited to a maximum of four bedrooms.
If you rent a property with more than four bedrooms, you will be limited to the rate for four bedrooms, even if due to household size you should qualify for more rooms
Shared accommodation rate
You will come under a different LHA rate (called the shared rate) if you:
- live in one room and share some facilities with other people (for example, a kitchen or bathroom)
- are a joint tenant
- are under 35 and live alone
Sarah, 22, lives alone in a two-bedroom flat. Because she is a single person and under 35, she will be limited to the shared rate of LHA.
Sarah then has a daughter but stays in the same property. She becomes eligible for the two-room rate of LHA from the date her daughter is born.
Her friend Karen lives in a three-bedroom house. She has a boy aged 9 and a girl aged 7. She is entitled to the two-room rate of LHA as children under 10 are expected to share a room.
When her son turns 10, Karen becomes entitled to the three bedroom rate as her children are no longer expected to share a room.
Help for disabled people who have a carer who needs to stay overnight
The government intends to help disabled people who need overnight care, by allowing an extra room for a non resident carer.
To qualify for the extra room either the claimant or their partner must require overnight care.
We will automatically accept that overnight care is required where the person in need of care receives Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance Care at middle or higher rate.
All other applicants would need to provide relevant evidence from a medical practitioner, a GP or other healthcare professional, or social services establishing that overnight care is required before the extra room could be awarded.
In all cases there must be a spare bedroom in the property for the carer to use, and we are still limited to paying based on a maximum LHA rate for four bedrooms.
If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit and someone who lives with you has died, the number of rooms you are entitled to will remain unchanged for a period of 12 months after their death.
If you were not previously receiving Housing Benefit, and someone who lives with you has died in the last 12 months, then we will pay your full eligible rent for 12 months from the date of death.
Where the LHA rate is less than your eligible rent, providing you or your household could afford to pay the rent when you entered the into rental agreement, your Housing Benefit will be calculated using the full eligible rent for the first 13 weeks of your claim. This 13 weeks protection does not apply if you have received Housing Benefit in the previous 52 weeks.
You cannot be paid more in Housing Benefit than your total rent charge. If your rent charged is lower than the LHA rate, then we will calculate your Housing Benefit on the rent charged.
Local Housing Allowance rates are set for 12 months and change on 1 April each year. This means, irrespective of which month you make your claim in, the Local Housing Allowance figure used will be the annual figure set in the April.
Local Housing Allowance rates are updated annually on the 1st April for all claimants regardless of when a person made their claim.
The new rates are usually available from the middle of March and can be obtained from our reception, or by contacting our call centre on 020 8356 3399.
Once applied the LHA rate will remain unchanged until the following April, unless if there is a change in the number of bedrooms you need.
If the number of bedroom you need changes as someone has moved into or left your household, one of your children turns 10 or 16, the LHA rate will alter from the Monday after the change.
If you claim Housing Benefit and your claim is backdated, the previous years LHA rate will apply to any period prior to April, and the current LHA rate will apply for any period after 1 April.
Changes to LHA from 1 April 2016
The government announced in the 2015 Summer Budget the decision to freeze LHA rates for 4 years. From April 2016, rates will either remain at the April 2015 rate or be set at the 30th percentile of local rents if this is lower.
We can review the LHA rate when there is been a mid year increase or decrease in rent.
This will mean if your rent is below the LHA rate and increases, we will be able to immediately review your LHA claim.
This will only apply where the rent changes after April 2013 and is below the LHA rate. You must always tell us of a rent increase within one month of when it happens.
We pay housing benefit direct into your bank account. If you do not have a bank account, contact your local bank about opening one.
Under LHA rules, we will almost always pay the benefit direct to you. We cannot make payments direct to your landlord just because you would prefer this.
However, in very exceptional cases we may consider paying your landlord. We will only do this if we believe that paying LHA to you direct will cause you serious problems, or if we believe it is in your best interest to pay your landlord.
Paying your landlord could be appropriate in certain situations, for example if you have serious debt problems, an addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling, or a medical condition which makes managing money difficult. It may also be appropriate if you have had problems with paying your rent in the past.
If you think you might find it difficult to receive LHA direct, please contact us for advice. You will need to fill in a form explaining the reasons why.
We may also need to see evidence from an independent person or organisation such as a GP, Social Services, or a welfare group.
You can get a friend, family member or support worker to help you fill in the form, or you can contact Citizen's Advice or other support organisations for more information and help.
We will pay your landlord direct if you owe them more than eight weeks' rent. You will need to provide evidence from your landlord, for example a rent statement showing that you owe more than eight weeks' rent. As soon as you have less than eight weeks of unpaid rent, we will start paying LHA to you again.
If you or your landlord disagrees with our decision about who should receive the payment, you both have the right to ask us to look at the decision again.
You should ask within one month of our decision. If you are still unhappy, you have the right to appeal. You can do this by contacting us in writing within one month of our decision.
If we decide to make payments direct to your landlord, we will usually check the situation from time to time so that we are sure the decision is still correct.
For more information about when we will consider making payments direct to your landlord read our local housing allowance safeguard policy [pdf, 96.33Kb] .
If you disagree with our decision, you must write to us within one month of the decision and tell us why. Once we reply, and if you still disagree, you can ask that we send the decision to an independent tribunal to consider. Or, you may appeal direct to an independent tribunal.
Unfortunately there is no right of appeal against the LHA figure we use to work out your LHA rate as these are set by the Valuation Office. However, if your housing benefit is not enough to cover your rent, you could apply for a discretionary housing payment to help you meet the extra rent costs (although whether you are entitled to this depends on your circumstances).