Local Housing Allowance (LHA) affects people renting private sector accommodation (but not Housing Associations) who:
Make a brand new claim for Housing Benefit
Change address to a private rented tenancy, or
Reclaim benefit for a private tenancy after a break in their claim
Anyone who currently rents private sector accommodation will not come under these rules until they have one of the changes described above.
LHA is based upon the number of bedrooms the claimant or their household need. The LHA room rates are set by the Rent Service and this rate is equivalent to the maximum amount of Housing Benefit we can pay the claimant. The actual amount of Housing Benefit that will be awarded will be based on the LHA room rate that applies to the claimant’s household and their circumstances.
The amount of rent we use when working out the claimant’s benefit is either their actual rent, or the relevant LHA room rate, whichever is the lower.
The LHA rate we use when calculating the claimant’s Housing Benefit is based on the room rate that the Rent Service has set. This rate will be reassessed every April, unless there is a change in the size of their household, which means a different LHA rate should be used. If a change in their household size means a new LHA rate should be used, or there is a change in the amount of rent charged.
The LHA rate is based on the number of bedrooms that are needed by the household and not the number of bedrooms in the property or the actual rent.
LHA rates will be updated every April. This means they will remain the same between April 2013 and March 2014.
The most number of bedrooms payable under the LHA scheme is limited to the 4 Bedroom rate. This means that if your circumstances are such that you require 5 bedrooms or more, your Housing Benefit award will be restricted to the 4 Bedroom rate.
The maximum weekly Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates for Sheffield (calendar monthly figure is shown in brackets) are:
Shared accommodation - £61.32 (£265.72)
1 Bedroom accommodation - £91.15 (£394.98)
2 Bedroom accommodation - £105.00 (£455.00)
3 Bedroom accommodation - £115.00 (£498.33)
4 Bedroom accommodation - £150.00 (£650.00)
There is a restriction for claimants who are under 35 years old, are single and do not have any dependents or non-dependants as they can only get the LHA shared accommodation rate. The restriction does not apply if a claimant is over 35 years old.
The exceptions to this restriction are:-
Under the LHA rules Housing Benefit is paid to the claimant, unless they are likely to have difficulty paying their rent; they are more than 8 weeks in arrears with their rent (this can include rent payable in advance); or they are on Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance and deductions from this benefit are being made to pay off rent arrears.
There are many reasons why someone might have difficulty in paying their rent; for example someone may have learning difficulties, be unable to read or speak English, be an un-discharged bankrupt, have severe debt problems, or have an addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling. In circumstances like these we may be able to pay their benefit to their landlord. To help us establish whether or not it would be appropriate to pay to the landlord we have produced a Safeguard Policy. A copy of the policy can be viewed by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.
If the claimant is worried about managing their money, we can give advice on who can help with this.
The intention is to give customers a direct responsibility for making payments of rent to their landlord. This isn't appropriate in all cases, so each case is looked at individually to ensure payments go to the right person.
In the majority of cases, Housing Benefit will be paid directly to the claimant into a bank or building society account. It is therefore important that any bank account that may be used to receive payments is within its agreed overdraft limit so that you can access the money. It is important that you let us know if you think your account may be overdrawn beyond your agreed overdraft limit.
If you don’t have access to a bank or building society account, we strongly advise contact with a local bank to arrange to open one. This way, you will have a number of ways to access your Housing Benefit payment and can arrange to pay your rent to your landlord using a standing order, by cheque or by cash: whichever is most appropriate for you and your landlord.
Claimants can get advice about opening and running a bank account from any bank or building society, local advice centres or your local Citizens Advice Bureau. We can also send you information on how and where to open an account. Claimants may also be interested in saving via their local Credit Union, which offers a savings scheme and low cost loans.
We have produced a booklet which we hope will answer all your questions about LHA. If you would like a paper copy it is available at First Point in Howden House or you can request one by calling the Benefits Call Centre on 0114 273 6777. It can also be downloaded by clicking on the link below.
This Safeguard Policy has been developed to prevent the risk of tenants being evicted due to rent arrears and allay fears that landlords may have regarding potentially vulnerable tenants and those unlikely to pay.
Local Housing Allowance rates