Local Housing Allowance (LHA) affects you if you are renting private sector accommodation (but not from a Housing Association) and you:
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 your claim
LHA is based upon the number of bedrooms you or your 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 you. The actual amount of Housing Benefit that will be awarded will be based on the LHA room rate that applies to your household and your circumstances.
The amount of rent we use when working out your benefit is either your actual rent, or the relevant LHA room rate, whichever is the lower.
The LHA rate we use when calculating your 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 your household, which means a different LHA rate should be used.
The LHA rate is based on the number of bedrooms that are needed by your household and not the number of bedrooms in your property or the actual rent.
LHA rates will be updated every April. This means they will remain the same between April 2014 and March 2015.
The most we can pay 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 - £63.77 (£276.34)
1 Bedroom accommodation - £91.15 (£394.98)
2 Bedroom accommodation - £106.65 (£459.55)
3 Bedroom accommodation - £115.38 (£499.98)
4 Bedroom accommodation - £150.00 (£650.00)
There is a restriction if you 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 you are over 35 years old.
The exceptions to this restriction are:-
Under LHA, Housing Benefit is paid to yourself unless you are likely to have difficulty paying your rent; you are more than 8 weeks in arrears with your rent (this can include rent payable in advance); or you 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 you may have difficulty in paying your rent; for example you 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 your benefit to your landlord. To help us establish whether or not it would be appropriate to pay to your landlord we have produced a Safeguard Policy.
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.
If you are worried about managing your money, we can give advice on who can help with this.
The intention is to give you direct responsibility for making payments of rent to your 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 yourself 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 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.
You 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. You may also be interested in saving via your 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.