Local Housing Allowance (LHA) was introduced on 7 April 2008 to provide Housing Benefit entitlement for tenants renting in the private sector accommodation. LHA does not replace Housing Benefit - it is just a different way of calculating entitlement under the existing Housing Benefit scheme. Its aim is to improve levels of transparency when calculating Housing Benefit. Under LHA, a flat allowance is used to decide the eligible rent of all claimants with similar sized households living in a broad rental market area, rather than tying the level of benefit to the individual property.
Housing Benefit is a means tested social security benefit that is intended to help people with low incomes pay for rented accommodation. It is governed by various acts of Parliament - see, for example, The Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 . Operationally, the governing Regulations are statutory instruments arising from that Act. It is governed by one of two sets of regulations. For working age claimants it is governed by the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, but for those who have reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit, these are amended by ‘The LHA and Information Sharing Regulations. The legislation to enable Local Housing Allowance was introduced under the Welfare Reform Act which received Royal Assent in May 2007. This provided for the national application of the LHA regime on April 7, 2008 and the introduction of the Employment Support Allowance, which replaced Incapacity Benefit.
The LHA system is a form of housing benefit administered, along with council tax benefit, by the local authority in whose area the property being rented lies.
Unlike the previous schemes, the claimant is normally unable to request that payments of benefits are made to their landlord, although they may be made to a third party. Exceptions may be made where the tenant has a history of not paying rent or is not sufficiently able to handle their affairs. Decisions on this are subject to a council operated safeguarding policy which may be requested from the local authority.
In all cases a landlord must be paid the rent (without any excess) if the tenant is more than 8 weeks in arrears. This will continue until the arrears are below 8 weeks.
LHA does not currently affect:
most tenancies with registered social landlords
tenancies that started before 15 January 1989
benefit claims that are treated as under the rules in operation prior to 2 January 1996 because of care, support, or supervision being provided by certain categories of not for profit landlord.
The amount of LHA awarded depends on:
the number of bedrooms deemed to be required by the claimant, and
where they live (which determines the market level of rents within this area)
Local Housing Allowance will be calculated on the number of rooms the claimant's household needs not the number of rooms in the property or the amount of rent charged.
The number of bedrooms needed is based on the number, age and sex of people who live in the claimant's household. The bedroom requirement is calculated as follows:
one bedroom for the claimant and partner (over 16 - including same sex couples)
one bedroom for other person aged 16 or over
one bedroom for any two children of the same sex aged under 16
one bedroom for any two children regardless of sex who are less than ten years old
one bedroom for any other child
If the claimant is single and aged under 35, the category of property considered appropriate is a bedroom in shared accommodation. This means a property in which the claimant has the exclusive use of one bedroom, but shares one or more of a kitchen, a bathroom, a toilet or a room suitable for living in.
The maximum LHA rate covers a four bedroom property.
The old way of setting fair rents for an area involved rent officers assessing each property, and a maximum Local Reference Rent set to reflect the maximum 'reasonable' rent for the area. Under LHA, Broad Market Rental Areas (BMRA) have been defined, and rent officers attempt to determine a median rent level which is intended to give Housing Benefit recipients access to roughly the cheapest 30% of the properties available to rent in any given area.
To check the current Local Housing Allowance rates click here
Discretionary Housing Payments are free standing payments that the council can make to persons on Housing Benefit who need extra help with their rent; other rent payments including rent in advance and rental deposits (where the council's other departments cannot assist); and other lump sum payments associated with your housing needs such as removal costs.
There are some rental costs that payment from this fund cannot help you with such as service charges and rent arrears and any reduction that you may have had to your benefit due to a sanction or deduction being imposed.
Check the benefit calculator on the Herefordshire Council's website (www.herefordshire.gov.uk)
To apply for this benefit, contact us:
Telephone: 01432 260333
Fax: 01432 260436
Address: Benefits Section, Income and Awards, PO Box 224, Hereford HR1 2XW
Visit one of our customer service centres.