Local Housing Allowance
The local housing allowance (LHA) scheme was introduced nationally from 7 April 2008. It changed the way housing benefit is paid for people living in privately rented accommodation.
The LHA is based on the area in which the claimant lives and the number of people living in their household. It is not based on the rent that they are charged by their landlord. This means that claimants with the same circumstances are entitled to the same rate of LHA payment of housing benefit.
The LHA rate is used to calculate housing benefit entitlement for most customers living in privately rented accommodation. The LHA rate is frozen at the 2015 rate for the next four years so will remain unchanged until it is reviewed again then.
Payment of housing benefit
Normally, housing benefit will be paid to the claimant as it is the government’s intention that benefit claimants should be encouraged to take responsibility for budgeting and paying their rent themselves.
However, there are certain circumstances where we must or can use our discretion to pay housing benefit direct to the landlord. These include:
- We must pay the landlord where the claimant has rent arrears of eight weeks or more
- Where we consider that the claimant may have difficulty managing their own affairs
- Where we consider that it is unlikely that the claimant will pay their rent
- Where we consider that paying the landlord direct will secure a new or existing tenancy as the landlord has reduced the level of rent
The claimant or landlord can ask us to pay housing benefit to the landlord but there must be reasonable grounds for us to do so. Additional information may be required or we may need to confirm information with a third party before a decision can be made about who to pay.
What will happen if I don’t use my benefit to pay my rent?
As a tenant you are responsible for paying your rent to your landlord. This is the same as for tenants who do not get benefit. If you do not pay your rent your landlord may apply to us to have your benefit paid to them. Or they may take other action to recover their money, including evicting you from your home.
Eviction means that:
- You will lose your home
- Your benefit may not be paid to you in the future
- You may have difficulty finding new accommodation, as your landlord is unlikely to give you a reference
- You will still have to pay the landlord the money you owe and possibly extra money to cover any court costs
- An application for re-housing could be affected as you may be considered to have made yourself intentionally homeless
Do you need advice on debt management? Alternatively you could contact the Citizens Advice Bureau or contact Shelter. Ashford and the Tenterden areas also have their own Ashford borough Citizens Advice Bureau.
How can I pay my rent?
The easiest way to pay your rent is if you have your benefit paid into a bank or building society account. That way you can arrange to pay the rent to your landlord automatically. This is called a standing order. As long as you have enough money in your account, you won’t have to worry about remembering to pay your rent and your landlord will know the rent will be paid automatically.
If you do not already have a bank or building society account, you will need to set one up so that your benefit can be paid to you.
Does the local housing allowance scheme apply to all housing benefit claims?
Local housing allowance does not apply if:
- The accommodation is rented from the council
- The accommodation is rented from a housing association
- The tenancy is excluded from rent restrictions
- The tenancy includes the provision of care, support or supervision and is provided by a social landlord, charity or voluntary organisation
- The tenancy includes substantial board and attendance
- The accommodation is a caravan, mobile home or houseboat
What happens if the rent is not the same as the local housing allowance rate that applies to me?
From April 2011 you cannot receive any more housing benefit than the amount of rent you pay. If your rent is higher than the local housing allowance rate appropriate to your case the maximum amount of housing benefit you will receive will be the local housing allowance rate. You will need to make up any shortfall yourself or ask your landlord to reduce your rent. Or you could request a discretionary housing payment.
What should I do if I disagree with a decision that you have made with regard to my benefit claim?
You may submit an appeal.