Local housing allowance
If you are renting from a private landlord and claiming Housing Benefit, the maximum level of benefit payable will be your actual rent (if it is below Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels or the LHA rate). However, there are certain exclusions from the LHA scheme, such as supported housing and bed and breakfast accommodation.
Under the LHA scheme:
There are 'standard rates' of allowance depending on the number of bedrooms you and your family need.
With Local Housing Allowance, your benefit is based on:
- who lives with you;
- which area you live in;
- how much money you have coming in; and
- what savings you have.
In some cases the amount of benefit you are entitled to will be affected by other things. These can include:
- how much your rent is; and
- whether anyone living with you is expected to contribute to your rent.
- whether you receive other state benefits.
With LHA you will know, before you find somewhere to live, how much the maximum amount of help with your rent you may be entitled to. By knowing how much you might get, it is easier for you to decide what type of property you can afford.
How do I get paid my housing benefit?
With LHA, housing benefit is usually paid to you and not to your landlord. You cannot normally choose to have your local housing allowance paid direct to your landlord. We can pay benefit to your landlord if we decide that you are likely to have difficulty paying your rent or if your landlord agrees to reduce your rent to the LHA level.
Usually you will have your benefit paid directly to you. It will be paid to you directly into your bank or building society account. If you do not already have a bank or building society account, you should open one. That way you can arrange to pay the rent to your landlord automatically. You should do this with a direct debit or standing order.
You can get advice about opening and running a bank account from any bank or building society. Ask your bank about a basic bank account. You can also get advice from local welfare organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau. You could also consider a credit
As a tenant you are responsible for paying your rent to your landlord. If you do not pay the rent your landlord may apply to the local authority to have it paid to them, or take other action to recover their money. If you are in rent arrears your landlord may be able to go to the courts and ask that you be evicted from your home. If you are in more than 8 weeks of arrears we will pay your landlord directly and you may risk losing your home.
Weekly local housing allowance rates
These allowances are set by The Rent Service and apply from April each year. The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate you will be entitled to depends on how many people are in your household. It also depends on which area your property falls into. Brentwood is divided into three areas for LHA purposes.
|No of bedrooms||Harlow & Stortford||South West Essex||Chelmsford||Outer North East London|
|Shared room rate||£76.50||£76.64||£90.10||£101.61|
If you don't know which area your property will fall into, you can search by postcode by visiting Valuation Office Agency or contact The Benefit Department.
All LHA rates will be updated on 1 April each year.
Local housing allowance criteria
How many bedrooms?
One bedroom is allowed for each of the following:
- A married couple or an unmarried couple who live together as husband and wife.
- Someone who is 16 or over.
- Two children of the same sex.
- Two children who are younger than 10.
- A Child (a child is someone under 16)
The maximum number of bedrooms used to work out your benefit is 4, even if you have a large family.
If you are single and aged under 35 you are only entitled to the shared accommodation rate. This is where facilities such as a kitchen and/or bathroom are shared and there is exclusive use of one room only.
Room for a carer–
If you or your partner has a need for overnight care, and this is provided by a non-resident carer, the bedroom used can be included when calculating your LHA rate (subject to the maximum 4 bed rate).
Changes to the size criteria from 1st April 2017
Consideration can now be given for an extra bedroom for Housing Benefit purposes under the following criteria:
Disabled child or disabled non-dependant adult reasonably requires and has overnight care from a non-resident carer (or group of carers)
The qualifying conditions are that, firstly, the disabled child or adult non-dependant reasonably requires, and has, overnight care on a regular basis from a non-resident carer (or team of carers).
To meet this qualifying condition, the claimant needs to be able to demonstrate that:
- Care has been arranged
- A spare bedroom is available for the carer (or team of carers); and
- An extra bedroom has not already been provided for a non-resident overnight carer (or team or carers) in the same household.
Secondly, the disabled child or non-dependant adult must be in receipt of:
- Middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Attendance Allowance (AA)
- The daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP); or
- The Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP).
Couple unable to share because of a disability
To meet the qualifying conditions, the Local Authority will first need to make an assessment on whether an individual cannot reasonably share a bedroom with the other member of the couple because of his or her disability.
The further qualifying condition is that one member of the couple is in receipt of:
- The middle or higher rate care component of DLA
- Higher rate AA
- The daily living component of PIP; or
If you believe these circumstances apply to you please complete the online form below:
Difficulty paying rent
For most private sector tenants, your Housing Benefit will be the lower of your actual rent or the Local Housing Allowance for the area that you live in.
Local Housing Allowance is normally paid to the tenant. Tenants can no longer choose to have their benefit paid to their landlord, but in circumstances where tenants cannot manage their money, the Council can decide to pay benefit to the landlord. If Housing Benefit is paid to you as a landlord, you may be liable to repay any overpaid benefit.
Further information on payments to landlords is available on the Information for Landlords page.
We will also consider awarding Housing Benefit payments to private sector landlords if they drop their rent to the LHA level or below.
Who may have difficulty paying their rent?
There are many reasons why someone may have difficulty paying their rent. They might be someone who:
- has severe debt problems
- has a recent County Court judgement against them
- is an undischarged bankrupt
- is unable to open a bank or building society account
- has some of their Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance paid direct to the gas, electricity or water company by the Department for Work and Pensions
- Is getting Supporting People help
- is getting help from a homeless charity
Or someone may have difficulty paying their rent if they:
- have learning difficulties
- have an illness that stops them managing on a day-to-day basis
- cannot read English
- cannot speak English
- are addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling
- are suffering domestic violence
- are a care leaver
- are leaving prison
- are homeless
Information for landlords
The Council is able to pay Housing Benefit directly to landlords in specific circumstances to assist the customer to secure a new tenancy or remain in their current home at a reduced rent.
Benefit customers will be able to seek advice and assistance from Housing Advice who may in certain instances negotiate a reduction in rent on the tenant’s behalf .If the landlord reduces the rent to the LHA level or below, the landlord can receive direct payments of Housing Benefit which are made four weekly in arrears.
Local Housing Allowance rates are fixed annually and Housing Benefit entitlement cannot exceed the relevant LHA bedroom rate.
How benefit is paid
Benefit can be paid directly to the landlord if, the tenant is eight weeks or more in arrears with their rent. It can also be paid directly if the tenant advises that they are having difficulty in paying their rent.
Payment may be made to the landlord where it is considered that it will assist the customer in retaining or securing a tenancy. For a tenancy to be retained or secured, the rent should be affordable to the tenant. This means that the rent should be set at or below the LHA level.
If the rent is higher than the LHA level, which would produce a a shortfall that the tenant is unable to meet, the safeguard will not apply.
Who can ask for the payments to be made to the landlord?
Tenants, landlords, tenants’ families or persons acting on the tenants’ behalf, may tell the local authority that a tenant is having difficulty paying their rent, or is likely to. The local authority may also identify tenants who may have difficulty managing their money, for example, when carrying out home visits. Landlords can contact the local authority, especially if the tenant is getting into arrears with their rent.
Further information can be found on the Tenants who are likely to have difficulty paying their rent web page.
To apply for payments to be made direct to a landlord you can complete the online form below:
Who decides if we may pay the landlord?
The Council decides if the landlord is to be paid. Housing Benefit staff may know that someone has difficulty in managing their money and may take action based on this knowledge. Tenants are encouraged to contact the Council if they are having difficulty managing their money.
Evidence must be provided to show that the tenant is having difficulty managing their money and that it is in their interest that we pay the landlord directly. Evidence should usually be in writing. We will work with the tenant in making our decision.
People who can provide evidence include:
- the tenant
- friends and family of the tenant
- the landlord
- welfare groups ( including money advisers)
- Social Services
- probation officers
- Jobcentre Plus
- the Pension Service
- homeless charities/organisations
- Supporting People teams
- local/council rent deposit scheme administrators, homelessness or housing advice officers
Making a decision
Once we have collected evidence we will decide as quickly as possible if direct payments to the landlord are appropriate. We will still pay benefit while we are making our decision.
We will write to the tenant and the landlord to explain our decision.
Reconsiderations and appeals
What can I do if I disagree with your decision?
If you disagree with a decision we have made in the assessment of your claim you can challenge our decision in a number of ways. You can:
- ask us to explain the decision
- ask us to look at the decision again-this is known as a reconsideration
- submit an appeal in writing giving the reasons you disagree with the decision.
How do I ask for a reconsideration?
You can ask us to reconsider our decision about your claim for Housing Benefit including the LHA rate we have applied to you. Please complete the online form below. You must include details of why you think our decision is wrong:
You cannot appeal against the LHA rates for the area you want to live in.
We must get your request for reconsideration within one month of the date of the decision notification letter. If we do not get it within one month, we may not be able to look again at your claim.
How do I ask for an appeal?
Your request for an appeal must be in writing and be signed. The Council will then forward your appeal to the Tribunals Service. Your request for an appeal must be made within one month of the date of the decision notification letter. If it is not received within one month, the Tribunals Service may not be able to look again at your claim.
If you have asked us to review our decision and have received a reply from us, you can ask the Tribunals Service to look at our review decision. The Tribunals Service must get your request for an appeal within one month of the date of the decision notification letter. If they do not get it within one month, they may not be able to look again at your claim.
The Tribunals Service may be able to consider an appeal outside this time limit if there are special circumstances. They cannot consider an appeal if it is made more than 13 months from the date of the original decision notification letter. To find out more about this, get in touch with the Tribunals Service.
Who can make an appeal?
Someone who is affected by the decision may appeal, including:
- the person making the claim
- someone who is appointed by the courts to act on behalf of the person making the claim
- someone who the council agrees is appointed to act on behalf of the person making the claim
- a landlord – but only about who benefit may be paid to
- an agent – but only about who benefit may be paid to
- any person from whom an overpayment is to be recovered.