If you are renting privately and you are under 35, single and have no dependents the amount of housing benefit, or housing costs help under Universal Credit, which you will get will be heavily restricted. You'll usually only get enough benefit help to put towards the cost of renting a room in a shared house or flat, although there are some exceptions.
The Shared Accommodation Rate
The Shared Accommodation Rate is the maximum that is payable to
- people who have their own bedroom but share the kitchen, bathroom or living areas with other people who are not part of their family
- single people who are under 35 who don't meet any of the legal exceptions to the rule.
The shared rate of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is significantly lower than the 1 bedroom LHA rate.
Getting the shared rate
You will probably only receive the Shared Accommodation Rate of housing benefit if the following apply:
- you are single and have no dependants
- you are aged under 35
- you rent your home from a private landlord or through an agency
- you get housing benefit to help you pay rent.
Exceptions to the shared rate
Some single people under 35 will be exempt from this rule and eligible for self-contained accommodation. You could be exempt if you are:
- entitled to a severe disability premium
- a person with dependent children
- a person aged under 22 who has been in care
- a person aged between 25 and 34 who is classed as a young offender and is believed to pose a risk of serious harm to others
- a person aged between 25 and 34 who has spent a total of at least 3 months living in hostel accommodation for homeless people and who has accessed rehabilitative or resettlement services while in a homeless hostel
- someone who can prove to the Housing Executive that you have a genuine need to have someone else regularly stay in your home to provide you with overnight care because you have a disability or serious illness.
Not getting enough benefit to cover rent
You may end up with a shortfall between your LHA and the rent you have to pay to your landlord. If you are unable to afford to pay the shortfall you should apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment although applications for this top-up payment are not always successful.
A Discretionary Housing Payment is not a long term solution. If you cannot negotiate a lower rent with your landlord, you may have to consider looking for more affordable accommodation.
If you are having difficulty paying for your home, it is important that you get advice.