Local Housing Allowance rules set out how much benefit can be paid to help private tenants with their rent. These rules are used by Universal Credit and Housing Benefit. The rules set out the maximum amount of help you will get towards your rent, and this maximum depends on
- how many people live with you and
- where your home is located.
Are any private renters exempt from these rules?
You will only be exempt from these rules if
- you have been continously claiming Housing Benefit without any change in your circumstances since 2008 OR
- you live in a rent-controlled property.
What is eligible rent?
Your eligible rent is the maximum amount of rent that can be paid to you. If you are a private tenant, your eligible rent will be the lower figure of
- your LHA rate or
- your actual rent.
To work out your LHA rent, you first need to know which Broad Rental Market Area your home is located in. There are 8 of these areas in Northern Ireland. The Housing Executive's website lists which postcodes belong to which rental areas. The LHA rent is set at the 30th centile of rents for that type of property in each area. Basically, this means that the LHA rate would only cover the rent on 3 out of 10 properties in an area. This is why most private tenants don't get enough money through benefits to cover their full rent. If you are in this situation, you should apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.
How many bedrooms do you need?
Your LHA rate depends on how many bedrooms you need, and not on how many are actually in the property you rent. You will be allowed one bedroom for
- you and your partner
- any other adult living in the property
- any two children of the same gender under the age of 16
- any two children, regardless of their gender, under the age of 10.
You may be allowed an extra bedroom if
- two people in your household would normally be expected to share, but cannot share because one of them has a disability
- someone who doesn't normally live with you regularly stays in a dedicated room overnight in order to provide care to someone in the household who has a disability.
To get the extra bedroom, you will need to be in receipt of certain disability benefits. If you have an overnight carer, you will probably have to give this person details to your Universal Credit work-coach or to the Housing Executive so they can confirm the care arrangements.
Deductions from your eligible rent
The amount of help you actually get towards your rent may be less than your eligible rent. Your benefit may be reduced if
- there are non-dependent adults living in your home
- you have savings, assets or capital valued at over £6,000
- your income is too high to qualify for full benefits or
- your benefits are reduced because of the bedroom tax.
Problems with benefits
You are responsible for making sure your claim is up to date and you must update your Universal Credit journal or tell the Housing Executive about any changes in your personal circumstances which may affect your claim.