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Questions and Answers about Local Housing Allowance
This section tells you more about Local Housing Allowance.
How Local Housing Allowance works
What is Local Housing Allowance (LHA)?
Who sets the LHA rates in Nottingham City?
How often will the Rent Service provide information on LHA rates?
What is a Broad Rental Market Area (BRMA)?
How many LHA rates will there be within the BRMA?
Are the rates of LHA the same all over the City of Nottingham?
Payment of Local Housing Allowance
How do I set up a bank account to receive Housing Benefit directly?
What will happen if I use my benefit for something else?
Can I have my benefit paid direct to my landlord?
What can I do if I am likely to have difficulty paying my rent?
When can a local authority make payments to the landlord?
Who can ask for the payments to be made to the landlord?
Household and Accommodation
Are there still rent restrictions on claimants aged under 25?
Can childless couples or over 25s qualify for a higher LHA rate?
What are childless tenants living in shared accommodation entitled to?
Do the rules on shared accommodation apply to joint tenants?
How does the council decide what sized accommodation a claimant qualifies for?
How often will the rate of LHA change for an individual claim?
I have had a continuous Housing Benefit claim that started before the introduction of LHA (7/4/2008). Can I claim Housing Benefit under the new LHA rules?
What happens if I make a claim on or after the 7th April 2008, but request backdating prior to 7th April 2008?
What is the maximum amount of Housing Benefit a claimant can receive under LHA rules?
Can Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) be awarded to claimants who receive Housing Benefit under the LHA rules?
Who will overpayments of Housing Benefit be recovered from?
What can I do if I disagree with your decision?
A: LHA will change the way we pay Housing Benefit for private sector tenants. It will be the new way by which we decide the maximum amount of Housing Benefit that can be paid. The LHA will be based on the location and size of accommodation required by the claimant rather than the rent being charged. The amount of Housing Benefit that a claimant gets will depend on the LHA rate that applies to them after we have taken into account their financial and household circumstances. The rules for claiming and calculating Housing Benefit under the LHA scheme will remain very similar to the way we currently calculate Housing Benefit.
A: The Rent Service will be responsible for setting the LHA rates. To do this the Rent Service has been required to create Broad Rental Market Areas (BRMAs) from which they will research rent levels in that area to decide what the LHA rate should be for differently sized accommodation.
A: Every month the Rent Service will set rates of LHA for different sized accommodation within each BRMA. Nottingham City Council will be required to publish this information every month from 7th April 2008. This information will be available on our website and you can ask at the Contact Centre on Angel Row.
A: The Rent Service uses a definition to help it decide the location of a BRMA. It is an area:
- Comprising two or more distinct areas of residential accommodation.
- Within which a person could reasonably be expected to live having regard to the facilities and services for the purposes of health, education, recreation, personal banking and shopping, taking account of public and private transport, to and from facilities and services of the same types and similar standard, and
- Containing residential premises of a variety of types, and including such premises held on a variety of tenancies
A: We anticipate that there will be up to 7 separate LHA rates within each BRMA. This will consist of:
- 1 shared accommodation LHA rate.
- Individual rates for 1 to 6 bedroom accommodation.
It will be possible to get from The Rent Service an LHA rate for accommodation that has more than 6 bedrooms where such accommodations exists. If this is the case, we will include these LHA rates in our monthly publication of the LHA rates.
A: Yes. The Rent Service has incorporated the City of Nottingham into a single BRMA.
A: The £15 capping rule applies when the eligible rent a claimant is being charged is lower than the LHA rate the claimant qualifies for. If this is the case, the claimant will be entitled to a maximum of a £15 additional cap on their Housing benefit, for example:
- Claimant lives in a two bedroom flat with their partner and child.
- Claimant receives Income Support and is entitled to full Housing Benefit.
- Claimants eligible rent is £170 per week.
- Claimant qualifies for an LHA rate of £200 per week.
- Claimant will receive £170 per week Housing Benefit plus an extra £15 per week cap.
- Claimants full Housing Benefit award will be £185 per week.
If the claimants actual rent was £190 per week and the LHA rate they were entitled to was £200, they would receive a £10 cap. This is because a claimants actual eligible rent plus the maximum £15 cap cannot exceed the LHA rate the claimant is entitled to.
A: Usually you will have your benefit paid directly to you. It will be paid directly into your bank or building society account, if you have one, or by cheque. You will have access to this money more quickly if it is paid directly into your bank or building society account.
If you do not already have a bank or building society account, you may want to set one up. That way you can arrange to pay the rent to your landlord automatically, using a standing order.
You can get advice about opening and running a bank account from any bank or building society. You can also get advice from a welfare organisation such as Citizens Advice.
It is up to you to pay the rent to your landlord. If you don't pay your rent, you may be taken to court and evicted from the property.
A: The council and the government are promoting the use of basic bank accounts for tenants receiving benefit. . A standing order is an easy and effective way of managing money and means that there is no need to wait for cheques to clear. The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) provide money advice to private tenants getting Housing Benefit and can help with budgeting and advice on managing debt. If you would like to use this service, please visit the CAB website www.citizensadvice.org.uk.
You can get information on opening a bank account from the Financial Services Authority website www.fsa.gov.uk or call 0845 606 1234.
A: Your benefit is for you to pay your rent with. If you do not use your benefit to pay your rent, your landlord may take you to court or try to evict you and you may lose your home.
A: Your benefit is paid to you unless you are likely to have difficulty paying your rent, or it must be paid to your landlord.
If you are worried about managing your money, ask us if we can help. In some cases we may be able to pay your rent to your landlord.
A: With Local Housing Allowance, benefit is usually paid to the tenant. Tenants cannot choose to have their benefit paid to their landlord. But in some circumstances we can decide to pay benefit to the landlord.
A: The local authority must usually pay the benefit to the landlord if the tenant is eight weeks or more in arrears with their rent.
Payment may be made direct to the landlord where we decide that the tenant is:
- Likely to have difficulty in managing their financial affairs.
- Unlikely to pay their rent.
We can also decide to pay benefit to the landlord if, during the current claim to benefit, we have had to pay the landlord because the tenant was eight weeks or more in arrears with their rent.
A: Tenants, landlords, tenants' families or persons acting on the tenants' behalf, may tell the local authority that they are having difficulty paying their rent, or are likely to. The local authority may also identify tenants who may have difficulty managing their money, for example, when carrying out home visits. And landlords can contact the local authority, especially if the tenant is getting into arrears with their rent. The final decision will be made by us. If you want to request payments are made direct to your landlord click here to download a form.
A: Yes. most childless single claimants aged under 25* will qualify for the shared rate whether or not they live in shared accommodation.
* From January 2012 this will apply to claimants under the age of 35. Click here for more information.
A: Yes. Couples (same or opposite sex) or claimants 25* or over who do not share their accommodation will get the one bedroom LHA rate.
* From January 2012 this will apply to claimants 35 or over. Click here for more information.
A: There is a category of LHA for shared accommodation which is applied where a childless tenant does not have exclusive use of more than one room and shares any or all of a kitchen, living room, bathroom or a toilet. Couples (same or opposite sex) or single claimants aged 25* or over who choose to live in accommodation where they share facilities such as toilet, bathroom, living room or kitchen will also qualify for the shared LHA rate.
* From January 2012 this will apply to claimants 35 or over. Click here for more information.
A: If the joint tenants are all single without children, each claimant will qualify for the shared LHA rate. Separate benefit applications will be required from each tenant. The amount of Housing Benefit they will receive will then depend on their individual circumstances. If a joint tenant has children then they will qualify for the LHA rate which applies to them given their household circumstances.
A: The Housing Benefit regulations allow for the following size criteria to be used to determine the number of bedrooms that a claimant can qualify for. One bedroom each for:
- Every adult couple (same or opposite sex).
- Any other adult (16 or over).
- Any two children under 10.
- Any two children of the same sex aged 10 to 15.
- Or for any other child
A: In all circumstances we will review individual claims every year and change the LHA rate to the appropriate amount at that time. We will also change the LHA rate if there is a change in the make up of the household, for example; a child reaches the age of 16 and qualifies for a bedroom in their own right.
The amount of Housing Benefit we pay is always dependant on income, savings and household make up. It is important that changes in circumstances are reported immediately to ensure that we pay the right benefit and avoid an overpayment.
Q: I have had a continuous Housing Benefit claim that started before the introduction of LHA (7/4/2008). Can I claim Housing Benefit under the new LHA rules?
A: Housing Benefit assessed using the LHA rules will only apply to new claims made on or after the 7th April 2008. If you are receiving Housing Benefit prior to the 7th April 2008 but your claim ends after this date, or you move address on or after the 7th April 2008, we will be required to assess your claim under the new LHA rules.
Q: What happens if I make a claim on or after the 7th April 2008, but request backdating prior to 7th April 2008?
A: The LHA rules will not apply and the benefit claim will be judged to have started from the date that the claim was backdated to. If we decide that the claim can only be backdated from a date after the 7th April 2008, then benefit will be assessed under the LHA rules.
A: The LHA rate is the maximum amount of Housing Benefit that can be paid to a claimant who qualifies for that accommodation size. It must be remembered that Housing Benefit is means tested and is subject to deductions depending on the claimants circumstances. If a claimant is on Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance (Income Based) or Pension Credit (Guaranteed Credit) and no deductions apply, they will receive Housing Benefit at the maximum LHA rate. Otherwise Housing benefit will be adjusted to reflect the claimant's circumstances.
If a claimant's actual rent is below the LHA rate, they can receive a £15 top up of benefit as long as it does not exceed the LHA rate they qualify for.
Q: Can Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) be awarded to claimants who receive Housing Benefit under the LHA rules?
A: Yes - the rules remain the same as they are now. DHPs can be awarded to those claimants whose Housing Benefit does not meet their actual rent. Click here to download a Discretionary Housing Payments form.
A: Housing Benefit regulations define from whom overpayments should be recovered. The introduction of LHA has not changed these rules. The law says that:
- If an overpayment is caused by someone failing to tell us something or by misrepresentation (deliberate or accidental), we will seek to recover the overpayment from that person whether they received the overpayment or not.
- If an overpayment occurs due to an error by us and it is still recoverable because someone should have known they were being overpaid, we will seek to recover the overpayment from the person who should have known it.
- Overpayments where no one is at fault must be recovered from the claimant, the partner or the landlord if Housing Benefit was paid to the landlord.
A: 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. Click here for more information about how to appeal against a decision.