Local Housing Allowance
Updated: 02 May 2015
Local Housing Allowance is a rent assessment scheme for tenants who rent accommodation from private landlords. It is based on rent levels for the area you live in and how many people you live with. Your entitlement to Housing Benefit still depends on your income, how many people make up your household and any savings you have.
New changes to LHA in 2014
- LHA claims are currently reviewed once a year on the anniversary of either the claim start date or from a relevant change which caused the anniversary date to be reset. From 1st April 2014 this is changing to a single annual review for all LHA claims which will take place on the 1st of April each year. Claims with an anniversary date between 1st January 2014 and 31st March 2014, which were due to have a review carried out, will not now be reviewed but will maintain the existing LHA amount until 1st April 2014 at which time they will be recalculated using the current LHA rates at that time.
- The way in which LHA rates are calculated is also changing from the 1st April 2014. Further information on the new LHA rates from April 2014 and how they are calculated is available on 2014 LHA rates - how we calculate them.
- Under current rules a change to the amount of rent charged is generally ignored until the LHA rate is reviewed (usually the anniversary of the Housing Benefit claim). From 1st April 2014 any change in rent (increase or decrease) will result in a review of the eligible rent used in calculating your HB entitlement. The LHA rate will be amended, if appropriate, from the effective date of the change in rent and you will be notified of any change to your Housing Benefit entitlement.
Previous changes to LHA
Since 1st January 2012, single people aged from 25 to 34 are only entitled to the Housing Benefit shared accommodation rate. By single people we mean someone who is not living:
- as a couple
- with dependent children.
The shared accommodation rate is based on the level of local rents for properties that are not self contained. This usually means that there is a shared kitchen, bathroom, toilet or living room .
If you are getting, or thinking of claiming Housing Benefit, you need to consider this change before you renew or make a new tenancy agreement with a private landlord.
Who do the changes affect?
These changes affect you if you:
- rent accommodation from a private landlord
- already get Housing Benefit, or are going to make a new claim
- are single
- do not normally have children living with you
- are under 35 years old
- live in a self contained property
These changes do not affect you if you:
- rent from the Housing Executive or a housing association.
- are aged under 22 and have been in care.
- live in supported housing provided by a housing association, registered charity, voluntary organisation or Health Trust
- get the severe disability premium in your benefit because you are entitled to the middle or higher rate care component of the Disability Living Allowance.
- need an extra bedroom for a carer who provides you with the overnight care you need but who doesn’t normally live with you.
- have spent at least three months in a homeless hostel or hostel specialising in rehabilitating and resettling within the community. To benefit from this exemption you need to have been offered and accepted support services to enable you to be rehabilitated or resettled in the community.
- are managed under active multi-agency management under the Public Protection Arrangements for Northern Ireland.
Additional financial assistance
If you are affected by the changes, depending on where you live, your award of Housing Benefit may be between £20 and £40 per week less than what would have been payable before the change is introduced. You may be entitled to some additional financial assistance to meet this shortfall through a Discretionary Housing Payment. Such payments however cannot be guaranteed in all cases and any award may not cover the full shortfall. Awards are made for a limited period only and are designed to provide you with some time to come to alternative arrangements with your landlord or to find cheaper accommodation.
Who is eligible for LHA?
LHA applies to you if you fall into the following categories:
- New claims for Housing Benefit (including if you have stopped claiming it and reclaim) for accommodation you rent from a private landlord.
- You were already claiming Housing Benefit and you moved into a property you rent from a private landlord.
Who is not be affected by LHA?
LHA does not apply to you if you have:
- a tenancy with the Housing Executive
- a tenancy with a housing association
- a tenancy where you get support from health and social services, a housing association, a charity or a voluntary organisation
- a tenancy which is not included in the current rent restrictions (these are tenancies which started before April 1996)
- a tenancy in a caravan, mobile home, houseboat or hostel
- a tenancy where your rent is restricted under the Private Tenancies Order (2006) or the 1978 Rent Order
How does LHA work?
We divide Northern Ireland into eight ‘broad rental market areas’ (BRMAs) as shown on the map.
The broad rental market area covers a number of neighbourhoods. In this broad area there are different types of properties and other places to live within a reasonable travelling distance of similar public services.
We set LHA rates for different property sizes within each broad rental market area.
How much LHA do I get?
We publish LHA rates on this website. This allows you to find out the maximum amount of rent that we will use to work out Housing Benefit. If you are looking for accommodation in Northern Ireland, you will be able to see the LHA rate that will apply to you before you decide to rent a property.
The rate of LHA we use to work out your Housing Benefit depends on:
- the area you live in – this will set the BRMA you fall under; and
- who lives with you – this will decide how many bedrooms you need.
You are entitled to one bedroom for:
- every adult couple
- every other adult (an adult is someone aged 16 or over)
- any two children aged under 10
- any two children of the same sex aged 10 to 15; and
- any other child.
We do not count other rooms, such as living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms.
If you are under 35 and live alone (not including people leaving care who are under 22 years old)
If you are single and aged under 35 you are entitled to the standard rate for a room in shared accommodation. We base this rate on a property where you have a room of your own but you share all or some of the facilities (for example, a living room, kitchen or bathroom).
This is known as the shared-room rate.
If you are over 35 and single, or a couple and have no children, or you are a joint tenant
We usually base your rate of LHA on the number of bedrooms you need and not the size of the property you live in. However, this does not apply if you only have one room of your own and share the living room, kitchen and bathroom with other people. In this situation we work out your Housing Benefit using the shared-room rate.
Amount of LHA
If you decide to move into a property with a rent that is higher than your rate of LHA, you need to pay the difference.
How often will the Housing Executive review my rate of LHA?
Your rate of LHA will apply for one year unless your circumstances change, for example, if people join or leave your household. In certain cases your LHA may be protected.
How is LHA paid?
The LHA scheme in Northern Ireland is different from the scheme in England, Scotland and Wales. The method of paying LHA will not change in Northern Ireland. You can still choose if you want to receive your Housing Benefit or if you want us to pay it direct to your landlord.