How much of my rent will the council pay?

Housing benefit is a means tested benefit so the amount you will get will depend on your household income, the amount of savings you have and the number, and circumstances, of other people who live in your home. The maximum amount of rent that will be taken into account in the calculation will depend on who you rent your home from.

I rent my home from a private landlord

If you rent your home from a private landlord then your housing benefit will be calculated using the local housing allowance (LHA).

There are a few exceptions to this:

  • You are classed as a boarder
  • You rent a part buy part rent scheme
  • You live in a mobile home, caravan or houseboat
  • You have a protected tenancy

Please see the section on referral to the rent officer (Valuation Office Agency) later on in this section for details of how your maximum rent will be assessed.

LHA uses a flat rate allowance based on the size of your household and the area in which you rent a property. The amount of LHA paid may be lower than your actual rent as it is not directly related to the rent charged. The government announced in the summer budget, local housing allowance rates will be frozen for the next four years. From April 2016 the rates will remain at the April 2015 rate or will be set at the 30th percentile of local rates if this figure is lower.

Benefit payments

Payment of LHA will be payable to you by BACS in arrears at the end of the period for which it is due. In exceptional cases where the council considers a tenant to be vulnerable we may make the decision to pay your landlord directly but this decision will be reviewed on a regular basis to confirm that it is still appropriate to pay the landlord.

To enable us to pay you by this method, you have to have a bank account that accepts BACs payments. Please complete our BACs online form.

How many rooms will I be allowed?

You will be allowed one bedroom (up to a maximum of four) for each of the following:

  • Every adult couple
  • Any other adult aged 16 or over
  • Any two children of the same sex
  • Any two children regardless of sex under age 10
  • Any other child
  • A room for an overnight carer required by the claimant or partner (subject to criteria being met)
  • A severely disabled child who cannot share a room with another child

In addition:

  • A room will be allowed for a foster child or children living with an approved foster carer
  • Parents of armed forces personnel who are away from home on operations will continue to have them included when applying the size criteria

The number of living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms is ignored as it is assumed that all tenants are entitled to these.

If you are single with no dependant children and are aged under 35 you will only be entitled to the shared room rate even if you occupy something larger. The shared rate will be based on properties where the tenant has exclusive use of one bedroom and the tenancy provides for him to share the use of one or more of the following:

  • A kitchen
  • A bathroom
  • A toilet, or
  • A room suitable for living in

The above rules will not apply to single tenants who have the Severe Disability Premium in their benefit assessments. They will be entitled to one bedroom rate of LHA regardless of the size of their property. Care leavers under 22 years old and single tenants under the age of 35 who have spent three months or more in a specialist hostel whose main aim is to provide accommodation, care support or supervision with the aim of resettling or rehabilitating in the community, or ex-offenders who are currently subject to an active MAPPA will not be subject to the restriction.

To find out your LHA rate please visit the Local housing allowance rates page.

I rent my home from a registered housing association

If you rent your home from a registered housing association then the amount of rent that will be used in the calculation of your housing benefit will usually be the amount of rent that you are charged, less any deductions for ineligible service charges. Housing benefit will not pay for items such as water rates, care and support, and charges for heating and lighting except in communal areas.

However, your housing benefit may be reduced if you are under the qualifying age for state pension credit and live in a property that is deemed to be bigger than your requirements.

What does the Government mean by spare bedroom?

It means a bedroom which is not currently occupied by any of the following:

  • An adult couple
  • Any person over the age of 16
  • Two children of the same sex under the age of 16
  • Two children regardless of sex under the age of 10
  • Any other child
  • A non-resident overnight carer
  • A severely disabled child who cannot share a room with another child

In addition:

  • a room will be allowed for a foster child or children living with an approved foster carer
  • parents of armed forces personnel who are away from home on operations will continue to have them included when applying the size criteria

What you use your spare room for is irrelevant. If it is decided that you have more bedrooms than the rules say you need, you will lose part of your housing benefit and must make up the shortfall.

How will this affect me?

If you have more bedrooms than is necessary for your household you will be considered to be under-occupying that property and your housing benefit will be reduced by:

  • 14% if you have one spare bedroom
  • 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms

My landlord provides me with care support or supervision

If your landlord or an agent acting on its behalf provides you with care support and supervision then you may be classed as living in specified accommodation. There are very detailed regulations regarding exempt accommodation, and in most cases it will not make a difference to the amount of rent that can be used in the calculation of your housing benefit.

Tenants who occupy specified accommodation will NOT however have their housing costs paid as part of a universal credit claim. The housing cost element will continue to be paid by the local authority even when you are asked to claim Universal credit. We should already have your claim flagged as meeting the criteria for specified accommodation so do not need to do anything but we may contact you with more information nearer the time.

I have rented my home since before January 1989 or my rent has been registered with the rent officer, or my claim has to be referred to the rent officer as I am exempt from claiming LHA

If your tenancy started before January 1989, or you have a rent that has been registered with the rent service, then your housing benefit will be calculated using the rules that were in place prior to 1996. Your housing benefit will usually be assessed using the same rules as if your tenancy was a newer housing association tenancy.

The local authority may be required to refer your rent to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) for a decision on the maximum amount of rent that can be taken into account in the calculation of your housing benefit, for example if you rent a mobile home, or are a boarder.

If your rent is referred to the VOA then a yearly referral is required.

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