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About Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit is a top-up benefit that helps with the cost of rent. It's administered by your local authority and is payable if your income is low and you don't have much capital (such as savings).

It can be paid whether you're in public-sector (local authority) or private housing, and you can claim it whether you're in or out of work.

Housing Benefit is just one of the benefits you may be eligible for as a carer. You can find out more information on the range of benefits for carers online or by calling Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053. Find out more about eligibility for Housing Benefithow to claim or appeal a decision, and what you'll get on GOV.UK.

Housing Benefit doesn't help with mortgages. If you're a homeowner, the only benefits that assist with mortgage costs are Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, and Pension Credit.

Housing Benefit can help with the costs of:

  • rent
  • payments for a garage or land, but only if this is a condition of occupying your home
  • ground rent on a lease of less than 21 years
  • fees for lodgings
  • some service charges
  • mooring charges and berthing fees for a houseboat
  • site rental for a caravan or mobile home
  • almshouse contributions, if you pay them

Amount of Housing Benefit

The amount of Housing Benefit you get depends on your income and capital. You can't get Housing Benefit if you have more than £16,000 in capital. However, there's an exception to this rule: if you're over 60 and getting the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit, all your capital and income is ignored when calculating your entitlement to Housing Benefit. This means that you'll receive the maximum amount of Housing Benefit that can be paid to you, even if you have savings above £16,000. For more information, see What you'll get on GOV.UK.

If your income is very low or you're on certain benefits, you'll get maximum Housing Benefit. However, your rent may not be paid in total because there may be items in your rent that are ineligible and Housing Benefit can't be paid for them. There are other possible restrictions on how much Housing Benefit you can get – for example, if you live in a property that's too large for your needs. If you rent in the private sector, your benefit may come under the Local Housing Allowance.

Some people cannot claim at all – for example, if they have too much capital. You can claim Housing Benefit if you're working, but if your income is above a level set by the law, you'll only get partial help with your rent. If your income is too high, you won't be paid at all.

Rules about residency, presence and your immigration status also have to be satisfied for you to be paid Housing Benefit.

You can claim if you're liable for rent. This applies if your tenancy is in either the public or private sector, but also if you're a lodger renting a room in someone's home. There are circumstances where, even if you're paying rent to your landlord, you're considered not liable for rent and you can't get Housing Benefit.

You can claim Housing Benefit at any age, but the amount of benefit you receive can depend on how old you are. You can claim it using the Housing Benefit claim form. How much Housing Benefit you get will also be affected by your income and capital, and whether you're claiming as a single person, for you and your family, or as part of a couple. You may receive higher levels of benefit if you're severely disabled or you're a carer.

Click on the bar below to find out about Local Housing Allowance for private-sector tenants.

Local Housing Allowance

Local Housing Allowance rates are frozen. The figures quoted below are accurate as of April 2014.

If you rent in the private sector and your tenancy began after April 7 2008, the maximum amount of Housing Benefit you can get is decided under a scheme known as Local Housing Allowance (LHA).

LHA depends on the area where you live and the number of people who live in your home.

The maximum LHA weekly amount is:

  • £250 for a one-bedroom property
  • £290 for two bedrooms
  • £340 for three bedrooms
  • £400 for four bedrooms

The maximum rate of LHA you can get is for a four-bedroom property.

The maximum benefit you can get is decided by allocating one bedroom in a property for:

  • every adult couple
  • any other adult aged 16 or over
  • any two children aged under 10 regardless of sex
  • any two children of the same sex up to the age of 16
  • any other child

The maximum benefit payable depends on the area you live in. LHA is worked out by looking at the highest and lowest reasonable rents for an area, provided that the accommodation is in a reasonable state of repair. From April 2011, LHA is worked out using the lowest third of reasonable rents in the area, rather than the middle of the range of average rents.

The rates listed above are the maximum possible rates. The maximum rates in your area may be lower than those listed.

Allowances are calculated monthly and are made public so that you know in advance the amount of Housing Benefit you'll be paid. You can find the relevant figures on your local authority's website and on the LHA Direct website.

From January 2012 the age limit for the "shared rate" for single people has been extended to include single people under the age of 35. You'll be entitled to a standard rate for a single room in shared accommodation. The shared rate will be based on properties where tenants have a room of their own and shared facilities (kitchen, bathroom, toilet and living room).

How long does LHA last?

The relevant allowance for you is the one that applies on the day that you apply for benefit. This maximum rent will then apply for another 12 months unless there's a change of circumstances, such as a change in the number of occupiers or an increase in the rent. At the end of the year, the decision is looked at again and you don't have to make a new claim for benefit.

If you claimed Housing Benefit for a private rented property after April 7 2008 but before April 1 2011, the LHA rate on which your claim was assessed may be higher than the newer rates above. For example, the maximum property size allowed was five bedrooms.

New claims made after April 1 2011 will automatically be assessed at the newer rates. If you claimed before that date, you will keep your existing rate until nine months after the annual review date of your claim as long as your circumstances haven't changed before then.

Paying LHA

Payments will usually be made directly into your bank or building society account.

However, payment can be made directly to your landlord if you're a "vulnerable" person and may be unable to manage your money, or if you're unlikely to pay or you have more than eight weeks' rent arrears. You may need independent help and advice if you're having problems.

If LHA doesn't yet apply to you, there may be other restrictions on your maximum rent for Housing Benefit. If you change address and move into accommodation rented from a private landlord, you'll be moved on to LHA at this point.

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Page last reviewed: 09/04/2014

Next review due: 09/04/2016

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