Rent Officer Handbook: Local Housing Allowance

Local Housing Allowances: information

Parameters affecting the determination of Local Housing Allowance by the Rent Officer.

Exemptions

(v1.1 2015)

Housing Benefit claims which are exempt from being based on Local Housing Allowance.

Under LHA rules the following cases are still referred to the Rent Officer and dealt with in the HB referral way, with Significantly High Rents, Size and Rent, Exceptionally High Rent, Local Reference Rent and Single Room Rent determinations as appropriate:

  • Houseboats
  • Moorings
  • Caravans
  • Site rents
  • Mobile homes
  • Board and attendance cases
  • Hostels
  • Where the landlord is a registered social landlord
  • Supported accommodation – that is exempt accommodation under paragraph 4(1)(b) of Schedule 3 of the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006 (i.e. accommodation provided by a non-metropolitan county council, a housing association, a registered charity or voluntary organisation where that body or someone acting on their behalf provides the claimant with care, support or supervision)

Pre-tenancy determinations can be determined for exempted cases. They can also attract substitute determinations and redeterminations.

Cases formerly exempt from LHA stay exempt from LHA

An exemption to LHA is only cancelled by a “relevant change”, which is a break in the claim or a move of dwelling. Other changes are treated as changes of circumstances only. Unless there is a relevant change, the case remains exempt from LHA and under the referral scheme.

A ‘claim’ only exists within the framework of Housing Benefit for as long as it is a claim for benefit which has not yet been determined by the local authority. Once Housing Benefit is in payment and for as long as it remains so, the case ceases to be a ‘claim’ and becomes an ‘award’.

Housing Benefit Regulation 13C only allows the LHA to be applied during the life of an award where the existing eligible rent has not been determined and the claimant has changed their dwelling.

So what happens if the reason for the LHA exemption changes during the award?

If the award has ever been exempt from LHA, and the tenant has not moved or broken their award, it continues to be dealt with under the referral scheme and re-assessed under the referral scheme. The only situation where LHA may be awarded is when there is a break in award, or the claimant moves.

For cases where “Board” was previously provided

Where the Rent Officer has previously determined that the amount of rent attributable to board was substantial and therefore exempt from LHA, if the terms of the tenancy subsequently change so that it excludes board, or the amount of rent attributable to board becomes insubstantial, then as long as the ‘award’ is continuous and there is no change of dwelling, the case remains outside the LHA scheme. Rent Officer determinations will continue to apply because there has been no change of circumstances which triggers the local authority to determine a maximum LHA.

Effectively once a Rent Officer has determined that a board case is exempt from LHA, it will remain exempt from LHA even if board is reduced or removed, until the claimant moves to a new dwelling or there is a break in their benefit award.

Where Rent Officers receive a new Housing Benefit referral for a claim commencing on or after 7 April 2008 and there is no board stated on the referral the LA may state that the previous referral was a “board” referral and the terms of the tenancy have changed.

If the previous referral included board, and the terms no longer include board, then the Rent Officer should provide a full set of Housing Benefit determinations pertinent to the referral before them. So if the new referral is without board, the new determination must be without board.

Where there is no evidence of a previous referral, then the Rent Officer may return the referral as “outside scheme”.

Where the landlord was formerly a Registered Provider (Registered Social Landlord)

Registered provider (RSL) cases are exempt from LHA and also exempt from referral to the Rent Officer as they are “Excluded Tenancies” under Schedule 2 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006.

Where the landlord under the tenancy changes from an RSL to a private landlord, or the RSL de-registers as an RSL with the Tenant Services Authority (TSA), then provided that the award is continuous and was not previously treated as an LHA case by the local authority, it will fall to be referred to the Rent Officer for determination.

If this information is not provided on the referral, then the Rent Officer may return the referral as “outside scheme”.

Where the tenancy was formerly “supported accommodation”

Supported accommodation cases are exempt from LHA, and are referred to the Rent Officer for determination.

If the support is removed from the tenancy so it no longer qualifies as supported accommodation, then provided that the award is continuous and was not previously treated as an LHA case by the local authority, it will continue to be referred to the Rent Officer for determination.

  • LHA – Board and attendance
  • Determinations
  • Mooring charges
  • Hostels
  • Caravan site fees
  • Errors, substitutes and amended determinations

Cases formerly exempt from LHA stay exempt from LHA

An exemption to LHA is only cancelled by a “relevant change”, which is a break in the claim or a move of dwelling. Other changes are treated as changes of circumstances only. Unless there is a relevant change, the case remains exempt from LHA and under the referral scheme.

A ‘claim’ only exists within the framework of Housing Benefit for as long as it is a claim for benefit which has not yet been determined by the local authority. Once Housing Benefit is in payment and for as long as it remains so, the case ceases to be a ‘claim’ and becomes an ‘award’.

Housing Benefit Regulation 13C only allows the LHA to be applied during the life of an award where the existing eligible rent has not been determined and the claimant has changed their dwelling.

So what happens if the reason for the LHA exemption changes during the award?

If the award has ever been exempt from LHA, and the tenant has not moved or broken their award, it continues to be dealt with under the referral scheme and re-assessed under the referral scheme. The only situation where LHA may be awarded is when there is a break in award, or the claimant moves.

For cases where “Board” was previously provided

Where the Rent Officer has previously determined that the amount of rent attributable to board was substantial and therefore exempt from LHA, if the terms of the tenancy subsequently change so that it excludes board, or the amount of rent attributable to board becomes insubstantial, then as long as the ‘award’ is continuous and there is no change of dwelling, the case remains outside the LHA scheme. Rent Officer determinations will continue to apply because there has been no change of circumstances which triggers the local authority to determine a maximum LHA.

Effectively once a Rent Officer has determined that a board case is exempt from LHA, it will remain exempt from LHA even if board is reduced or removed, until the claimant moves to a new dwelling or there is a break in their benefit award.

Where Rent Officers receive a new Housing Benefit referral for a claim commencing on or after 7 April 2008 and there is no board stated on the referral the LA may state that the previous referral was a “board” referral and the terms of the tenancy have changed.

If the previous referral included board, and the terms no longer include board, then the Rent Officer should provide a full set of Housing Benefit determinations pertinent to the referral before them. So if the new referral is without board, the new determination must be without board.

Where there is no evidence of a previous referral, then the Rent Officer may return the referral as “outside scheme”.

Where the landlord was formerly a Registered Provider (Registered Social Landlord)

Registered provider (RSL) cases are exempt from LHA and also exempt from referral to the Rent Officer as they are “Excluded Tenancies” under Schedule 2 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006.

Where the landlord under the tenancy changes from an RSL to a private landlord, or the RSL de-registers as an RSL with the Tenant Services Authority (TSA), then provided that the award is continuous and was not previously treated as an LHA case by the local authority, it will fall to be referred to the Rent Officer for determination.

If this information is not provided on the referral, then the Rent Officer may return the referral as “outside scheme”.

Where the tenancy was formerly “supported accommodation”

Supported accommodation cases are exempt from LHA, and are referred to the Rent Officer for determination.

If the support is removed from the tenancy so it no longer qualifies as supported accommodation, then provided that the award is continuous and was not previously treated as an LHA case by the local authority, it will continue to be referred to the Rent Officer for determination.

  • LHA – Board and attendance
  • Determinations
  • Mooring charges
  • Hostels
  • Caravan site fees
  • Errors, substitutes and amended determinations

General Information

(v2.2 2015)

General information about Local Housing Allowances.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is a flat rate allowance based on the size, composition and location of a claimant’s household.

Between April 2008 and the end of March 2012 LHA rates were determined each month. Since April 2012 the rates have been determined annually, applying from 1st April each year. Until 31st March 2011 LHA rates were based on the median and since then on the 30th percentile value of a list of rents compiled from lettings information gathered for each specified category within each Broad Rental Market Area (BRMA).

Categories of local housing allowance

There are 5 categories:

  • ‘Shared accommodation’:

Exclusive use of one bedroom and sharing the use of one or more of:

i) a kitchen

ii) a bathroom

iii) a toilet; or

iv) a room suitable for living in

  • 1 bedroom dwellings: those with one bedroom and one room suitable for living in
  • 2 bedroom dwellings
  • 3 bedroom dwellings
  • 4 bedroom dwellings

Determination of local housing allowance rates

Most LHA rates are the lower of:

  • the 30th percentile on a list of rents for the appropriate category of dwelling in the Broad Rental Market Area, or
  • the existing LHA rate plus an uplift of 1%

for the categories of LHA specified in the Order, the LHA rate is the lower of:

  • the existing LHA plus an uplift of 4%, or
  • the maximum weekly LHA for the dwelling category, which from April 2015 is:

  • £260.64 for one room shared accommodation
  • £260.64 for one bedroom exclusive accommodation
  • £302.33 for two bedroom accommodation
  • £354.46 for three bedroom accommodation
  • £417.02 for four bedroom accommodation

The new rates are determined and published during January, and become effective from the following April. The lists of rents must comprise those payable in the 12 months ending 30th September immediately prior to the January publication.

LHA rates are notified to the relevant Local Authorities

LHA rates are published on the internet, https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/search.aspx

Additional information

  • LHA is a weekly figure
  • It is rounded to the nearest whole penny by disregarding any amount less than half a penny and treating any amount of half a penny or more as a whole penny
  • We notify every LA of all LHAs for all BRMAs which fall within or partly within their boundaries
  • The LA uses the LHA rates for claims made during the year from 1 April following their notification by the Rent Officer
  • Determinations – local reference rent
  • LHA – BRMA
  • Determinations – single room rent
  • LHA – all other LHA pages

Redeterminations

(v1.2 2012)

Local Housing Allowances may not be redetermined or subject to an appeal.

There are no redeterminations in relation to LHA decisions.

Redeterminations are freshly made determinations made as a result of the Local Authority asking the Rent Officer to review, or reconsider the determination made. The referral information remains unchanged from the determination to the redetermination, so the decision is based on the same information.

BRMA’s and LHA’s cannot be redetermined. The “substantiality” decisions made for Board and Attendance cases, or full HB determinations in B&A and other exempted cases, can be redetermined in the usual way for HB referral cases.

Only “effective” determinations can be redetermined. Existing determinations are not effective after the claim comes to an end, either with a break in claim of a week or more, or with the claimant moving house. When either of these things happen, the claimant moves across onto LHA rules. For continuous claims pre-LHA, redetermination requests may still be received and processed.

Fresh applications for HB after 7 April 2008 (other than exempt claims) will be subject to LHA rules, and will attract no redeterminations.

If there has been an error in the information supplied by the LA or in the determination made by the RO, a substitute determination or amended determination may be appropriate, and this is the subject of a separate handbook page.

  • LHA – BRMA
  • LHA – Board and attendance
  • LHA – Exemptions
  • LHA – General information
  • LHA – errors, substitutes and amended determinations