Changes to Housing Benefit from April 2011

The changes

From 1 April 2011 the Government plans to:

  • end the maximum £15 weekly Housing Benefit excess that some customers can receive under the Local Housing Allowance arrangements
  • remove the five bedroom Local Housing Allowance rate so that the maximum level is for a four bedroom property
  • introduce absolute caps so that Local Housing Allowance weekly rates  in any area cannot exceed:

- £250 for a one bedroom property

- £290 for a two bedroom property

- £340 for a three bedroom property

- £400 for a four bedroom property

  • reduce all Local Housing Allowance rates so that about 3 in 10 properties for rent in the area should be affordable to people on Housing Benefit rather than every 5 in 10 properties as now.
  • In addition, the measure to include an additional bedroom within the size criteria where a disabled customer or their partner (with a long term health condition), has a need for overnight care that is provided by a non-resident carer will go ahead as planned from April 2011

The questions and answers below are intended to explain in more detail how the changes, as announced in the Emergency Budget, are likely to effect Housing Benefit  entitlement.

Questions and Answers

Will I be affected by the changes to Local Housing Allowance rates?

If you are renting from a private landlord and you made your claim for Housing Benefit at your current address on or after the 7 April 2008 it is likely that you will be affected by these changes.

I have been getting Housing Benefit since before April 2008 could the changes affect me?

Providing you continue to live in the same property and you don’t have a break in your Housing Benefit claim the Local Housing Allowance arrangements will not apply to you.

When will I be affected by the changes to Local Housing Allowance rates?

If you make a new claim from 1 April 2011 you will be affected straight away.  

If you are already getting Housing Benefit you will not be assessed under the new arrangements until the anniversary of your claim occurring either on or following 1 April 2011.  But then you could have protection for up to nine months before you are affected.

How do I know which Local Housing Allowance rate applies to me?

You can use the following information as a guide to work out how many bedrooms you are allowed. You are allowed one bedroom for:

  • every adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • any other adult aged 16 or over
  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • any two children aged under 10
  • any other child

The maximum allowance is for four bedrooms from 1 April 2011.

Different rules may apply if you are under 25 or live in shared accommodation.  Further information about this is on the LHA Direct website

I need a property with more than four bedrooms.  Will I only get benefit at the four bedroom rate?

The maximum Housing Benefit you get will be based on the four bedroom rate.  You can still look for properties with more than four bedrooms, or other rooms that can be used as bedrooms, with rents that are within the four bedroom rate. 

I am sharing a house with other people will the changes to Local Housing Allowance rates affect me?

The new way of setting Local Housing Allowance rates from April 2011 could lead to a reduction in the shared room rate. 

I am living in a self contained studio flat what rate applies to me?

The one bedroom Local Housing Allowance rate will apply to you.

I am already getting Housing Benefit when will I be affected by the changes?

If you are already getting Housing Benefit you will not normally be affected until the anniversary of your claim.  But if there is a change in your household such as someone leaving or someone coming to live with you or if you move the changes could apply sooner.

When is my anniversary date?

Your anniversary date is the date you first made your current claim.  For example, if you claimed Housing Benefit on 5 September 2008 your anniversary date is 5 September. 

This means that the changes the Government is making from 1 April 2011, could affect you from 5 September 2011 but you could be protected from a reduction in your Local Housing Allowance rate for a further nine months.

If you currently get an excess you will lose it from your anniversary date.

How will I know what the Local Housing Allowance rates will reduce to from April  2011?

There is information available about the levels of Local Housing Allowance rates that might apply from 1 April 2011 based on current rent levels.  You can go to one of the following websites:

This information will give you an idea of the amount of rent that might be met by Housing Benefit from 1 April 2011. The figures are estimates and will be updated regularly.  Rent levels and rates may change between now and April 2011.

You also need to remember that in some areas, such as central London, Local Housing Allowance rates will be restricted as follows from 1 April 2011:

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

The rent I am paying now is likely to be more than the Housing Benefit I will get when the changes come in.  What should I do?

You can talk to your landlord about the changes and see if they will drop the rent on your property. If that isn’t possible you could start looking for somewhere cheaper.  You might want to talk about your situation with your local authority housing options team and Housing Benefit department or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

My landlord won’t reduce my rent and it is going to be difficult for me to move is there any other help?

Your local authority can help some people with a Discretionary Housing Payment to meet the gap between their benefit entitlement and the rent they pay.  The amount of money available for these payments is limited so your authority will have to consider your circumstances carefully.

My Housing Benefit is paid directly to my landlord, what should I do if my Local Housing Allowance rate is reduced? Or how will I know that the amount paid to my landlord will still meet my rent?

The Housing Benefit department at your local authority will be able to give you information.  You might find it helps to talk to your landlord about the changes.

I am getting an excess between my rent and my Local Housing Allowance rate.  Will I stop getting this?

If you are getting an excess it will stop from your anniversary date on or following 1 April 2011.

Do I have to be getting Housing Benefit under the Local Housing Allowance arrangements to get the allowance for another bedroom for an overnight carer?

No. This change applies to all tenants who meet the qualifying conditions and live in privately rented accommodation no matter how their Housing Benefit is worked out.

I think I will be due an increase in my Housing Benefit because I have a carer who stays overnight - who should I tell?

Make sure that your local authority knows you have an overnight carer so that they can look at your Housing Benefit entitlement again. You must already have an extra bedroom in your home available for the carer to use before you get this help. If you are already getting Housing Benefit and meet the conditions for this extra help you will be entitled to it from the date the legislation becomes effective.

What about extra rooms for other circumstances such as disabled children, couples that cannot share a room or where extra space is needed for medical equipment?

The change only applies where the person making the Housing Benefit claim, or their partner, needs overnight care.