Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is a flat rate allowance based on the size of household and the area in which a person lives. There are no changes to the entitlement rules - this will be based on a person’s income and savings and proof of a valid tenancy. Payment will normally be to the tenant, who will then pay the landlord.
Each local authority will be divided into Broad Rental Market Areas (BRMA). West Somerset officially has two of these, however, one of them (North East Devon) only contains one claim! Rent Officers will set individual LHA rates for each BRMA. These will be published in our customer centre in Minehead, Council Office at Williton, online on this web site, and be available at West Somerset Advice Bureau so that landlords and prospective LHA customers can be clear about the amount of rent that LHA Housing Benefit will cover.
Prospective tenants will be able to shop around with their allowance. If they find a property they like with a rent that exceeds their LHA they will need, as they do now, to make up the difference themselves. But if they find somewhere with a rent below their allowance, they will be able to keep the difference up to a maximum £15.00 per week.
The Government want the majority of cases paid directly to the tenant, which may cause concern to landlords with regards to possible non payment. The pilot schemes found that these concerns did not materialise, and levels of non payment remained unchanged compared to the current scheme. There are safeguards for vulnerable tenants, and the current 8 week arrears rule remains unchanged, although landlords will need to prove the arrears, so it is vital that they maintain accurate records.
If a customer has problems opening a bank account, or is concerned that payments will merely go against overdrafts, we have an arrangement that West Somerset Advice Bureau will help them with basic bank accounts.