What is Local Housing Allowance?
If you are a private tenant your maximum Housing Benefit entitlement is based on the Local Housing Allowance rate appropriate to your circumstances.
You can view Local Housing Allowance rates by area on our Local Housing Allowance rates help page. If your Local Housing Allowance is less than your rent your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will not cover your full rent and you will have to make up the shortfall or seek cheaper accommodation.
If you are a social sector tenant (council or housing association) claiming Housing Benefit and you sign your tenancy from 1 April 2016, you will be affected by the introduction of LHA for social sector tenants from 1 April 2019. If you are a social tenant claiming Universal Credit, you will be affected from 1 April 2019 regardless of when you signed your tenancy.
How Local Housing Allowance works
Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates vary depending on:
the area where you live
the number of bedrooms you need
There are five different rates per area:
Shared Accommodation rate
One bedroom rate
Two bedroom rate
Three bedroom rate
Four bedroom rate
The four bedroom rate is the maximum even if you are deemed to need more bedrooms for your household under the bedroom allocation rules described on this page.
Who is affected
Local Housing Allowance affects most people renting from a private landlord who make a new claim for Housing Benefit after April 7th 2008, or who have a change of address or break in their Housing Benefit entitlement after April 2008.
Many people are not affected as they are exempt or protected from LHA.
Number of bedrooms allowed
LHA is calculated on the basis of the number of bedrooms that you are assessed as needing. You are allowed one bedroom for:
every adult couple (including civil partners)
every adult aged 16 or over (including lodgers or boarders)
any two children of the same sex under age 16
any two children regardless of their sex under age 10
any other child
You may be allowed an extra room if you have:
a severely disabled adult or child who needs their own room but would be expected to share under the rules above
a non-resident carer (if you, your partner, child or non-dependant are disabled and need overnight care)
a foster child or children
a child who is away on duty with the Armed Forces but intends to return to live with you
The number of bedrooms you need sets the LHA rate you qualify for and hence the maximum amount that Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will pay.
Unlike in social housing (where the rules compare the number of rooms allowed with the number you have), in the private rented sector the number of rooms in your home is irrelevant.
For instance, if you have opposite sex children age 11 and 8, the three bedroom rate of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) applies. If you in fact live in a two bedroom property it doesn’t matter – your maximum benefit is still based on the three bedroom rate of LHA. The idea is that once you know the Local Housing Allowance that applies, you could choose a property with rent due up to that amount, or choose a more expensive property and pay the difference. The number of rooms you actually have does not matter, it is the amount of rent.
Shared Accommodation Rate
If you live in shared accommodation the shared accommodation rate of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) applies, even if you would otherwise be allowed the one bedroom rate of LHA under the bedroom allowance rules.
If you are younger than 35, single with no children, you are also restricted to the shared accommodation rate of LHA, even if you live in a self-contained property. There are exemptions, for example, severely disabled people, care leavers under 22 years of age or those with a bedroom used by care workers providing overnight care.
See our Shared Accommodation Rate help page for further information on who this rate applies to and the full list of exemptions.
More information is available if you have a tenancy agreement where you and one or more other people are jointly liable for paying the rent - see joint tenants.