Since January 2012, if you are single (without dependents), in private rented housing and aged under 35, you are only entitled to housing benefit at the same rate as you would get for renting a single room in a shared house.
Shared accommodation rate
From 1 January 2012, most single young people aged under 35 are only entitled to housing benefit (also known as local housing allowance (LHA)) at what is called the 'shared accommodation rate' – the same as you can get to help pay for the cost of a single room in shared accommodation.
Even if you rent a self-contained place of your own, this is the most you can be paid if you are single (and without dependents), aged under 35, rent from a private landlord and make a new claim. Find out more about this on our page on housing benefit for young people.
Before January 2012, the shared accommodation rate only applied to people under 25. Changes to housing benefit rules will also affect most single people aged 25 to 34 already living in privately rented self-contained accommodation. Reductions in their housing benefit will result in a shortfall between the amount of benefit paid and the rent.
The shared accommodation rate is set by local rent officers – the maximum amount is based on the cost of a single room in a shared house in an area. You can find out how much this is for your area by looking at the LHA calculator.
Exceptions to the new rules
The rules for local housing allowance don’t apply to council and housing association tenants or to people in some types of supported accommodation provided by charities, councils or housing associations – rules for housing benefit apply instead.
If you are a care leaver, the shared accommodation rate does not apply until you are aged 22. Find out more about this on our page on housing benefit for young people.
If you are aged 25 to 34, you won’t be affected by the new rules and you may be entitled to the rate for self-contained accommodation instead if:
- you have lived in hostels for homeless people, domestic violence refuges, or drug rehabilitation hostels for three months or more before moving to the private rented sector – the three months does not have to be continuous, can be in any number of hostels and did not have to be immediately before you claimed housing benefit .You must also have been offered and received resettlement support.
- you have left prison and your housing has been arranged under the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) – for managing the risk posed by sexual and violent offenders.
If you are aged under 35, you won’t be affected by the new rules and you may be entitled the rate for self-contained accommodation instead if:
- you are severely disabled (and receiving the middle or highest care component of disability living allowance) or live with a non-dependent (for example, an older relative)
- you are entitled to an extra bedroom for a non-resident carer.
The shared accommodation rate will not apply to you if you are not a single person household, for example:
- you have a child who lives with you
- you are living with a partner as a couple (unless you are renting shared accommodation)
- you live with an adult dependent
- you are a qualifying foster carer.
When will the changes affect you?
When you are affected depends on your age and the date you claimed local housing allowance or housing benefit.
From 1 January 2012, if you make a new claim for local housing allowance and you are aged under 35, the maximum payment will be the same as the amount for a room in shared accommodation in your area, even if you are actually renting a self-contained place.
Claims first made from 1 April 2011
If you are aged 25 to 34 and already renting a self-contained place, and you claimed local housing allowance from 1 April 2011, your benefit will be reduced to the shared accommodation rate on the anniversary of your claim (but see also ‘Becoming 25’).
Claims first made between 8 April 2008 and 1 April 2011
If you are already renting a self-contained place and claimed local housing allowance between 8 April 2008 and 1 April 2011, your benefit will be reduced to the shared accommodation rate nine months after the first anniversary of your claim after 1 April 2011.
You could also be affected by other reductions in local housing allowance at the same time. This will not reset the date of the anniversary of your claim, so you should expect the usual annual reviews of your entitlement as well.
The date you reach your 25th birthday makes a difference if you first claimed housing benefit between 8 April 2008 and 1 April 2011, and you rent a self-contained property:
- If your 25th birthday falls on or before 31 December 2011, you become eligible for LHA at the rate for a one-bedroom property. The anniversary of your claim is reset and your benefit will not be reduced to the shared accommodation rate until 12 months later.
- If your 25th birthday falls on or after 1st January 2012, your benefit will be reduced to the shared accommodation rate on the anniversary of your claim.
Claims first made before 8 April 2008
Some people renting in the private sector from before 8 April 2008 have their benefit assessed under the rules for housing benefit rather than local housing allowance. If you are aged 35, your entitlement will assessed at the rate for a single room instead of the rate for a self-contained property on the anniversary of your claim.
What can you do if the changes affect you?
- First, work out if the new rules apply to you.
- If they do, work out what date they will take effect.
- Work out how much extra you need to pay your rent.
- Look at your budget – can you find ways to increase your income or decrease your costs?
You can find out the amount of the shared accommodation rate in your area using the LHA calculator.
If the sums don’t add up and you can’t afford to pay the rent, to avoid a shortfall, rent arrears and possible eviction, you may have to move to shared accommodation.
You could try to claim a discretionary housing payment if the change causes you hardship and it’s difficult for you to move, but even if this is granted, it is likely to be only a short term solution.
What if your circumstances change?
If you share your accommodation with a partner, the shared accommodation rate does not apply. You could get local housing allowance for self-contained accommodation instead – but your partner’s income would be taken into account.
If you share with an adult non-dependent (for example, an elderly relative), you would be able to claim housing benefit for self-contained accommodation. A non-dependent deduction could be applied and your local housing allowance reduced as a result. You would need to ask your landlord for permission for another person to move in.
If you are aged under 35 and your partner dies, you will be treated as a single person household – and your benefit reduced – after 12 months (unless you have children or live with others as part of your household).
If you are no longer a one-person household – for example, you have a child, the shared accommodation rate will no longer apply to you if you are living in a self-contained property.