Local housing allowance (LHA) is the housing benefit paid to most tenants who rent from private landlords.
The amount of LHA you can get usually depends on how many bedrooms your home has, and the maximum rent allowed for properties in your area.
Information on LHA rates in your area is available from your local council.
Who does local housing allowance (LHA) apply to?
Local housing allowance only applies to private tenants who are making a new claim for housing benefit or who made a claim after 7 April 2008.
LHA does not apply to:
- private tenants who have claimed continuously from before 7 April 2008
- private tenants with tenancies from before 15 January 1989
- people living in hostels or bed and breakfast accommodation
- people living in mobile homes or on houseboats.
If you are in one of these groups, the rules for calculating housing benefit for fair rent tenants and private tenants will apply instead.
LHA doesn't apply to council and housing association tenants – rules for calculating housing benefit apply instead.
Local housing allowance payments can cover your rent and some service charges, if you have to pay them to continue living in the property. You can’t use LHA to pay charges for heating, hot water, lighting, laundry or cooking.
How is local housing allowance (LHA) calculated?
The amount of local housing allowance you can receive will depend on:
- the maximum rent allowed for properties in your area
- the number of rooms you need.
The amount of LHA you receive also depends on your income, savings and if you have any non-dependents, such as adult children, living with you.
LHA claims will be routinely reassessed every 12 months. The date this happens is called the ‘anniversary of your claim’. Your LHA claim may also be reassessed if your circumstances change – you must tell the council if this happens.
Maximum amounts of local housing allowance (LHA)
There is a maximum weekly rate of LHA based on the number of bedrooms your household qualifies for. The limits are:
- £250 for a one-bedroom property
- £290 for a two-bedroom property
- £340 for a three-bedroom property
- £400 for a four-bedroom property.
Local limits on how much local housing allowance (LHA) can be paid
The amount of LHA you can get depends on where you live. The local limits are based on the cheapest 30 per cent of properties in an area.
You can use the LHA Direct search to find out the maximum amounts of local housing allowance in different areas.
Rooms allowed when calculating local housing allowance (LHA)
When you make a claim for LHA, you will be assessed as needing a bedroom for each of the following people in your household:
- an adult couple
- another person aged 16 or over
- any two children of the same sex up to the age of 16
- any two children regardless of sex under the age of 10
- any other child.
Foster children are not included in this calculation.
If you claim LHA, the maximum amount you can get is limited to the top rate in your area for a four bedroom property. You can still rent a larger home, but you will only get local housing allowance up to the maximum level for four bedrooms – and it’s likely that your LHA won’t cover all the rent.
If you are under the age of 35 or you are occupying shared accommodation, you are usually only entitled to LHA at the shared accommodation rate. This is lower than the rate for a one-bedroom property. It applies even if you can’t find shared accommodation in your area and are renting a property on your own. See our page on housing benefit if you are under 35.
Local housing allowance (LHA) for rooms for overnight carers
If you or your partner are disabled and regularly need overnight care, you may need a separate bedroom to allow a carer to stay overnight. You can claim local housing allowance (LHA) for an extra bedroom for an overnight carer, so long as that room is available to be used by your carer.
If you need overnight care, but the council won’t give you the extra LHA for a carer’s bedroom, contact a local advice centre for help. Use our directory to find one.
What if local housing allowance (LHA) doesn’t fully cover rent?
The amount of LHA you get from the council may not be enough to pay all of your rent. If this happens, you will need to think about how you could make up any shortfall.
Your options could include:
- applying to the council for a discretionary housing payment
- looking at your monthly outgoings to see if you can make any savings
- negotiating a cheaper rent with your landlord, in return for the council making your LHA payments directly to them
- moving somewhere cheaper.
When local housing allowance (LHA) is paid directly to landlords
Usually, LHA is paid directly to the person who claims it, and that person is expected to pay the rent. However, the council must make the LHA payments direct to your landlord if:
- you have rent arrears of eight weeks or more
- it is already making deductions from your income support, jobseeker’s allowance or employment support allowance to pay for rent arrears.
In some circumstances, the council can choose to pay your LHA direct to your landlord. It might do this if:
- you are likely to have problems paying your rent, for example if you have problems with drugs or alcohol, or you have a serious medical condition
- you are unlikely to pay your rent, for example if the council is aware you have consistently failed to pay the rent in the past.
Councils also have the right to pay LHA direct to a landlord if doing so will help someone to get a tenancy, or keep an existing tenancy, for example:
- for existing tenants – if the rent has been reduced to an affordable level (which is normally the LHA rate for the property)
- for new tenants – if the rent has been reduced to an affordable level or direct payments will help a tenant keep their tenancy.
Before a council decides to pay LHA direct to your landlord, it will get information from people who can help determine whether it is in your interests to do so. It might talk to your doctor and other health professionals, support workers, probation officers and others who know about your situation.
If you need help, contact a Shelter advice centre, your local council or another local advice service. Use our directory to find help near you.