How Local Housing Allowance is calculated
Local housing allowance amount is based on the area in which claimants live and the size of dwelling appropriate for claimant’s household.
LHA rates are based on the:
'broad market rental area' in which the claimant lives
'category of dwelling' deemed appropriate for their household (ie size criteria)
The information on this page relates to housing benefit. Local housing allowance rates are also used to determine the amount of universal credit housing costs that private renters are entitled to. Some of the rules on size related criteria for universal credit are different, for example on the shared accommodation rate.
Eligible rent under LHA scheme
A claimant cannot receive more in housing benefit than their actual rent, even if their actual rent is less than the applicable LHA rate.
There is also a cap on the amount of benefits that a working-age claimant and their household can receive. A claimant's housing benefit will be reduced to ensure that the total amount of benefits they receive is not more than the benefit cap level.
Broad rental market areas
Each local authority area is divided into a number of distinct broad rental market areas (BRMAs). A BRMA consists of two or more distinct areas of residential accommodation, within which a person could reasonably be expected to live, containing accommodation of different types and various tenancies.
The local rent officer is required to define each BRMA. Once defined, the BRMA will apply to all properties falling within that area. A unified definition of BRMAs applies in respect of both LHA and local reference rent cases (which had previously been determined by reference to rents in a 'locality').
Once the BRMA has been defined, the rent officer determines LHA rates for different categories of dwelling in that area.
Depending on the composition of the claimant's household a particular size of dwelling will be deemed appropriate.
Bedroom rules: general
The criteria used to calculate the size of property that a household requires is that there must be one bedroom for each:
other adult aged 16 or over, this could include a resident carer, lodger or child who is in the Armed Forces
child who cannot share a bedroom due to their disability
two children of the same sex
two children regardless of sex under the age of 10
(from 1 April 2017) member of a couple that is unable to share a bedroom because of a disability
A bedroom for a disabled person who cannot share will only be awarded where there is an additional room in the home available for her/him to use as a bedroom.
A room used for the storage of medical or special equipment is not to be counted as a bedroom under the regulations.
See Restrictions on eligible rents for social rented sector tenants for more information about the definition of a bedroom, and about any connection that there must be between a bedroom and the class of person actually expected to occupy it.
Joint tenants who are not members of the same household qualify for a bedroom each. However, the shared accommodation rate may apply. Guidance on specific issues relating to joint tenants has been issued.
The LHA bedroom calculator can be used to work out the number of bedrooms a household is entitled to.
Additional bedroom rules
An additional bedroom is allowed for a:
a non-resident carer who provides overnight care
Where both categories apply, two additional bedrooms are allowed.
There must be a 'spare bedroom' in the home in order for an additional bedroom to be allowed.
Child in the Armed Forces
A bedroom is allowed if the claimant, or their partner, has a child or step-child who is in the Armed Forces and:
is away 'on operations'. This does not necessarily mean on duty outside the UK, it also covers pre-deployment training and post-operation leave (ie 'normalisation')
had been a non-dependant when living at home
intends to return to the claimant's home
An additional bedroom is allowed if the claimant or their partner is an approved foster carer, and they either:
have a foster child living with them
are between placements and have fostered a child in the last 12 months
became an approved foster carer in the last 12 months
Only one extra bedroom is permitted regardless of the number (or sex) of foster children in the claimant's household.
A bedroom for a resident overnight carer living in the claimant’s home is allowed under the general rules.
An additional bedroom for a non-resident overnight carer should be allowed when it is 'reasonably required' by a:
disabled claimant or their disabled cohabiting partner
(from 1 April 2017) disabled child
(from 1 April 2017) disabled non-dependant adult
A bedroom will be 'reasonably required' if the non-resident carer 'regularly' stays overnight (this might be when care is provided by a team of carers). Whether the bedroom is 'regularly' used is to be assessed over a long period and it is not necessary that a carer stays overnight on the majority of nights.
In order to qualify for a bedroom on the grounds of needing a non-resident carer or not being able to share a bedroom, the disabled person must be in receipt of one or more of:
care component of DLA at the higher or middle rate
higher rate attendance allowance
daily living component of personal independence payment (PIP)
armed forces independence payment
The maximum LHA rate is for a four-bedroom property. This cannot be exceeded even if a claimant:
rents a larger property
is entitled to more bedrooms under the criteria used to calculate the size of property they require
Discretionary housing payments
A claimant can apply for a discretionary housing payment to help make up a shortfall. The government has made additional funds available, some of which is aimed at disabled people living in accommodation that has been substantially adapted for their needs
Shared accommodation rate
The shared accommodation LHA rate applies to:
single people of any age with no dependants who live in shared accommodation
couples of any age with no dependants who live in shared accommodation
single people under 35 with no dependants who live in any type of accommodation
Shared accommodation is where the claimant has the sole use of a bedroom, but shares at least a living room, kitchen or bathroom. This covers individuals sharing a house or flat, as well as bedsits or houses in multiple occupation where a bedroom may include a kitchenette but the bathroom is shared with other tenants in the building.
Exemptions for claimants who are living in shared accommodation
Claimants without dependants who live in shared accommodation are subject to the shared accommodation LHA rate unless the claimant or their partner:
qualifies for the severe disability premium (the claimant must get either the daily living component of PIP, DLA care component at the middle or highest rate, or armed forces independence payment, and no one must receive carers allowance or the carers element of UC in respect of the claimant)
is aged under 25 and was subject to a care order when aged 16 or 17 (before 31 May 2021 this exemption applied only to claimants under 22)
is aged under 25 and was formerly provided with accommodation by social services under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (before 31 May 2021 this exemption applied only to claimants under 22)
If any of these exemptions apply, the claimant is entitled to the one bedroom LHA rate, even if they live in shared accommodation.
Singe claimants who are aged over 35 and couples without dependants are entitled to the one bedroom rate if they live in self-contained accommodation.
Self-contained accommodation is defined as:
exclusive use of at least two rooms (counting only bedrooms and living rooms, and regardless of whether other rooms are shared)
exclusive use of one room and a bathroom, toilet, and kitchen (or cooking facilities)
To have 'exclusive use' of a room means having the legal right to exclude anyone else from it. Joint tenants do not have the legal right to exclude other tenants from shared facilities. Where there are joint tenants who are not a couple, each will be assessed for benefit purposes as living in shared accommodation.
Exemptions for claimants who are living in self-contained accommodation
Single claimants aged under 35 are entitled to the one bedroom rate if they live in self-contained accommodation and they: 
are aged under 25 and was subject to a care order when aged 16 or 17 (before 31 May 2021 this exemption applied only to claimants under 22)
are aged under 25 and was formerly provided with accommodation by social services under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (before 31 May 2021 this exemption applied only to claimants under 22)
are in receipt of the severe disability premium (the claimant must get either the daily living component of PIP, DLA care component at the middle or highest rate, or armed forces independence payment, and no one must receive carers allowance or the carers element of UC in respect of the claimant)
have a non-dependant living with them
are an approved foster carer who either has a child placed with them, or who has not had a child placed with them for no longer than 52 weeks
have spent at least three months in a homeless hostel and have accepted resettlement support. The three month period does not have to be continuous, or in a single hostel, or immediately before the housing benefit claim is made (before 31 May 2021 this exemption applied only to claimants under between 25 and 34)
are an ex-offender who is subject to a Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangement (MAPPA)
(from 1 October 2022) have experienced domestic abuse at any time since they were the age of 16 and can provide evidence that they have contacted a person in an official capacity in relation to a domestic abuse incident
(from 1 October 2022) have been referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) after experiencing modern slavery and has received a positive conclusive grounds decision
In a case brought by a claimant with a disability who did not qualify for the severe disability premium, the Upper Tribunal held that the availability of discretionary housing payments meant that the rule restricting their benefit to the shared accommodation rate was not manifestly without reasonable foundation.
Universal credit claimants are subject to different rules.
Setting LHA rates
LHA rates are usually set in January and take effect in April each year. Current LHA rates, by postcode and local authority, are available from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
The rent officer compiles a list of LHA rates for each broad market rental area and each category of dwelling within that area up to the rate for a four-bedroom property. The LHA for a person living in a property that has five bedrooms or more is based on the four-bedroom rate.
LHA rates are generally fixed at the 30th percentile point for rents in each size category of dwelling based on market rents paid by tenants who are not receiving housing benefit.
LHA rates must be published by the local authority. Authorities should take steps to ensure that the up-to-date rates are brought to the attention of those who may be eligible.
Challenging LHA rates
There is no right of appeal regarding the amount of the LHA rate, although an appeal can be made concerning the size criteria that has been applied to a claimant. The decision making process whereby a BRMA is drawn or the LHA rates are set could be challenged by judicial review
It may be possible to complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. In one case, where the local authority had erroneously advised about the amount of LHA a claimant would be entitled to when moving from temporary accommodation to private renting, the Ombudsman recommended that the local authority paid the difference between the LHA rate paid and the rent for the duration of the fixed-term tenancy.
Reviewing claimant's LHA rate
Normally the claimant's LHA rate is uprated annually, on 1 April or the first Monday in April, unless there has been a relevant change of circumstances, death of a linked person, or a change of address.
Where there is an increase or decrease in a claimant's rent following the annual review and the rent is less than the LHA rate, this is to be treated as a change of circumstances, and the housing benefit varied (but to no higher than the applicable LHA rate).
A linked person is a:
member of the claimant's family, ie their partner or dependent child/young person who is part of the claimant's household
relative of the claimant or their partner living in the same dwelling, unless the relative has a separate right to occupy the premises
Last updated: 6 October 2022