West Lancs logo

Changes to social housing benefits

From 1 April 2019, the way housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit (UC) is calculated, will be changing.

What is changing?

If you rent a property from the council, the amount of housing benefit or housing costs you receive will be capped to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate for your household size. This will be the same rate that would be paid if you had a property with a private landlord.

If you are on universal credit you will be affected by the LHA cap from 1 April 2019.

If you are on housing benefit and took a tenancy after 1 April 2016 you will be affected by the LHA cap from 1 April 2019.

Under 35s

If you are under 35 years old, live alone and you are not entitled to the severe disability premium, help with your rent will be capped to the 'shared room rate' of Local Housing Allowance (LHA), even if you do not share your home with anyone else.

Under 22s

From December 2017 if you are a new UC claimant you will not be eligible for housing costs to cover your rent. There may be some exemptions to this, visit housing cost for 18 to 21 year olds (external link) for more infomaton.

New tenants from 1 April 2016

If you have taken a new tenancy on or after 1 April 2016, the amount of housing benefit you receive could be reduced from 1 April 2019 to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate.

What does this mean for me?

If you are in receipt of housing benefit or UC on or after 1 April 2019, you will need to consider how you will afford any shortfall in your housing benefit.

  • If you are on UC you will be affected by the Local Housing Allowance Cap (LHA)
  • If your tenancy started before 1 April 2016 you will not be affected by the Local Housing Allowance cap if you receive housing benefits
  • If you move to a new tenancy, your rent will be limited to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA)
  • If you live in sheltered or supported housing, changes will be effective from 2019 (transition arrangements are currently being decided on).

View examples of when this change would affect you.

There are different rates of LHA based on where you live. The table below shows the maximum help you can get with your rent dependent on the number of bedrooms you have. You can also visit directgov (external link) for further information and to calculate how many bedrooms you are eligible for.    

Postcode

Shared room rate

1 bed

2 bed

3 bed

4 bed

WN6 – WN8

£57.57

£80.55

£96.23

£109.32

£149.59

PR4

£53.67

£89.46

£109.32

£126.58

£161.10

 

L37 - L40

PR8 - 9

 

£69.23

 

£91.43

 

£120.82

 

£139.84

 

£172.60

 

What do I need to do?

You need to be aware of the changes that will come into place from 1 April 2019. 

When you have checked the LHA rates for your property, you will need to consider how you will  pay your rent if the LHA rate does not cover the rent that you are charged each week.

Get prepared

If you think you might be affected by the LHA cap:

  • Look at your budget and see if you would be able to afford paying any shortfall in your rent. If you need help visit our money advice pages and use our income and expenditure form
  • Try to get your rent account in credit by paying more rent between now and April 2019
  • If you are of working age, there are schemes to help you back into work. Visit our getting back to work page for further information

Under occupation charge (bed tax)

Since April 2013 social housing properties have been subject to the under occupation charge. This is based on a tenant having more bedrooms than they are eligible for. The charge can be either a 14% reduction based on having one additional bedroom or 25% based on having two or more bedrooms over their requirement. If you receive help with your rent through benefits and you have additional rooms above your eligibility then you would need to make up the difference.

For example: a lone parent with one child lives in a 3 bedroom property and the rent is £100 per week, she receives maximum help with her rent. Her bedroom eligibility is two bedrooms. She would need to find 14% of her rent due to the under occupation charge as she has an additional bedroom beyond her eligibility.

LHA or under occupation charge

From April 2017 any new claim for help with your housing costs will be limited to 2 children. For families with 3 or more children you will only receive 2 dependant premiums which could reduce the amount of benefit entitlement you receive.  Your bedroom needs are unaffected by this change

If you are subject to LHA and you have more bedrooms than you need, help with your rent will be based on the lowest rate payable.

For example: a single person (over 35 years old) rents a 2 bedroom property and the rent is £85 per week. Under LHA you could get benefit of £80.55. Under occupation charges mean you would get £73.10 as the one room reduction applies at 14% -  so the maximum benefit you could receive would be £73.10.

Keeping you informed

We will let you know nearer to April 2019 if we think the benefit for your rent will be reduced. If it is reduced, you will have to pay the shortfall from your benefits or other income. If you need more help with this, or help budgeting your income you can contact our Money Advice team, email moneyadvice@westlancs.gov.uk or telephone Customer Services on 01695 577177 and ask to speak to a Money Advisor.