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Frequently asked questions regarding LHA

 

Changes to Housing Benefit from April 2011

 

Questions and Answers

 

Will I be affected by the changes to Local Housing Allowance rates?

If you are renting from a private landlord and you made your claim for Housing Benefit at your current address on or after the 7 April 2008 it is likely that you will be affected by these changes.

 

I have been getting Housing Benefit since before April 2008 could the changes affect me?

Providing you continue to live in the same property and you don’t have a break in your Housing Benefit claim the Local Housing Allowance arrangements will not apply to you.

 

Will I be affected by the caps?

The caps are most likely to affect people who are renting properties in central London boroughs.   If your weekly rent is more than the cap for the Local Housing Allowance rate that applies to you, your Housing Benefit will be reduced.

 

How do I know which Local Housing Allowance rate applies to me?

You can use the following information as a guide to work out how many bedrooms you are allowed. You are allowed one bedroom for:

 

·          every adult couple (married or unmarried)

·          any other adult aged 16 or over

·          any two children of the same sex aged under 16

·          any two children aged under 10

·          any other child

The maximum allowance is for four bedrooms from 1 April 2011.

 

Different rules may apply if you are under 25 or live in shared accommodation. Contact South Staffordshire Council on 01902 696668 for further information or go to:

https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/

I need a property with more than four bedrooms.  Will I only get benefit at the four bedroom rate?
The maximum Housing Benefit you get will be based on the four bedroom rate.  You can still look for properties with more than four bedrooms, or other rooms that can be used as bedrooms, with rents that are within the four bedroom rate. 

 

I am living in a self contained studio flat what rate applies to me?

The one bedroom Local Housing Allowance rate will apply to you.

 

I am already getting Housing Benefit when will I be affected by the changes?

If you are already getting Housing Benefit you will not normally be affected until the anniversary of your claim.  But if there is a change in your household such as someone leaving or someone coming to live with you or if you move the changes could apply sooner.

 

If I am thinking of renting and claiming Housing Benefit, how much rent should I agree to pay?

There is information available about the levels of Local Housing Allowance rates on the following website: 

https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/ 

 

The rent I am paying now is likely to be more than the Housing Benefit I will get when the changes come in.  What should I do?

You can talk to your landlord about the changes and see if they will drop the rent on your property. If that isn’t possible you could start looking for somewhere cheaper.  You might want to talk about your situation with your local authority housing options team and Housing Benefit department.or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

My landlord won’t reduce my rent and it is going to be difficult for me to move is there any other help?
Your local authority can help some people with a Discretionary Housing Payment to meet the gap between their benefit entitlement and the rent they pay.  The amount of money available for these payments is limited so your authority will have to consider your circumstances carefully.

 

My Housing Benefit is paid directly to my landlord, what should I do if my Local Housing Allowance rate is reduced? Or how will I know that the amount paid to my landlord will still meet my rent?

The Housing Benefit department at your local authority will be able to give you information.  You might find it helps to talk to your landlord about the changes.

 

I am getting an excess between my rent and my Local Housing Allowance rate.  Will I stop getting this?

If you are getting an access it may stop from your anniversary date following 1 April 2011. There is information available on the following website; https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/  

 

Do I have to be getting Housing Benefit under the Local Housing Allowance arrangements to get the allowance for another bedroom for an overnight carer?

No. This change applies to all tenants who meet the qualifying conditions and live in privately rented accommodation no matter how their Housing Benefit is worked out.

 

I think I will be due an increase in my Housing Benefit because I have a carer who stays overnight – who should I tell?

Make sure that your local authority knows you have an overnight carer so that they can look at your Housing Benefit entitlement again. You must already have an extra bedroom in your home available for the carer to use before you get this help. If you are already getting Housing Benefit and meet the conditions for this extra help you will be entitled to it from the date the legislation becomes effective.

 

Other frequently asked questions

 

1. What if the rent is more than the LHA, can the rent still be increased?

The landlord can charge whatever rent they feel appropriate, however Housing benefit will still be based on the LHA regardless of what is being charged. 

 

2. Does the rent Service hold records of everyone’s rent?

The Rent Service cannot use the information from the Council’s database to establish the LHA rates. They have to collect information independently.

 

 

3. Do landlords have to give their rent figures to the Rent Service?

No, but the more information they have the more realistic the LHA rates will be.

 

4. If there is a rent increase due on a property in April, can the landlord base the rent on the LHA figure?

The landlord can charge any rent he/she feels is appropriate. If that amount equals the LHA rate for that size of property then that is fine.

 

5. What is a Credit Union?

A credit union is a non profit making organisation which comes under the same rules as banks. It allows people who may have difficulty opening a bank account to access some of the same services and also can give cheap loans.

 

6. Can the tenant pay their rent by standing order from a credit union account?

Yes.

 

7. Where the council can pay the landlord if the tenant is in 8 weeks arrears, is that 8 weeks of the LHA rate?

No it is 8 full weeks rent arrears which could have accrued at anytime.

 

8. How will you monitor evictions caused due to paying the tenant instead of the landlord?

From information from landlords and the Homeless Team.

 

9. Why do you have to wait until someone is 8 weeks in arrears before you can swap payments to the landlord?

Because that is the time limit set in legislation. However if a tenant doesn’t make the first payment to you after 4 weeks please contact us and we will suspend the case and try to contact the tenant.

 

10. Will you let the landlord know it a tenant is a bad payer and will you share this information with other councils?

No, we cannot give a landlord this sort of information. We are hoping to make arrangements with the surrounding councils to share this sort of information.

 

Contacts

 

Housing Benefit & Council Tax Support Enquiries     Revenues & Benefits                                
Telephone: (01902) 696668 South Staffordshire Council
Fax: (01902) 696630 P.O. Box 1644
Email: benefits@sstaffs.gov.uk Wolverhampton
  WV8 1ZF

 

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