Benefit changes for under 35s
The government has made a number of changes to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules that affect housing benefit.
Are you under 35?
Do you rent from a private landlord?
Are you single?
From 1 January 2012 the government changed the rules that apply to most single people aged between 25 and 35, who do not have children and live in self-contained accommodation.
The change means that, instead of the current one bedroom Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate, you would move onto the rate for shared accommodation, which may be much lower.
These changes will apply:
- To new housing benefit claims from 1 January 2012.
- If you claimed housing benefit between 1 April 2011 and 31 December 2011, the changes will take effect on the first anniversary of your claim.
- If you claimed housing benefit before 1 April 2011, you will have qualified for 'nine month protection'. This means instead of the changes being applied on the anniversary of your claim after 1 April 2011, they take affect nine months after the anniversary of your claim.
There are a small amount of exceptions to the new rules.
If you are currently claiming housing benefit and the changes affect you, we will write to you six months and two months before the changes are due to affect you. You may want get some further help and advice about what to do next.
New housing benefit claims made on or after 1 January 2012
These changes will apply immediately to new claims by single people renting from a private landlord who are under 35 from 1 January 2012 onwards.
The amount of Local Housing Allowance will be restricted to the rate for a room in a shared house.
Victoria moves to Brighton & Hove on 1 January 2012 into a one bedroom flat which she has rented for £150 per week. She is not working so claims Local Housing Allowance. The maximum Victoria is entitled to is £78 per week. This means she has to make up £72 per week from her savings or ask someone else to help support her, for example a family member.
There are a small number of exceptions to these rules.
What if I already have a claim for LHA?
These changes will affect you depending on when you first claimed but we will write to you six months and two months before the changes are due to apply to you.
I first claimed between 1 April 2011 and 31 December 2011
If you first make a claim between 1 April 2011 and 31 December 2011 the changes will affect you on the first anniversary of your claim unless you meet one of the exceptions
Rasmita is 28 and lives by herself in a one bedroom flat which she rents from a private landlord. Rasmita's Local Housing Allowance started on 16 June 2011. Her Local Housing Allowance will be based on the shared room rate from 16 June 2012 (the first anniversary of her claim).
We will write to Rasmita and let her know how this will affect her six month's before (in December 2011). We will remind her again two month's before the changes (in April 2012).
I have had a claim since before 1 April 2011
You will be affected by the change in rules nine months after the first anniversary of your claim which falls on or after 1 April 2011 unless you meet one of the exceptions
Steve first claimed Local Housing Allowance on 10 April 2010. The first anniversary of Steve's claim which falls on or after 1 April 2011 is 10 April 2011. The changes apply to Steve nine months later on 10 January 2012.
What happens when I turn 35?
If you are living in self contained accommodation you will be entitled to Local Housing Allowance at the one bedroom self contained rate from the Monday after your 35th birthday. The new LHA rate will be calculated for you automatically. You will not need to make a new claim.
You are not restricted to the shared room rate if you live in self-contained accommodation and one or more of the circumstances below applies
- you receive the middle or higher rate of Disability Living Allowance (care component) as long as no-one receives Carers Allowance for you
- you are aged 25-34 and have been in a homeless hostel for thee months or more
- you need an overnight carer and have a bedroom for them to stay in
For new claims by those who have not claimed LHA or housing benefit for previous 52 weeks
- if you have been paying your rent yourself and have not claimed LHA or housing benefit in the previous 52 weeks, your benefit will be based on your full rent for the first 13 weeks. After 13 weeks your benefit will then be based on the shared room rate.
Help with these changes
You need to work out if you are still able to afford your rent. You may need to take advice on budgeting, or you may need to talk to your landlord to see if they are willing to reduce your rent. You may need to move.
There are agencies in the city which can assist and advise you with these changes and these options.