Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and rent officer valuations – private tenants

When you rent from a private landlord, the maximum amount of Housing Benefit you can get is usually limited by Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates. There are a few situations where rent officer valuations apply instead of LHA.

Local Housing Allowance

The independent Valuation Office Agency sets the LHA for each area based on local market rents.

The LHA that applies to an individual household is usually then based on LHA rules about how many bedrooms the household needs. If the rules say you need two bedrooms, for example, your LHA will be the LHA rate for a two bedroom property in your area.

There is also a shared accommodation rate for joint tenants renting a bedroom in a property they share with people other than their partner. This is usually lower than the rate for a self-contained property. 

There are different LHA rules for single people under 35.

If your rent is the same as or higher than your LHA, we will use your LHA as the rent figure for working out Housing Benefit.  If your rent is lower than your LHA, we will use your actual rent figure - you can’t get more Housing Benefit than you pay in rent. 

Your Housing Benefit might be less than your LHA because LHA is only one of the pieces of information that goes towards working out how much Housing Benefit you can get – see working out Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.

LHA rules say you need one bedroom for each of the following:

  • a couple
  • anyone aged 16 or over
  • two children under 16 of the same sex
  • two children under 10
  • any other child 
  • both members of a couple where the couple can’t share a bedroom because of a disability or because one or both needs space for medical equipment, and where the ill or disabled person gets:
    • the middle or higher level of Disability Living Allowance,
    • Personal Independence Payment daily living component
    • Armed Forces Independent Payment
    • a carer or group of carers giving overnight care to you, your partner, or a disabled child or a disabled non-dependant , where the person needing care gets:
      • the middle or higher level of Disability Living Allowance
      • Personal Independence Payment daily living component
      • Armed Forces Independent Payment
      • a child who can’t share a bedroom because they have severe disabilities
      • a foster child
      • people in the armed forces who are away from home on operations
      • people who normally live with you but are away for a reason allowed under the  temporary absence rules

You can find out the maximum number of bedrooms LHA will cover for your household at  GOV.UK – LHA bedroom calculator. You can then find out the LHA rate that applies at  GOV.UK – LHA rates.

LHA rules for single people under 35

Most single people under 35 can only get the shared accommodation LHA rate, even if they live in self-contained accommodation.  But your LHA won’t be restricted to the shared accommodation rate if you live in self-contained accommodation and any of the following apply:

  • you have a child who lives with you
  • you are eligible for a disability premium
  • you are 25 or over,  have been in homeless accommodation for more than 3 months, and have accepted support services to help you resettle
  • you are 25 or over and are under Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements after leaving prison
  • you are a care leaver aged 22 or under

You might have to pay a small amount towards the rent yourself even if your rent is no higher than your LHA and you get the maximum amount of Housing Benefit possible.

The reason for the difference is that weekly amounts for Housing Benefit payments are worked out in a different way to weekly amounts for LHA.

To work out the amount of Housing Benefit due each week, we take the monthly rent, multiply it by 12 months, and divide it by 52 weeks. 52 weeks is equal to 364 days (52 x 7).

As an example, for a £600 per calendar month rent, the weekly rent figure for Housing Benefit would be £600 x 12/52 = £138.46. 

For LHA, we have to multiply the monthly rent by 12 months, then divide by 365 days, then multiply by 7 days.  

This means that for a £600 a month rent, the weekly LHA rate would be £600 X 12/365 x 7 = £138.08.

A tenant able to claim maximum Housing Benefit would get this £138.08 every 4 weeks, which makes a total of £7,180 a year (13 payments).

This is £20 less than the rent due for the year, which would be £600 x 12 = £7,200.

The tenant must pay the extra to the landlord themselves.

Rent Officer valuations: where LHA doesn’t apply – private tenants

LHA doesn’t apply if:

  • your rent includes food
  • you live in a boat, mobile home or caravan
  • you live in a hostel
  • you live in a Rent Act protected property

In these situations, we ask  independent Valuation Office Agency (VAO) rent officers to decide the maximum amount of rent you can get Housing Benefit for. Rent officers base their decisions on the average rent for a similar property in the area and what size property they consider reasonable for the number of people in your household.

Further information, help and support

For details of organisations who can give you advice about money matters and help you apply for benefits, see Live Well applying for welfare benefits.

For an estimate of how much benefit you might get, you can use the entitledto online benefits calculator.