Rossendale Borough Council

Benefit rule changes April 2011

Changes from April 2011

The government is changing the rules for people who make a new claim for these benefits from the Benefits Service from April 2011. Most of the changes will mean less benefit, but there is good news for some disabled private tenants who receive regular overnight care (See 3. below). We may be able to work out your benefit based on you needing an extra bedroom.

If you are already claiming from us, some of the changes may not affect you straightaway. However, everyone whose benefit is worked out under the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules will be affected by the LHA changes below before December 2012.

1. Local Housing Allowance (LHA) changes

These changes affect you if your benefit is worked out under the LHA rules - this includes most people who rent from a private landlord and whose Housing Benefit claim for their current address started from 7 April 2008 onwards.

If you make a new claim from April 2011 and the LHA rules apply to you, then these changes apply to your claim straightaway. If you are already claiming, see the details under each change for when it will start.

  • No more 'excess LHA'
    If your rent is less than your LHA rate, then you may be getting more Housing Benefit than the rent you pay, because we are allowed to use a rent of up to £15 a week more than your actual rent to work out your benefit. The new rules from April 2011 mean we can't do this any more. If you are already claiming from us we must stop using a higher rent from the date we look at your LHA rate again after April 2011. This is usually on the anniversary of your claim (the 'anniversary date'), but if you have a change like moving home or needing a different number of bedrooms before this date, we will stop using the higher rent when that change happens. 

  • The highest LHA rate will be for four bedrooms
    This means that even if the LHA rules say you need five or more bedrooms, the new rules say we can only use the LHA rate for four bedrooms to work out your benefit.

    If you are already claiming from us and we are using the five bedroom rate, the rules tell us to delay using the four bedroom rate until nine months after your first 'anniversary date' (the date we look at your LHA rate again) after April 2011. The government has introduced this nine month delay to help you look for cheaper accommodation if your benefit goes down. If you move or have a change that means you need fewer bedrooms before the end of the nine months, then we must start using the four bedroom rate from the date of the move or the change.

    However, if you move or have a change in your household that means you need fewer bedrooms before your first 'anniversary date' after April 2011, we can't delay using the four bedroom rate at all. We must use the new rules from the date of the move or the change.

  • The LHA rates are going down
    The government is reducing the LHA rates. At present about five in ten properties in your area are affordable for people on Housing Benefit. From April 2011 the rates will go down, with the result that only about three in every ten properties will be affordable for people on Housing Benefit. For example (based on the LHA rates for March 2011), if the three bedroom rate is now £115.38, from April it would be £106.38. If the one bedroom rate is now £86.08, from April it would be £82.08. 

    If you are already claiming from us, the rules tell us to delay using the reduced LHA rate to work out your benefit until nine months after your first 'anniversary date' (the date we look at your LHA rate again) after April 2011. The government has introduced this nine month delay to help you plan what to do if your benefit goes down. If you have a change in your household that means you need more bedrooms before your 'anniversary date', then the nine months start from the date of your change. If you move or have a change that means you need fewer bedrooms before the end of the nine months, then we must use the reduced LHA rate from the date of your move or your change. 

    However, if you move or have a change in your household that means you need fewer bedrooms before your first 'anniversary date' after April 2011, we can't delay using the reduced LHA rate at all. We must use the new rules from the date of the move or change.  

2. The amount we have to take off your benefit for non-dependants is going up

This change may reduce your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit if you have an adult (not your partner) living with you. For example, grown-up children or other relatives or friends aged 18 and over. We call them non-dependants and we must take a set amount off your benefit for them. If we are making a deduction already, this will go up from the beginning of April 2011.

The government plans to put the deductions for non-dependants up again in 2012, 2013 and 2014. 

3. Good news! Extra help for disabled private tenants

From April 2011 Housing Benefit can help with the cost of an extra bedroom if:

  • you or your partner are disabled;
  • you rent from a private landlord; and
  • either or both of you need and receive regular overnight care from a carer who doesn't live with you, but who has sole use of a bedroom in your home.

The care could be provided by an individual or a team of carers. We will need evidence that regular overnight care is needed and is provided.  

We will then be able to include an extra bedroom when we decide which LHA rate to use to work out your benefit, if the LHA rules apply to you. If the 'old rules' apply to you, we will ask the Valuation Office Agency to include an extra bedroom for the carer in their valuation. We can do this from April 2011 for new claims and existing claimants. If you are already claiming, please contact us to let us know if you think you will qualify. But don't worry, even if we find out late, we can work out your benefit again to give the extra help from when you qualify (but we can't go back before April 2011).

Need more information about the April 2011 changes?

If the LHA rules apply to you, we will write to you about the LHA changes given above before they affect you.

You can also get information about the changes to Housing Benefit from the government's Directgov website.

You can contact us on 0845 900 0500 or call into our One Stop Shop Rawtenstall.