Your benefits are changing!

The government in Westminster is making some important changes to Local Housing Allowance from 4 April 2011. These changes will affect people getting Housing Benefit who pay rent to a private landlord.

Shelter Cymru is working with a number of partners in Wales – the Welsh Assembly Government, local authorities, Citizens Advice, Community Housing Cymru and Jobcentres – to try to mitigate the effects these changes will have. A large number of people will be affected and if you are one of them, it’s important to seek advice as soon as possible to ensure you don’t get into difficulties paying for your housing.

Who is affected?

If you are making a new claim for Housing Benefit, these changes will apply to you from 4 April 2011.

If you are already claiming Housing Benefit, the changes are likely to affect the amount of money you get towards your rent, but you may have more time before these changes apply to you.

If your circumstances don’t change, you will continue to get the same rate of Local Housing Allowance as you get now. This will continue for nine months after your local authority next assess your Housing Benefit, after 4 April.

Weekly excess

The maximum £15 weekly excess that some people can get will be removed.

Limits on payments

A limit will be introduced so that Local Housing Allowance does not exceed:

  • £250 a week for a one bedroom property (including shared accommodation)
  • £290 a week for a two bedroom property
  • £340 a week for a three bedroom property
  • £400 a week for a four bedroom property

The maximum rate of Housing Benefit will be limited to the rate for a four bedroom property.

Help for disabled people

There will be additional help for disabled people who are getting certain benefits towards the cost of an extra bedroom if they have a regular non-resident overnight carer. They must have a room available in their home for this. If you think this applies to you, let your Housing Benefit section know as soon as possible.

New tenancy agreements

You may want to seek advice before you sign a new tenancy agreement.

Explaining the changes

These changes will affect almost everyone who is claiming Local Housing Allowance. There are more details about the changes here.

Local authorities will be writing to people getting Housing Benefit about the changes. It is important that you read the letter carefully and seek further advice as you will need to consider what to do when the changes come in.

You may also want to seek advice from your Housing Benefit office, Shelter Cymru or Citizens Advice before you sign a new tenancy agreement.

There are links to all the Welsh local authority websites on the DirectGov website.

What you can do

You can take a look at our advice pages on housing benefit. You can email us with an enquiry or phone us on 0345 075 5005.

There is a benefits checker on the Turn2Us website or on the DirectGov website which can help you find out how you will be affected. Note that you will need to have information about your income and outgoings to hand to answer the questions you will be asked. You should answer fully to get a real picture of how you will be affected and if you are still unclear you should seek further advice as soon as possible.

Current rates for all postcodes or council areas can be found on the LHA direct website. These figures are updated monthly. This site also has a bedroom calculator which you can use to work out how many bedrooms your household is entitled to and therefore which LHA rate applies.

We are working in partnership with Citizens Advice to give assistance to people affected by these changes so you can also contact them.

Visit their website or phone them on 08444 77 20 20.

The changes

Changes from 4 April 2011
From 4 April 2011 the rates for Local Housing Allowance will be reduced across the country to 30th percentile from 50th percentile (which means that only three in ten houses will be affordable to people claiming Housing Benefit).

Further changes from 2 April 2012
There are a number of further changes due to start on 2 April 2012. These changes are not yet law and the information about these is based on government details. More can be found on the DirectGov website. Click here to see Shelter Cymru’s response to the changes.

Shelter Cymru takes no responsibility for any information contained on external websites.