In the December issue of Housing Benefit Direct (a monthly newsletter issued by the Department of Work and Pensions to local authority staff) they have provided a useful summary of the changes to housing benefit and when they will be implemented.

Amendments to Housing Benefit (HB) legislation were laid on the 30 November 2010 bringing into effect measures that will:

  • remove the five bedroom Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate
  • introduce absolute caps so that LHA weekly rates cannot exceed £250 for a one bedroom property; £290 for a two bedroom property; £340 for a three bedroom property; £400 for a four bedroom property
  • remove the up to £15 weekly excess
  • include an additional bedroom within the size criteria used to assess HB claims in the private rented sector when a disabled person, or someone with a long term health condition, has a proven need for overnight care and this is provided by a non-resident carer
  • set LHA rates at the 30th percentile of rents rather than the median

In response to the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) and key stakeholders, the DWP have adjusted the timescales for implementing these measures so that:

  • all changes will come into effect for new claims from April 2011 (this includes setting rates at the 30th percentile)
  • a period of up to nine months transitional protection will be available for existing customers from the date the claim is reviewed (usually the anniversary date). This means many existing customers will not be affected until 2012.