Step two: maximum rent
There is a maximum amount of rent the local authority is prepared to cover. This might be less than the actual amount of rent you pay - eg, if you pay service charges that are not covered by HB (see below), or if your rent for HB purposes is reduced because you have a spare bedroom (see below).
HB does not cover some items included in rent, such as charges for:
•water or sewerage;
•fuel. Either the actual charge specified in the rental agreement or a fixed rate is deducted;
•meals. If these are included in your rent, the local authority may deduct a fixed rate;
•services. Some are included (eg, cleaning communal areas, provision of a laundry room and TV signal relay, including free-to-view TV but not an individual satellite dish or set-top box) and others are not (eg, sports facilities and TV rental).
See CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for details of the deductions.
If you rent from a private landlord (including a hall of residence) and you claimed HB or moved home on or after 7 April 2008, your HB is based on a ‘standard local housing allowance’ for the size of property that applies to you, even if your rent is higher than this amount. If your rent is lower, HB is based on the amount of your actual rent. Each local authority has its own rates for properties of different sizes. Check your local authority’s rates at .
Generally, unless you are a single person aged under 35, you are allowed one bedroom for:
•an adult couple;
•another single adult aged 16 or over;
•two children under 16 of the same sex;
•two children under 10;
•any other child.
You are allowed a maximum of four bedrooms. If you are a single person under 35, you usually only get a lower, shared-accommodation rate. If you are disabled and need overnight care, you may qualify for an additional bedroom for a carer. See CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for details.
If the local housing allowance rules do not apply, your case is usually referred to a rent officer to decide how much help with rent you should get, based on other local rents. For details of these ‘local reference rent’ rules, see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.
If you rent from a local authority or housing association, your maximum rent is usually the same as the weekly rent due less any of the above ineligible charges. However, your HB is reduced if you are considered to have a spare bedroom (known as the ‘bedroom tax’). The rules about how many bedrooms you can have are similar to the local housing allowance rules, but see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for more information. If you are considered to have one spare bedroom, your maximum rent is reduced by 14 per cent and by 25 per cent if you have two spare bedrooms. If your HB is reduced in this way, you should apply for a discretionary housing payment from the local authority (see below).
Discretionary housing payments
If your HB does not cover your rent, you may be able to get a discretionary housing payment from your local authority. These can be paid if you get HB and need additional help with your housing costs – eg, to make up the shortfall in rent due to HB being reduced because you have a spare bedroom. They are usually awarded for a temporary period, beyond which you have to reapply.