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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Exemptions to shared accommodation rate of LHA

With Welfare Reform back on the Assembly’s agenda, we look at one of the biggest housing welfare changes; the extension of the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to applicants aged under 35.  Ursula Toner explains which young tenants should be entitled to the one bedroom rate of LHA because they are exempt from the SAR.

Restricting housing benefit for younger people

The definition of “young individual” used to determine who should receive only the shared rate of LHA was amended by the the Housing Benefit (Amendment No. 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011.  This increased the upper age limit for SAR from 25 to 35.  The stated policy intention behind this change was to ensure “greater fairness - ensuring that those receiving Housing Benefit do not have an advantage over those who are not on benefit, but have to make similar choices about what they can afford”

The outcome of this change is that the majority of single young people aged under 35 who are unable to work, looking for work or on a low income will be living in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).  We receive many calls from people wanting to know more about their housing options.  For many of these clients, shared housing is a viable option and can be a successful arrangement, but shared living brings its own difficulties and is not suitable for everyone.  In recognition of this, there are some exemptions to the rule that under-35s will only receive the SAR and it is important for advisers to be aware of these exemptions.  

Some of the exemptions will apply, regardless of the age of the claimant, while others will only apply to people of certain ages.

All housing benefit claimants under 35

The following exemptions apply, regardless of the age of the tenant

  • people who rent from the Housing Executive or a housing association
  • couples or people with dependent children
  • a tenant who receives a severe disability premium (SDP) because he or she is entitled to the middle or higher rate care component of DLA (SDP is not paid to a claimant if someone is receiving Carer’s Allowance for them)
  • someone who has a proven need for overnight care and has a spare bedroom that a non-resident carer regularly stays overnight in
  • registered foster carers.

Claimants aged under 22

Certain young people with a history of care are exempt from the Shared Accommodation Rate, but this exemption will only apply until the claimant’s 22nd birthday.  Claimants will be exempt if they are under 22 and

  • were formerly in social services care subject to a court order on or after their 16th birthday or
  • had formerly been provided with accommodation by Social Services.

Claimants aged over 25 - time spent in hostel or PPANI

Two new exemptions were added when the definition of young individual was changed.  However, these exemptions only apply to people aged over 25. 

The first of these makes an exemption for a person aged over 25 who has spent at least three months in a homeless hostel or hostel specialising in rehabilitating and resettling within the community.  The three months does not have to be recent or cumulative, but the claimant will have had to have engaged with resettlement services while resident in the hostel with the aim of moving back into settled accommodation.

The second exemption applies to any person aged over 25 who is managed under active multi-agency management under the Public Protection Arrangements for Northern Ireland (PPANI).  The rationale behind this exemption is to manage the risk posed by individuals who have a history of violence or sexual offences, but it is important to remember that this exemption only applies to people aged over 25.

Housing benefit - improving your skills

We will be running training courses on housing benefit in the coming months.  We will be providing an introductory course and an advanced course.  Check out our training calendar for details.  As always, members of Housing Rights Service are entitled to a discount on the cost of these courses. 

Tagged In

Benefits, Private Tenancies, Welfare Reform, Affordability

This article was written on 4 February 2015. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.