From 1st April 2018 the way Housing Benefit (or the housing element of Universal Credit) is calculated will be changing. This could affect you if,
What does it mean for me ?
If you have signed a new or renewed tenancy from 1 April 2016 onwards, the amount of Housing Benefit (or the Housing element of Universal Credit) that you may receive from 1 April 2018 could be restricted.
This is because if you rent from a local authority, a registered housing association or other registered social landlord the amount of Housing Benefit (or the Housing element of Universal Credit) you will receive will be capped to the relevant Local Housing Allowance rate for your household that currently applies to private sector tenants.
If you are under 35 years old and do not have any dependant children living with you, your eligible rent will be capped to shared accomodation rate even if you do not share your home with anyone else.
The Local Housing Allowance rates for your area can be found at https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/search.aspx
Will I also have to pay for any spare rooms ?
If you are of working age and have one or more extra bedroomss, your rent and any service charges used in the assessment of your Housing Benefit (or the housing element of Universal Credit) is already capped.
If the difference between your rent and the relevant Local Housing Allowance rate for your household is higher thatn the reduction for the under-occupied bedrooms, only the cap will apply. Similarly, if the reduction for under-occupied bedrooms is higher than the relevant Local Hosuing Allowance rate for your household, only the reduction for uner-occupied bedrooms will apply.
If you are of pension age, you will not recieve a reduction in the rent used to assess your Housing Benefit for any under-occupied bedrooms but your rent will be capped to the relevant Local Housing Allowance rate for your household.
In all cases, you will only received one deductaion.
What do I need to do now ?
If you sign a new tenancy or renew a tenancy after 1 April 2016 (1 April 2017 for supporte accomodaton) you will need to think about whether the rent you pay in the social sector is higher than that allowed for private rented sector tenants.
In particular, if you are in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit on or after 1 April 2018, you will beed to consider how you will afford any shortfall in your rent.
The website https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/search.aspx will help you to determine whether your rent is above the Local Housing Allowance in your area.