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Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Circular
Department for Work and Pensions
1st Floor, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1H 9NA
HB/CTB A6/2011
ADJUDICATION AND OPERATIONS CIRCULAR<

 
WHO SHOULD READ All Housing Benefit (HB) and Council Tax Benefit (CTB)
staff  


ACTION For information


SUBJECT Changes announced to the shared accommodation rate
Guidance Manual


The information in this circular does not affect the content of the HB/CTB Guidance
Manual.  


Queries


If you  
- want extra copies of this circular/copies of previous circulars, they can be
found on the website at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/local-authority-staff/housing-<
benefit/user-communications/hbctb-circulars/
- have any queries about the
- technical content of this circular, contact Lynn Isaacson
 Tel: 0207 449 5331
 Email: lynne.isaacson@dwp.gsi.gov.uk<  
- distribution of this circular, contact Corporate Document Services Ltd
Orderline
 Email: orderline@cds.co.uk<
 
Crown Copyright 2011
Recipients may freely reproduce this circular.  
 
HB/CTB Circular A6/2011<

 
Adjudication and Operations circular
March 2011
 
Contents
 
 
Change announced to the shared accommodation rate
Background...............................................................................1
Change in implementation date.................................................3
Communicating this change to customers.................................5
Amending guidance...................................................................8
Wording for inclusion in notification letter template  
advising customers of changes to their LHA  
from April 2011..............................................................Annex A
Single and under 35?....................................................Annex B
HB/CTB Circular A6/2011
 
Adjudication and Operations circular


March 2011


Change announced to the shared accommodation rate


Background
1 As you know, the Government announced in the Comprehensive Spending
Review last October an extension of the Housing Benefit (HB) shared
accommodation rate1 to people aged under 35. At that stage, it was
envisaged that this change would take effect from April 2012. This rate
currently applies to people under the age of 25 and reflects the costs of
renting non self-contained accommodation in the private sector where the
tenant has exclusive use of a bedroom but shares other facilities such as a
bathroom.  
2 You will also be aware of the wider changes to the Local Housing Allowance
(LHA) that were announced in last year’s Budget, and which come into
effect next month. Following consultation on the LHA changes, it was
decided that existing claimants should be subject to transitional protection
arrangements for up to nine months (Circular HB/CTB A25/2010< refers). In
practice, this would mean that many existing LHA claimants affected by the
extension of the shared accommodation rate would see two changes in
quick succession. First, their transitional protection would cease during 2012
leading to a reduction in benefit and then, shortly after, they would see a
further reduction in benefit when they moved onto the shared
accommodation rate on their anniversary date.


Change in implementation date


3 In developing the policy detail and implementation arrangements for the
change relating to the shared accommodation rate, Ministers have now
decided that this change should be brought forward by three months to take
effect from January 2012. For existing customers affected by this change,
this will bring the timing of the shared accommodation change into line with
the LHA changes. It will ensure that single people aged 25 to 34 reaching
the end of their transitional protection period will experience at that point a
single reduction in their HB (LHA), rather than two separate reductions. And
it could help avoid a potential situation whereby individuals might find
themselves needing to move home twice in quick succession.  
4 In practice, this means that
- single claimants under age 35 making new claims to HB on or after  
1 January 2012 will be entitled to the shared accommodation rate rather
than the one-bedroom self-contained rate
- existing claimants at that date who are receiving transitional protection
from the April 2011 LHA changes will move to the shared accommodation
rate at the same time as their transitional protection ceases
                                            
1
 This includes both the single room rent for pre-LHA cases and what was formerly known as the
shared room rate for LHA cases.
HB/CTB Circular A6/2011
 
Adjudication and Operations circular
March 2011
- existing claimants not receiving transitional protection, i.e. those whose
claims are made on or after 1 April 2011 but before 1 January 2012, will
move to the shared accommodation rate on the anniversary date of their
claim
- pre-LHA cases will move to the shared accommodation rate (previously
known as the single room rent) on the annual review of their case
Communicating this change to customers


5 We appreciate that local authorities have already done much work to
prepare for the April 2011 changes and notifications of revised LHA rates
and transitional protection will in some cases have already started to go out
to individuals. However, in light of the decision to bring forward the shared
accommodation rate changes, some of the notifications about the LHA
changes going out to those affected by the shared accommodation rate
changes could be misleading unless action is taken to explain the combined
effect of both changes. It is therefore important that any information about
the rate of LHA payable to individuals at the end of their transitional
protection period is as accurate as possible.  
6 Wherever possible, you will want to be able to advise those affected of this
change to the shared accommodation rate alongside the notifications of the
new LHA rates. Ideally, one communication is best and so, if at all possible,
you may wish to adapt the notification letter to advise those likely to be
affected of the shared accommodation rate change. To help you do this
some suggested wording is attached at Annex A. Where it is not possible to
incorporate this information into a single notification letter, we have attached
at Annex B wording for a separate attachment or insert to the LHA
notification letter. These will also be made available on the DWP website.
Although you will not be able to advise the claimant of the actual rate
payable, as it will be the rate in place at the point the transitional protection
ends, you may consider that it would be helpful to provide an indication of
the likely lower level of benefit by including in the letter the current shared
accommodation rate.  
7 We are planning to have the amending legislation in place in early July
2011. In the meantime, we would encourage you to provide customers with
as much information as possible in order for them to make informed
decisions about their accommodation.  


Amending guidance
8 Further guidance will be issued when the amending regulations have been
laid.
HB/CTB Circular A6/2011
Annex A
Adjudication and Operations circular
March 2011
Annex A


Wording for inclusion in notification letter template advising
customers of changes to their LHA from April 2011


[For use in appropriate cases:]  


If you are single and under 35


The Government is planning to change the rules that apply to single people living in
self-contained accommodation and aged 25 or more, but under 35. This means that
they will only be entitled to the lower rate of Housing Benefit for a room in shared
accommodation.  
If you are single and aged 25 or more, but under 35, when your Housing Benefit
Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is reassessed from January 2012 onwards, this
change will apply to you, unless you are covered by one of the exemptions. The
change means that, instead of the LHA rate referred to above, you would move onto
the LHA rate for shared accommodation in your area, which may be much lower.  
The details of the change will not be known until they are agreed in Parliament later
this year. Even when this happens we will not be able to tell you the exact rate for
shared accommodation, as this varies from month to month. However, the current
shared accommodation rate for property in your area is £....., which will give you an
indication of the likely rate next year. There is more information about the change
and about the current shared accommodation rates in different parts of the country
at the Direct Gov website – DirectGov <(under local housing allowance).  
 
HB/CTB Circular A6/2011
Annex B


Adjudication and Operations circular
March 2011
Annex B


Single and under 35?


The Government is planning to extend the age group for single young people who
can only claim a shared accommodation rate to help with their rent (rather than
being able to claim for self-contained one-bedroom accommodation).  
This means you may only be entitled to the lower rate of Housing Benefit for a room
in shared accommodation if all of the following apply:
- you are a single person
- you are occupying one-bedroom self-contained accommodation in the private
rented sector
- your Housing Benefit is due to be reviewed from January 2012 onwards
- at the date of the review you will be aged 25 or over but under 35 years, and
- you are not covered by any of the exemptions on sharing accommodation.  

 

The change means that from January 2012 onwards, instead of the one-bedroom
self-contained rate as has been notified to you, you would move onto the shared
accommodation rate applying at that date, which may be much lower. The details of
the change will not be known until they are agreed in Parliament later this year.
Even when this happens, we will not be able to tell you the exact Local Housing
Allowance (LHA) rate for shared accommodation as these change from month to
month. However the current shared accommodation rate for property in your area is
£..... which will give you an indication of the likely rate next year. If you are not
assessed under LHA rules we cannot provide you with an estimate at present,
although the rate you get is likely to be much lower than the rate you currently get.  

 

Further information about these changes and the current shared accommodation
rates in different parts of the country is available at the Direct Gov website –
DirectGov<
(under local housing allowance) these rates are shown as the ‘1 Bedroom
with shared facilities’ rates, but are only relevant to those who are assessed under
the Local Housing Allowance rules.

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