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Housing Benefit in Northern Ireland

Key information

Housing Benefit is money to help you with your housing costs if you are on a low income. It can help with rent and some service charges and also with rates. 

Applies to: Northern Ireland

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, see our Housing Benefit (England, Scotland and Wales) sheet.

Age rules: There are no age rules that affect housing benefit entitlement

Type of benefit: Means-tested

Taxable: No

Administered by: Northern Ireland Housing Executive

 

Index

You can read through this information sheet, or go directly to the sections you want to read by clicking on these links:

Who does it help?

You have to be the person who is responsible for paying the rent to get Housing Benefit.  It does not matter if your landlord is a private landlord or if you have a social landlord.

Housing Benefit does not cover a mortgage. See Homeowner housing costs help.

In Northern Ireland, if you own your own home, you can claim Housing Benefit to help with the rates. Housing Benefit for rates is sometimes called 'rate relief'. 

If you live with a partner, only one of you can claim Housing Benefit.

You do not qualify for Housing Benefit if you:

  • live in the home of a close relative
  • are a full-time student (unless you have a disability or have children).

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How much does it pay?

If you get benefits like Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or the guarantee part of Pension Credit, you will get the maximum amount of Housing Benefit, which could cover the whole of your rent.

Even if you are working, you might get some Housing Benefit to cover some of your rent. This depends on your income and savings and on your personal circumstances.

Remember that even if you get the maximum amount of Housing Benefit, it will not necessarily cover all of your rent. See details for private tenants and social tenants below.

Use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to find out how much Housing Benefit you may be entitled to.

If you are a Housing Executive or registered housing association tenant, you will not be paid Housing Benefit directly. Instead it will be taken off the rent you have to pay so you pay less or no rent yourself.

If you have a private landlord, you will be paid straight into your bank account. Sometimes the Housing Executive can pay your landlord directly.

Housing Benefit for rate relief reduces your rates bill.

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Private Tenants

If you are a private tenant and have made a new claim or moved since 7 April 2008, how much rent can be paid by Housing Benefit will be restricted by the Local Housing Allowance. There will be a rate set for your area and the size of property you are entitled to. This might mean that not all of your rent can be paid by Housing Benefit because your home is larger than you need or too expensive. If this is the case, you will have to make up the difference yourself or find cheaper accommodation.

If you are a private tenant visit the HBupdate website to find out what your eligible rent is.

The Turn2us Benefits Calculator can calculate how much Housing Benefit you may be entitled to.

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Social Tenants

In England, Scotland and Wales, if you rent your home from a social housing landlord such as the council or a housing association, and you are of working age, your Housing Benefit may be reduced if it's considered you have more bedrooms than you actually need. If you are over Pension Credit age this size criteria does not affect your claim for Housing Benefit.

In Northern Ireland, bedroom size criteria is also expected to apply. However this remains subject to approval by the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive. Until then, current arrangements will remain in place.

See NI Direct website for more information on potential changes to Housing Benefit from 2013

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How do I make a claim?

If you are making a claim for Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or Pension Credit you will be given a claim form at the same time.

Owner-occupiers can get a claim form by contacting Land and Property Services:

Telephone: 0300 200 7802

E-mail: housingbenefit.rating@lpsni.gov.uk

Download a claim form from the NI Direct website (link opens in a new window)

Renters can get a claim form by contacting the Housing Executive:

Telephone: 03448 920 902

Download a claim form from the Housing Executive website (link opens in a new window)

Or visit your local Housing Executive office (link opens in a new window) to collect one.

If you download the form, you should also contact them immediately on the number above to let them know that you are going to make a claim. The date of your phone call may be used to decide when your right to Housing Benefit, if any, will start.

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Rapid reclaims

To make a claim for Housing Benefit, you may be able to fill in a shortened form known as a 'rapid reclaim'. To fill in a rapid reclaim, you must have made a claim for Income Support, Incapacity Benefit or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance before, within the last 26 weeks. You must also be claiming this benefit again and your circumstances must not have changed since your last claim.

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What documents will I need?

When you claim Housing Benefit, you must give your national insurance number and evidence of who you are, for example, a birth certificate or driving licence. You also need to give evidence that you must pay the rent, for example, your rent book. If you are not claiming benefits like Income Support, you must give evidence of your income and savings, for example, bank statements or pay slips.

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Can it be backdated?

Housing Benefit can be backdated for up to six months if you would have been entitled to it earlier. You have to show a good reason for not claiming sooner. Request this when claiming.

If you or your partner over Pension Credit age and you are not getting Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, your claim can be backdated for up to three months. It does not matter why your claim is late. Request this when claiming.

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Challenging decisions

If you disagree with the decision made on your benefit claim you can ask for a written statement of reasons. If you still believe the decision is wrong, for example due to incorrect information being used, you can ask for it to be looked at again, and/or appeal.

The time limits are strict, you will usually be given one month to dispute a decision, so it is important to seek advice and act quickly.

Further information on Challenges and complaints

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Change of circumstance

You must report changes in your circumstances which might affect your entitlement to this benefit

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Updated: 28 March 2013

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