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Housing Benefit (Northern Ireland)

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

1. What is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit is money to help you with your housing costs if you are on a low income. It can help with rent, some service charges and also with rates.  Housing Benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit.  Please go to the 'Can I get Housing Benefit?' page of this guide for information on who can still claim.

If you qualify, Housing Benefit can be paid whether or not you are working.

Applies to: Northern Ireland

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

Age rules: There are no age rules that affect Housing Benefit entitlement but you must be old enough to enter a tenancy agreement.

Type of benefit: Means-tested

Taxable: No
Administered by: Northern Ireland Housing Executive
 

Updated December 2018

2. Can I get Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit and Universal Credit

Housing Benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit.  You will only be able to make a new claim for Housing Benefit in the situations listed below.  Otherwise you would have to claim Universal Credit instead.  
If you (or your partner) are receiving a 'legacy benefit' such as Child Tax Credit or Housing Benefit, you will lose these if you make a claim for Universal Credit

You can find out whether you can make a claim for Housing Benefit  by using our Benefits Calculator or by seeking advice.  You can find an advice agency in your area by using our Find-an-adviser tool.   Read more about Universal Credit on our website.

Can I get Housing Benefit?

You can still get Housing Benefit in one of the following situations:

In addition:

  • You are responsible for paying the rent or rates on the home where you normally live; and
  • Your income is low enough; and
  • Your capital and savings are under £16000 (unless you are getting Guarantee Pension Credit in which case there is no capital or savings limit)

It does not matter if your landlord is a private landlord or if you have a social landlord. If you live with a partner, only one of you can claim Housing Benefit for you both.  If you qualify, Housing Benefit can be paid whether or not you are working.

Housing Benefit does not cover a mortgage. See our Support for Mortgage Interest guide if you are a homeowner.

In Northern Ireland, if you own your own home, and qualify for Housing Benefit, you can claim Housing Benefit to help with the rates. Housing Benefit for rates is sometimes called 'rate relief'. If you claim Universal Credit or your need to make a new claim for help with your rates, there is a rate rebate scheme.

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).

What happens to my Housing Benefit if I change address?

If you are on Housing Benefit and change address, you can re-claim Housing Benefit if you stay within the same local authority area, if this is your only change of circumstance.  However, if you move to an area which has a different council, you won’t be able to claim Housing Benefit and will have to claim Universal Credit instead, unless you are in temporary accommodation provided by the Council or you are receiving the Severe Disability Premium.

 

Updated: March 2019

3. How much Housing Benefit will I get?

It can be complicated to work out how much Housing Benefit you might get. You can use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator which will calculate how much Housing Benefit you may be entitled to.

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 your maximum amount of Housing Benefit. Remember that even if you get your maximum amount of Housing Benefit, it will not necessarily cover all of your rent.

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

Bedroom entitlement

Part of the Housing Benefit calculation for private tenants is based on how many bedrooms you are thought to need for your household. You are allowed one bedroom for each category shown below:

  • each adult couple
  • each person over 16
  • two children of the same sex under 16
  • two children under 10, regardless of their sex
  • any other child
  • an overnight carer you need but who doesn't normally live with you.

Private tenants also have a category meaning that most single people, under age 35, with no children or disabilities are only allowed one bedroom in shared accommodation, rather than a one bedroom property to themselves.

Some households are allowed an extra bedroom under the size criteria rules:

  • Foster carers who have had a child placed with them, or have registered as a carer, in the last 12 months
  • Parents of armed forces personnel - while their child is away on duty their room won't be considered as 'spare' if they intend to return to it
  • Parents of a disabled child in receipt of middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance - if they are unable to share a room with a sibling but would be expected to under normal size criteria rules

When considering whether a child’s disability makes it unreasonable for them to share a bedroom, the factors a local authority should consider include:

  • whether the child is currently sharing a bedroom without difficulty;
  • whether the frequency and nature of any overnight care causes prolonged and/or repeated disruption to another child;
  • whether the nature of the disability increases the likelihood that the child may behave disruptively during the night;
  • whether sharing a bedroom poses a risk of physical harm to either child; and
  • how long the situation is likely to last - to qualify for an extra bedroom the inability to share would be expected to be long term.

Private tenants

If you are a private tenant and you have made a new claim or moved since April 2008, how much rent can be paid by Housing Benefit will be restricted by the Local Housing Allowance.

Your Local Housing Allowance rate is based on rental prices in 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 your rent is considered to be too expensive.

If you are a private tenant you can visit the Housing Executive website (link opens in a new window) to find out what your Local Housing Allowance is.

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

Social tenants

If you rent your home from a social housing landlord such as the Housing Executive or a housing association, and you are of working age, your Housing Benefit is not based on rental prices in your area but may be reduced if it's considered you have more bedrooms than you actually need.

If your home is considered to be too big for you, the rent amount used to calculate your Housing Benefit will be cut by:

  • 14% if you have one spare bedroom
  • 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms.

If you are over Pension Credit age this size criteria does not affect your claim for Housing Benefit.

If you are affected by the changes to Housing Benefit that limit the number of bedrooms you are allowed you should receive a Welfare Supplementary Payment until 31 March 2020. For more information about this, you can contact the Welfare Changes Helpline on 0808 802 0020

Benefit Cap

Housing Benefit is included in the Benefit Cap which limits the total amount in some benefits that working-age people can receive. For those affected, the cap is applied by reducing the amount of Housing Benefit awarded.

See our Benefit Cap guide for more details.

How will I be paid Housing Benefit?

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 rent, or no rent yourself.

If you have a private landlord, you will be paid straight into your Bank, Building Society or Post Office account or by Simple Payment if you are unable to open or manage one of these or a similar account. Sometimes the Housing Executive can pay your landlord directly.

Housing Benefit for rate relief reduces your rates bill.

Housing Benefit is usually paid in arrears every week, two weeks, four weeks or monthly depending on when your rent is usually due.

Housing Benefit and other benefits

Housing Benefit counts in full as income when calculating your entitlement to other means-tested benefits.

 

Updated: March 2019

4. How do I claim Housing Benefit?

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

You can get a claim form for help with your rates 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

You can get a claim form by contacting the Housing Executive:
Telephone: 03448 920 902
Claim  online on the Housing Executive website (link opens in a new window)
Or visit your local Housing Executive office to collect one.

Rapid reclaims

To make a claim, 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 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.

What documents will I need to claim Housing Benefit?

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 or tenancy agreement. 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.

When will my Housing Benefit claim begin?

If you download the form, you should also contact them immediately on the telephone 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.

Housing Benefit can be backdated for up to one month 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 are 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.

Change of circumstances

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

 

Updated March 2019

5. How do I challenge a Housing Benefit decision?

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