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Housing Benefit / Rate Relief

If you're on a low income, whether you're working or not, and need financial help to pay all or part of your rent or rates, you may be able to get Housing Benefit. Find out more, including who is eligible and how to claim

Who is eligible?

You may get Housing Benefit if you pay rent or rates and your income and capital (savings and investments) are below a certain level. You could qualify if you are out of work, or in work and earning a wage.

Use the online benefits adviser to get an estimate of the benefits, including Housing Benefit, you may get.

Who isn't eligible?

You can't usually get Housing Benefit if:

  • you have savings of over £16,000, unless you are getting the 'guarantee credit' of Pension Credit
  • you live in the home of a close relative
  • you're a full-time student (unless you've a disability or have children)
  • you're an asylum seeker or are sponsored to be in the UK

Other restrictions

If you live with a partner or civil partner only one of you can get Housing Benefit.

If you're a tenant, single and aged under 34 you can only get Housing Benefit for bed-sit accommodation or one room in shared accommodation.

How to check eligibility

If you think you may be eligible for Housing Benefit and you are tenant visit the Northern Ireland Housing Executive's website.

How much do you get?

The most Housing Benefit you can get is the same as your ' eligible' rent or the amount of your rates liability.

This is the amount used to work out your benefit but may not be the same as your full rent or rates.

If you rent a property or room from a private landlord, your Housing Benefit will be calculated using the Local Housing Allowance rules.

What is 'eligible' rent?

Eligible rent includes:

  • rent for the accommodation
  • charges for some services, such as lifts, communal laundry facilities or play areas

Even if it's included in your rent, you won't get any Housing Benefit for:

  • water charges
  • charges for heating, hot water, lighting, or cooking
  • payments for food or fuel in board and lodgings or hostels

The amount of Housing Benefit you may get also depends on:

Your personal and financial circumstances

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (if you are a tenant) or Land & Property Services (if you are an owner/occupier) will look at:

  • money you and your partner or civil partner have coming in, including earnings, some benefits and tax credits, and occupational pensions
  • your savings (and your partner's or civil partner's savings)
  • your circumstances: such as your age, the size of your family and their ages, whether you or any of your family have disabilities, and whether anyone who lives with you could help with the rent or rates

The particulars of your home and the rent you pay

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive will also look at whether:

  • the amount of rent is reasonable for your particular home
  • your home is a reasonable size for you and your family
  • the amount of rent is reasonable for the area where you live

Your 'eligible' rent may be limited to an amount that's reasonable for a suitably sized property in the area you live."

How it's paid

If you are an owner/occupier, the Land and Property Services will credit Housing Benefit to your rates' account.

If you are a Northern Ireland Housing Executive tenant, Housing Benefit will be paid straight into your rent account.

If you're not a Northern Ireland Housing Executive tenant your Housing Benefit can be paid:

  • directly to your landlord
  • to you by cheque
  • by Direct Payment into your bank or building society account

Contact the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (if you are a tenant) or the Land and Property Services (if you are an owner/occupier) if you have any concerns about how Housing Benefit is paid.

Effect on benefits

Housing Benefit won't affect any other benefits you get.

How to claim

If you’re looking for work

You can claim Housing Benefit/ Rates Relief with your claim for the following benefits:

  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker's Allowance

The claim pack for that benefit will include a form to claim  Housing Benefit/ Rates Relief.  You should complete and return your Housing Benefit/ Rates Relief claim form to the Social Security/ Jobs and Benefits office.

You can also claim for Employment and Support Allowance by telephone or textphone.

Call Freephone 0800 085 6318 or textphone 0800 328 3419.

Lines are open Monday to Friday from 9.00am - 5.00pm.

An adviser will help you apply for Housing Benefit/ Rates Relief along with Employment Support Allowance.  Details of your claim for Housing Benefit/ Rates Relief will be sent to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive if you are a tenant or Land and Property Services if you are an owner/occupier.

If you’re claiming Pension Credit

You can claim Housing Benefit/Rates Relief with your claim for Pension Credit.

Call the Pension Service Application Line on Freephone 0808 100 6165 or textphone 0808 100 1165. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 9.00am - 5.00pm.

An adviser will help you apply for Housing Benefit/Rates Relief along with Pension Credit and will let you know what happens next.

The Pension Service will send details of your claim for Housing Benefit to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive if you are a tenant or Land and Property

Services if you are an owner/occupier.

If you're not claiming other benefits

If you’re not claiming Pension Credit, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseeker's Allowance you can get a form for Housing Benefit/Rates Relieffrom the Northern Ireland Housing Executive if you are a tenant, or the Land and Property Services if you are an owner/occupier.

Claiming in advance

If you know you're moving to a new address, you can claim Housing Benefit/Rates Relief up to 13 weeks (17 weeks if you're aged 60 or over) before you move.

You won't usually get any money before you move in.

Backdating your claim

You may be eligible to get your claim backdated. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive or the Land and Property Services can advise you on this.

What to do if your circumstances change

You must tell the Northern Ireland Housing Executive if you are a tenant or the Land and Property Services if you are an owner/occupier if:

  • any of your children leave school or leave home
  • anyone moves into or out of your home
  • your income, or the income of anyone living with you, changes
  • your capital or savings change
  • your rent changes
  • you move
  • you or your partner or civil partner are going to be away from home for more than a month

This is not a full list. Follow the links below to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive or Land and Property Services website to find out more.

Getting Housing Benefit in work

You can get Housing Benefit/Rates Relief when you get a job and earn a wage. You may also get other benefits and support to help you stay in work.

How to appeal

If you're refused Housing Benefit/Rates Relief or aren't happy with the decision, you can ask for it to be looked at again.

If you're still unhappy with the outcome, you can appeal to The Appeals Service.

Lone Pensioner Allowance

If you are over 70 and live alone, you can claim Lone Pensioners Allowance (LPA) to provide a 20 per cent allowance of the rates bill.

More useful links