Housing Benefit and Rate Relief for tenants
If you rent your home and have a low income, you might be entitled to Housing Benefit, Rate Relief or both. Housing Benefit can help pay the rent and rates on your home. Rate Relief is help to pay your rates. To claim, you apply to the Housing Executive.
Claiming Housing Benefit
You can claim Housing Benefit if you pay rent and rates for your home and you:
- are a Housing Executive tenant
- are a housing association tenant
- are a private tenant
- live in a hostel
- live in bed and breakfast accommodation
- are a boarder or lodger
How tenants qualify for Housing Benefit
You can claim Housing Benefit if you're employed or unemployed. To be eligible for Housing Benefit, you must be liable for paying rent or rates on a property you live in as your main home.
To decide how much Housing Benefit you're entitled to, the Housing Executive compares your income with the amount the government says you need.
What you can claim Housing Benefit for
You can claim Housing Benefit for:
- some service charges
What you can't claim Housing Benefit for
You can't claim Housing Benefit for:
- fuel charges
- cleaning your home
You might not get Housing Benefit for all your rent.
Tenants who aren't eligible for Housing Benefit
You can't claim Housing Benefit if:
- you or your partner have savings over £16,000, unless you're entitled to Guarantee Credit
- you rent your home from a close relative who lives in the same property
- you're responsible for a child and pay rent to the landlord who is the child's parent
If you're entitled to Universal Credit, you can't claim Housing Benefit for rent or rates.
If you're entitled to Universal Credit and need help paying your rates, go to:
Applying for Housing Benefit
You can apply online for Housing Benefit.
You can also :
- download an application form
- ask the Housing Executive to send you a form
- collect an application form in a Housing Executive office
You can apply for Housing Benefit:
- directly to the Housing Executive
- through a Jobs and Benefits office if you're claiming Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- through the Pension Service if you're claiming Pension Credit
- Making a claim for Housing Benefit
- Housing Executive
Downloading a Housing Benefit application form
If you download the form, you should contact the Housing Executive immediately to tell them you want to claim Housing Benefit. If you're eligible, they might use the date of your phone call to decide when your entitlement to Housing Benefit starts.
When a Housing Benefit award starts
It's important to apply for Housing Benefit as quickly as possible. If you're entitled to Housing Benefit, you'll get a Housing Benefit award. The start date for payment is usually the Monday following the date the Housing Executive received your application.
Backdating Housing Benefit
In certain circumstances, the Housing Executive can backdate Housing Benefit for up to one month. You need to ask the Housing Executive to backdate your claim. You must give a reason explaining why you didn't claim earlier.
If you're over Pension Credit age, you might get Housing Benefit backdated for up to three months.
Housing Benefit calculator
You can use the Housing Benefit calculator to calculate how much Housing Benefit you could get:
Information about your circumstances
When you claim Housing Benefit, you must give the Housing Executive additional evidence about your circumstances.
They won't pay you Housing Benefit until they get this information.
How Housing Benefit is paid
If you're a tenant in a Housing Executive property, they'll reduce your rent.
If you're a tenant in housing association or private rented accommodation, the Housing Executive can pay Housing Benefit to you or your landlord. They pay Housing Benefit by BACS to a bank or building society account.
How Housing Benefit is worked out for tenants
You might receive the maximum award of Housing Benefit if you already get:
- Income Support
- Jobseeker's Allowance (income-related)
- Guarantee Credit
- Employment Support Allowance (income-based)
If you don't get one of these benefits, the Housing Executive uses a means test to calculate how much rent or rates you can afford to pay yourself.
Your rent is higher than your Housing Benefit
Your Housing Benefit might be less than the rent you pay your landlord. The Housing Executive might decide your rent charge is too high. This can happen with private rented tenancies.
If you're under 35 and live alone in private rented housing, your Housing Benefit award might be reduced. This age condition doesn't affect tenants in Housing Executive or housing association accommodation.
People aged 18 living in your home
Your Housing Benefit might be reduced if someone aged 18 or over lives with you for example your:
- elderly relative
Due to this person's contribution to your household income, the Housing Executive might reduce your Housing Benefit.
Local Housing Allowance for private tenants
If you rent privately, your entitlement to Housing Benefit will be based on the Local Housing Allowance (LHA). LHA is a rent assessment scheme based on:
- rent levels in the area where you live
- how many people live in your household
The Housing Executive reviews LHA rates and sets rent levels every year. Tenants or landlords cannot appeal rent levels set for LHA.
How size criteria affects Housing Benefit
Size criteria sets out how many bedrooms your household needs. Size criteria doesn't include:
- living rooms
If you paid your rent without claiming Housing Benefit in the 52 weeks before claiming LHA, your actual rent can be used to calculate your Housing Benefit, if your rent is higher than the applicable LHA rate. This protection only lasts for thirteen weeks from the date of your LHA claim.
If someone dies in your household and this would lower your LHA under the size criteria, you're allowed twelve months' protection at the higher LHA rate. The LHA rate won't reduce until a year after the person dies.
How tenants can report a change in circumstances
If you already receive Housing Benefit and your circumstances change you need to tell the Housing Executive immediately. The change could affect your entitlement to Housing Benefit and the amount you receive.
Reporting a change in your income
You must tell the Housing Executive if:
- you or your partner start work, end work or the working hours changes
- someone living with you starts work, ends work or their working hours change
- there's a change to your or your partner's benefits
- there's a change to the benefits someone living with your gets
- your or your partner's savings, capital or investments change
- your childcare costs change
You must tell the Housing Executive if:
- a partner moves in or out
- any of your children leave school, start work or start getting Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit
- someone comes to live with you or someone leaves, including lodgers or tenants
- your student child returns from study to live at home during holidays
- you or your partner go into hospital
- someone living with you stops or starts getting Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit
- someone living with you starts work
- you stop or start caring for a disabled person
- you start or stop paying a child minder
- you become entitled to or lose entitlement to Carer's Allowance
- someone starts or stops getting Carer's Allowance for looking after you
- What to do if your circumstances change
Leaving Northern Ireland
If you, your partner or both of you leave Northern Ireland for four weeks or more, you must tell the Housing Executive. You need to tell them the dates you leave and return.
Information about your home
You must tell the Housing Executive if:
- you're a private tenant and your rent goes up or down
- you change your accommodation, this includes moving to another room in the same house
Other changes that might affect Housing Benefit
Your entitlement to Housing Benefit could change if:
- your Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) stops, starts or changes
- you received benefit as a student and your course finishes
If there is a change in your circumstances, the Housing Executive might:
- change the amount of Housing Benefit they pay
- stop paying your Housing Benefit
Receiving the wrong amount of Housing Benefit
If you don’t tell the Housing Executive about a change in your circumstances, they'll continue paying the same rate of Housing Benefit. But this amount could be wrong.
They might pay too much Housing Benefit if you:
- don't report a change
- delay reporting a change
They'll expect you to repay an overpayment and might take it off other benefits you get.
Evidence about a change in circumstances
When you report a change in circumstances, the Housing Executive might need to see evidence. You might need to give them:
- wage slips showing an increase or decrease in earnings
- a forwarding address when someone aged 18 or over leaves your household
You can use the Housing Benefit calculator to see if your new circumstances will affect your entitlement:
How to report a change in circumstances
There are different ways to report a change in your circumstances to the Housing Executive. You can report changes:
- by telephone
- by writing to the Housing Executive
Getting more information about your Housing Benefit decision
You can ask the Housing Executive to explain their decision about your Housing Benefit. If you think their decision is wrong, you should contact them immediately.
When you disagree with a Housing Benefit decision
If you disagree with their decision, you can ask the Housing Executive to look at it again. If they can't change their decision, they'll tell you why. If you still disagree, you can appeal the decision.
Written statement of reasons
You can ask the Housing Executive for a ‘written statement of reasons’ for their decision. This will give you more information and explain their decision. You should ask for this within one month of the date on your decision letter.
Asking the Housing Executive to review their decision
If you want them to look at their decision again, you should ask them:
- within one month of the date of the decision letter
- within one month from when you got a written statement of reasons
How the Housing Executive reviews their decision
To review their decision about your Housing Benefit, the Housing Executive will:
- arrange for a different member of staff to reconsider the decision where possible
- check the decision is right
- change the decision if it's wrong
If you don't agree with the new decision, you can ask them to look at it again. If you ask them after the one month time limit, you must say why your request is late.
Appealing a decision
You can appeal a decision within one month of the date of your notification letter or the date of the new decision. You can appeal if:
- you've already asked for an explanation
- you've asked the Housing Executive to look at the decision again
To appeal a decision, you must write to the Housing Executive saying which decision you are appealing against and give your reasons. If you appeal after the one month time limit, you must say why your appeal is late.
The Appeals Service
The Appeals Service arranges a hearing by an independent tribunal. You can choose an oral hearing or a paper determination.
You can go to an oral hearing and speak. At a paper determination the tribunal sits in private to consider the appeal using only the paper evidence.
You will receive a ‘summary decision letter’ explaining the tribunal’s decision as soon as possible after the appeal hearing.
If you don't agree with the appeal tribunal’s decision, you may be able to appeal to the Social Security Commissioner.
Rate Relief for tenants
If you're a tenant and you're getting Housing Benefit to pay some of your rates, you may be entitled to Rate Relief. If you aren't eligible for Housing Benefit, you might qualify for Rate Relief.
Applying for Rate Relief
If you don't get Housing Benefit and want to apply for Rate Relief, you must complete an application form for Housing Benefit and Rate Relief. You can apply online.
If you already get Housing Benefit, you don't need to apply for Rate Relief. The Housing Executive will contact you if they need more information.
How Rate Relief is paid
If you live in a Housing Executive or housing association property, Rate Relief will be credited to your rent account.
If you're a tenant in private rented accommodation, Rate Relief will be credited to your rate account with Land & Property Services.