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Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Housing benefit

Housing benefit is a social security benefit which helps people on low income with their housing costs. It can cover rent, rates and some service charges.  There are different systems for working out housing benefit for social tenants, who rent from the Housing Executive or housing associations, and for private tenants, who rent from a private landlord or agent.  

Most people who normally live in Northern Ireland, have a low income and have to pay rent or rates can claim housing benefit. If you have savings or own property the amount you get may be reduced. People who have recently moved to the UK and full time students will not normally get housing benefit.

Housing benefit is a social security benefit which helps people with their housing costs. You can apply for housing benefit if you have to pay rent and you’re not working or you don’t earn much. Housing benefit can be used to help with rent, rates and some service charges but won’t cover things like heating, lighting, fuel, food, laundry.

If you are on a low income, you may be entitled to Housing Benefit to help you pay your rent. Most people who rent privately have their entitlement to housing benefit worked out under a system called Local Housing Allowance.

You can apply for housing benefit and rate relief to help with rates. Tenants who are applying for housing benefit should mark on the form that they have to pay rates. The Housing Executive will manage the claim for rates and rent together.

Every tenant has a right to apply for housing benefit. However, most students at university or college are not entitled to it, unless they fall into certain categories.

The amount of housing benefit you’ll get to help with your rent depends on your personal circumstances. There are different systems for calculating housing benefit for private tenants and for housing association or Housing Executive tenants.

You normally have to be living in a property in order to claim and receive housing benefit. However, in certain circumstances you may be able to claim for a property that you're not actually living in. The length of time that you can claim for depends on why you can't live in the property.

Things can go wrong with your housing benefit claim. If you were getting Housing Benefit when you shouldn’t have been, you’ll have to pay this money back. You could also have problems if you have to pay rent on two homes for a while or have to leave your home temporarily.

You may be able to challenge or appeal a housing benefit decision if you think it is wrong or unfair. This can be a complicated process so it's best to get help from an advice agency.

Social tenants in England, Scotland and Wales have their housing benefit reduced if their home has more bedrooms than they are seen by law to need. This has become known as the Bedroom Tax or the Under-occupation Penalty. The NI Assembly hasn’t passed laws to bring the Bedroom Tax in but will probably do so in the near future.