How much housing benefit will I get?
The amount of housing benefit that you get depends on your personal circumstances. If you rent from a private landlord, your housing benefit may not cover the full amount of rent you're expected to pay. Find out more about housing benefit for private tenants in our renting subsite.
The Housing Executive looks at your income, your rent, minus any ineligible service charges and your personal circumstances when working out your housing benefit.
There are 2 different ways of calculating Housing Benefit depending on what type of tenant you are and when you entered into your tenancy. It’s important that you know which particular rules you come under. Some homeowners also receive help with paying their rates.
NIHE or Housing Association tenants
If you live in a NIHE or housing association tenancy you will receive help with your housing costs under the main Housing Benefit rules.
Private rented sector
Most people living in privately rented accommodation who get assistance to pay their rent receive Local Housing Allowance. Local Housing Allowance is still part of the Housing Benefit system but is calculated using different criteria. You can find out more about Local Housing Allowance on our renting subsite.
If you meet any of the following criteria, you come under the main Housing Benefit rules:
- You live in a protected or rent controlled tenancy
- You made a claim for housing benefit before 7 April 2008 and have been living in the same privately rented accommodation, continually claiming housing benefit ever since
- You live in a supported tenancy, where you receive care, support or supervision from a housing association, registered charity or voluntary organisation.
If you are renting privately, the amount of financial help you receive will depend on the level of ‘eligible’ or ‘maximum’ rent set by the Housing Executive which is set according to the type, size and location of a property you choose to rent. Other factors which play a part in determining how much help you get include:
Income and capital
The amount of income and capital (savings and investments) you have, affects the amount of housing benefit you get. The more money you have, the less housing benefit you will get.
If you live with your partner, your income and capital will be assessed together to work out how much housing benefit you will get. This applies to civil partnerships, as well as same-sex relationships.
The more income you have, the less housing benefit you get. The government sets the amount of money each year that it considers you need to live on. This is known as your 'applicable amount'. This amount varies depending on:
- how many people live in your home;
- your age;
- if you have any health problems.
If you earn more than your applicable amount your housing benefit is reduced. The more you earn above your applicable amount, the less housing benefit you will receive.
If you are on income support, jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance (income based) or pension credit (guarantee element), your housing benefit will not be reduced because of your income. Since November 2009, child benefit is disregarded as income for the purposes of calculating housing benefit. However, if you are receiving other benefits, you could get less housing benefit.
The Housing Executive counts the following as capital:
- redundancy payments;
- any property/land you own that you are not living in.
If you have capital over £16,000, you won't get any housing benefit. Your housing benefit is reduced if you have capital between £6,000 and £16,000. If you are of pensionable age, you may be allowed to have up to £10,000 before any deductions are made.
Capital belonging to your partner also counts as your capital. Life insurance policies and the business assets of self-employed people are not capital.
My accommodation is very expensive
If you come under the main housing benefit rules, the Housing Executive may reduce the amount of financial help they give you if it thinks your rent is too high. The acceptable rent levels are set for each property type depending on:
- the size;
- the location;
- the condition.
Local Housing Allowance rates are set using different criteria.
My accommodation is too large
If you come under the main housing benefit rules, the Housing Executive may reduce the amount of help you get if it decides that your accommodation is too large for your household. The Housing Executive bases the decision on:
- how many rooms are in your property;
- the number of people who live there.
The housing benefit rules allow one bedroom or living room for:
- a couple;
- a person aged over 16;
- two children of the same sex;
- two children who are less than 10 years old;
- one child.
The local housing allowance rules were introduced in April 2008 for new private tenancies. Local Housing Allowance is part of Housing Benefit but is a way of calculating financial assistance for private rented applicants who have applied for help on or after 7 April 2008. There are differences in how Local Housing Allowance and main Housing Benefit are calculated.
My rent includes other charges
When calculating the amount of help that you will receive, certain costs which are linked to your accommodation may not be included in the calculation, such as
- laundry service;
The amount deducted from your housing benefit depends on your personal circumstances.
Other people live with me
The amount of help you receive is likely to be reduced if there is someone else living with you who:
- is older than 18;
- doesn't pay rent, but could be expected to pay part of the rent.
These people are known as 'non-dependants'. When there is a non-dependant living in a household, the Housing Executive assumes that the non-dependant is paying a part of the rent, even if this is incorrect.
The Housing Executive can deduct an amount from your housing benefit for each non-dependant in your home. The amount that is deducted depends on the income of the non-dependant. The amounts deducted from your ‘eligible’ or ‘maximum’ rent for non-dependents will increase significantly from 1 April 2011.
- adult children;
- relatives who live with you;
- friends who live with you.
However, in some exceptional circumstances deductions will not be made in respect of non-dependants, for example if the non-dependant is:
- aged under 25 and on income support;
- receiving a youth training allowance;
- a full-time student;
- in hospital for more than 6 weeks;
- in prison;
- living with you, but his/her main residence is elsewhere.
If you share a flat with someone but you have no personal relationship with the other people, they don't count as non-dependants.
The rules about housing benefit and local housing allowance are complicated. Get advice if you think that you are not receiving enough housing benefit.
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