Who can claim housing benefit?
You can claim housing benefit if you pay rent or rates for your home. If you rent your home from a private landlord or agent your housing benefit will be worked out using the Local Housing Allowance rules.
You don't have to be unemployed or claiming other benefits to get housing benefit. You will only get housing benefit if you pass the six tests below.
Your savings must be lower than £16,000
The Housing Executive will not give you any housing benefit if you have more than £16,000 in savings and other capital. This includes:
- redundancy payments,
- any property you own that you are not living in.
Capital belonging to your partner also counts as your capital. Some types of capital aren't counted when working out whether you should receive housing benefit.
If you have more than £6,000 of savings and capital, the Housing Executive will reduce the amount of housing benefit to which you might be entitled. Working out your housing benefit can be complicated.
People over 60
Rules for people over 60 are slightly more generous. As with the general rules, you can claim housing benefit if you have savings and capital up to £16,000. Anything above £10,000 will have an effect on your entitlement. The deductions will be at a lower rate than for people under 60.
If you have more than £16,000 in savings and capital, you may still be entitled to housing benefit if you are in receipt of the guarantee element of pension credit.
You must pay rent or rates
You can claim housing benefit if you are liable for paying the rent or rates for your accommodation. You can also claim housing benefit if you are living in a hostel or are a lodger. The Housing Executive will not give you housing benefit if:
- you pay rent to your partner or a relative that you live with,
- you are responsible for looking after your landlord's child.
The Housing Executive will not pay your rent if you own some of the property. However, you may be able to apply for help with your rates.
It must be your usual home
The Housing Executive will usually only give you housing benefit for the accommodation you live in. However, in certain circumstances you may be able to get housing benefit if:
You must be habitually resident
You are only eligible to claim housing benefit if you are habitually resident in Northern Ireland. This means that:
- you normally live in Northern Ireland,
- you don't need a visa to enter or leave the UK,
- you are able to work in Northern Ireland.
If you have a British or Irish passport and live in Northern Ireland you are probably habitually resident. If you are unsure about your immigration status, get advice.
You must have a low income
If you get income support, jobseeker's allowance (income based), employment and support allowance (income related) or pension credit (guarantee element), you will qualify for maximum housing benefit.
However, if you are a private tenant, this may not be enough to pay your full rent. You are allowed to apply for housing benefit.
You can still apply for housing benefit if you work, and are on a low income. However, the amount of housing benefit you receive may be reduced, especially if you are renting privately and you are single and under 35.
You must not be excluded from claiming housing benefit
There are certain types of people who are not allowed to claim housing benefit even if they have passed the other five tests. You won't be allowed to claim housing benefit if:
- you are a full time student,
- you are a member of a religious order,
- you are a certain 'person from abroad'.
Housing benefit rules for persons from abroad are very complicated. If you require detailed advice, contact advisors in Housing Rights Service, Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities or Law Centre NI.
However, students may be entitled to claim if:
- you have children under 16, or under 19 if they are in full time education,
- you are disabled,
- you are receiving income support, jobseeker's allowance (income based) or employment and support allowance (income related),
- you are a pensioner.
Back to top
What is capital?
Capital means anything of value which you own. This includes property you own, cash and investments, shares and redundancy payments. Your partner's capital is also taken into account when working out whether you are entitled to housing benefit.
Some capital can be disregarded or overlooked by the Housing Executive when working out if you can receive housing benefit, as in the following cases:
- the value of the home you own and live in will be disregarded;
- the value of the home you own will be disregarded for 26 weeks if you cannot live there because of a relationship breakdown;
- the value of the home you own will be disregarded completely if your former partner still lives there and is a lone parent;
- the value of the home you own will be disregarded for 26 weeks or longer if you are taking reasonable steps to sell or dispose of the property. The 26 week period applies from when you first took steps to dispose of the property, this may have been before you made a claim for housing benefit;
- the value of a property you own will sometimes be disregarded if a former partner, relative or partner is living in it and certain conditions apply;
- the value of your personal possessions; car, jewellery etc will be disregarded;
- business assets are disregarded for someone who is self employed while they continue to work as a self employed person;
- business assets will be disregarded for 26 weeks for a self employed person who is unable to work due to illness;
- some payments from insurance policies are ignored, but working out whether your policy should be disregarded can be complicated so get advice if you're unsure;
- the value of any personal pension fund you hold should be disregarded.
This is not a complete list of times when capital can be ignored and in most of these cases certain conditions apply. The best thing to do if you think you have capital which should be disregarded is to get advice from Housing Rights Service or another advice agency.
Working out what capital should be taken into account can be difficult and mistakes can happen. T If your claim is turned down because the Housing Executive believes you have capital or savings of over £16,000 get in touch with Housing Rights Service. An adviser can help you work out if this decision was fair or if your capital should have been ignored.
Back to top