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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Coronavirus advice for NIHE and housing association tenants

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

Talk to your landlord if you have any concerns about your housing as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Your landlord will probably have closed its public offices, so you will need to contact them online or by telephone.

Your landlord’s contact details

Visit the NIFHA website for links to housing association websites.

Contact the Housing Executive on 03448 920 900 or online. The Housing Executive has up to date information about how its services are affected by the Coronavirus crisis on its website.

Paying your rent

Speak to your landlord if you are worried about paying rent because your income has been affected by the coronavirus crisis. Let the landlord know of any change in circumstances and ask if they have any measures in place to help tenants who are affected by this crisis.

Housing Executive rents were supposed to increase on 6th April 2020, but this increase has now been put back until October 2020. 

You may be able to get help to pay your rent and rates. Get advice if you are worried about paying rent at this time.

Can you claim benefits to help?

You may be able to get benefits to help with your rent and other living costs if your income has reduced.

Most people will have to claim Universal Credit to get help with rent. If you are over pension age or you are getting certain disability benefits, you can claim Housing Benefit. Get advice if you aren’t sure which to claim.

You claim Universal Credit online.  Make sure to put a note on your application to explain your situation if you are

  • showing symptoms of coronavirus
  • in isolation to stop the spread of the virus
  • caring for a child or young person who is sick or in isolation.

When you claim, you can ask for an advance payment and you should also ask for a payment from the Universal Credit contingency fund. The advance must be paid back, but you don’t have to pay back the contingency fund payment.  Universal Credit will include money to help with your household living costs, as well as your rent.

Benefits to pay rates

If you are already claiming Housing Benefit, this will include help with your rates.

Universal Credit won’t help with rates. Instead, you have to apply for a rates rebate. This is a different online claim system. You need to set up an account and put in details about your landlord and your property. If you’re having problems setting up your claim, call 0300 200 7802 

Getting other benefits

Universal Credit or Housing Benefit can help with rent, but you may also be entitled to help with your living costs.

If you have been working and have had to stop, you may be able to claim new-style Employment and Support Allowance or Statutory Sick Pay if you are

  • showing symptoms of coronavirus
  • in isolation to stop the spread of the virus
  • caring for a child or young person who is sick or in isolation.

You may also be entitled to a grant or an interest-free loan if you are in financial difficulties because of this crisis. Call Finance Support on 0800 587 2750 to apply for extra help.

Eviction

Social landlords should be sensitive to any person who is facing eviction at this time.

Your landlord has to take you to court to evict you. If you were supposed to go to court about a possession hearing, get advice. It is very likely that this hearing has been cancelled.

Get advice if your landlord tells you that you have to move out of your home during this pandemic.

Repairs

Many landlords are only able to operate an emergency repair service at this time. This is to limit the spread of the virus by limiting the amount of contact that people have with others who don’t live with them.

An emergency repair is one which poses a serious risk to your health and safety if it is not dealt with, and includes things like gas leaks, electrical fittings in contact with water and a total lack of heating and hot water where no alternative can be provided.

Get advice if you need emergency repairs carried out and your landlord has refused to deal with these.

Isolation

Make sure you check the Public Health Agency website for up to date information and advice on the virus and what to do if you think you may have it.

The country is now in lockdown. It is essential that you stay at home. Read the government’s advice to find out under what circumstances you can leave your home.

Read the advice on how to self-isolate. Remember to stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from other people and to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly. If you have carers coming into your home, make sure to tell them if you are feeling unwell, if you have a new cough or a temperature. Contact your scheme manager if your carers have not shown up.

Transfers and other issues

The Housing Executive and housing associations will try to continue doing business as normal and can still deal with queries about points and transfers. However, it may be more difficult than it usually is to get through be telephone and there may be staff shortages as people become ill or have to isolate. You may need to be patient if you are waiting for a response to a query or complaint

Get advice if you have an urgent problem and can’t get help to deal with it.