Many people who have to pay rent or rates for their home and are on a low income can make a claim for Universal Credit or Housing Benefit.
Benefits will only be paid to help with rent where the person processing the claim believes that the tenant has a legal responsibility to pay rent. The decision maker looks for evidence of a genuine business agreement between the applicant and you, the landlord. The following groups of people cannot apply for benefit help with rent:
- people who do not have a legal liability for rent
- tenants who live with their landlord, where the landlord is a close relative or the partner of a close relative
- tenants who are responsible for their landlord's child
- full time students, unless they are disabled or have dependent children
- people with savings of over £16,000
- some people who are subject to immigration control or EEA nationals who do not meet the necessary residential requirements
- people living in care or residential homes.
The benefits agency might refuse a claim for help with rent if they believe that the tenancy was only set up in order to take advantage of the benefits system. This is known as a "contrived tenancy".
If you rent a room or a property to a family member, the Housing Executive may view this arrangement as a "contrived tenancy", which has been designed to exploit the benefit system.
To successfully claim for help with rent in this situation, you and your tenant will have to convince the decision maker that this tenancy is a genuine commercial agreement. The following information will be used to decide if this is a genuine tenancy:
- is there is a history of the property being let at a market rent to paying tenants
- has the claimant had previously paid rent to you for this property
- is there is a professional relationship between you and the tenant, evidenced by provision of a rent book and tenancy agreement
- is there is a genuine risk that the tenant will be evicted if benefit is not paid.
If your tenant is told that they are not entitled to help with rent, because the tenancy is contrived, tell them to get advice from Housing Rights.
Benefits may not cover all costs charged to the tenant. The following costs are regarded as "ineligible" and will be disallowed when working out how much benefit a tenant will get:
- hire purchase payments for furniture
- payment for any part of the accommodation which is used for business
- payments for fuel or heating costs
- service charges for laundry, transport, television service or meals.
How to claim benefits to help with rent and rates
Your tenants should
- apply for Universal Credit online, via Gov.uk
- apply for a rates rebate online via NI Direct (as long as they are already receiving Universal Credit)
- apply to the Housing Executive for Housing Benefit, online or by completing a paper application form.