When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Coronavirus advice for private renters

Talk to your landlord or agent about any concerns you may have. 

Problems paying rent

Your landlord doesn’t have to do anything to help you if you are struggling to pay rent. But, many landlords will try to help tenants. You could ask the landlord to

  • reduce your rent for a period of time
  • use your deposit to cover a month’s rent and allow you to build this up again when you’re back on your feet
  • postpone rent payments until a point in the future when you’ll be able to repay what you owe
  • allow you to offset rent payments against work that needs done in the property.

If your landlord is able to help you out in some way, make sure you have a written record of any changes agreed. 

Our mediaton service may be able to help you negotiate with your landlord. 

Can you get benefits to help you pay rent?

Contact Make the Call to find out what benefits you can claim. 

The main benefit to help with rent is Universal Credit. You can claim Housing Benefit instead if you are over pension age.

You claim Universal Credit online. You can get help with living costs as well as help to pay rent. 

It usually takes at least 6 weeks to receive your first payment. You can claim a grant, called a Contingency Fund Payment, to help you manage during this period.  To apply for a contingency fund payment, contact Finance Support.

You can also request an advance on your first Universal Credit payment. This money is a loan you must pay back. Apply through your Universal Credit work coach. 

Extra help if your benefits do not cover your rent

The amount you get towards your rent may not cover the full amount you pay to the landlord.  You can apply for extra help to pay your rent if you get Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. This extra help is called a Discretionary Housing Payment or DHP. 

Our advisers can help you to apply.

How much extra help will you get from a Discretionary Housing Payment?

The Housing Executive will decide how much extra money you will get each month. There is no fixed amount. But, the Housing Executive will pay the full difference between your rent and your benefits for 13 weeks if

  • you have not claimed Housing Benefit or Universal Credit to help with your rent in the last 12 months AND
  • you could afford to pay the rent without benefits when you first moved into your rented home.

You can ask the Housing Executive to review the amount of DHP if you think it is too low. Get advice if you aren't sure how to do this. 

Help to pay your rates bill

Housing Benefit includes help with rates if you have to pay this charge. Universal Credit does not include help with rates.

You can apply for a rates rebate if you receive Universal Credit. This is a different application system to Universal Credit.  Contact our helpline if you need help to apply. 

The money you are entitled to will go directly to your property's rates account. You will not receive a payment in your bank account. 

Getting other benefits

You can apply for other benefits to help with your living costs. 

Contact Make the Call or a community advice agency for advice on benefits.

Can a landlord evict you during COVID-19 pandemic?

A new law means that your landlord has to give you at least 12 weeks notice of the date you have to leave your rented home. The notice must be in writing.

When the notice period ends, your landlord must go to court to evict you.  It is illegal for a landlord to force you to leave the property without a court order. This applies even if you haven’t been able to pay rent. 

A court order in your name can make it difficult to find a new place to rent. Our advisers can explain your housing options if you have to leave your rented home. 

Getting repairs done during COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic doesn't change the rules for repairs. But, it could take longer to get things sorted out and you might need to be more flexible about when repairs happen. 

Any person coming into your home to fix or inspect something must keep their distance. You should wipe down any surfaces the repair person has touched when they leave. 

Contact the environmental health department at your local council if your landlord will not fix something. Make sure you explain how serious the situation is if you are reporting an emergency repair. 

Get advice if you need help to sort the problem  out.

Inspections and viewings

It's understandable not to want strangers in your home at the minute. Government guidance says viewings should only happen in your home if:

  • you have given notice to the landlord and
  • you are preparing to move out. 

These viewings must be safe for you and the people visiting your home. Government guidance explains the steps the landlord or agent must take. 

Your landlord cannot force you to agree to a viewing. Negotiate with your landlord or agent if they want to arrange viewings against your will. Ask if the landlord or agent has read the government guidance on house moves and viewings.

Get advice if you have been told that you must allow strangers into your home against your wishes.

Isolating in shared housing

Speak to your flatmates and landlord if you have signs of COVID-19, or you need to isolate. 

There may be ways to reduce the risk of spreading the virus among the rest of the household. 

If you feel that you are living in an unsafe situation, get advice.

Staying safe

The Public Health Agency website has information and advice on how to stay safe.

Read the advice on how to keep your distance from others if you have any symptoms or think you may have the virus. Remember to stay at least 2 metres away from other people and to wash your hands well and often. 

Need help solving a problem?

You should always get advice if you are having problems with a tenancy. You can contact Housing Rights for advice on your rights. Housing Rights can also provide a mediation service if you and your landlord are having problems and need an independent person to help resolve these.