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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Help if your housing benefit doesn't cover your full rent

Private tenants can apply for extra housing benefit if the amount they are getting doesn't cover their rent. This is known as a discretionary housing payment. The Housing Executive decides how much money you will get. You must show that you will suffer hardship if you don't get the extra housing benefit.

Amounts that can be paid

There is no fixed amount for a discretionary housing payment.  The Housing Executive looks at the particular circumstances of each claim it receives and then decides

  • how much money to give you, if any
  • how long you will get this extra money for.

The extra housing benefit might not be enough to cover your full rent. You could still have to pay your landlord extra money. Make sure you get a receipt for every cash payment you make to your landlord or agent. 

Awarding a discretionary housing payment

Unlike other benefits, there's no legal entitlement to a discretionary housing payment.  The Housing Executive has the power to decide who should and who should not get these payments.  When making a decision, the Housing Executive will usually check if you are in real financial hardship and if you're at risk of being evicted if you don't get this payment. 

When deciding if you are eligible for a discretionary housing payment, the Housing Executive will examine your personal circumstances. For example:

  • have your circumstances changed in a way that you need more money to cover your housing costs?
  • will you be evicted immediately if you can't pay your rent?
  • how much do you owe?
  • do you have any savings?
  • could you negotiate with the landlord to reduce the rent?
  • why do you need to live in a specific area?
  • could you move to less expensive accommodation?
  • do you have health problems which stop you moving to less expensive accommodation?
  • do you have young children?
  • could someone in the house help you pay your rent?
  • will you become homeless if the Housing Executive refuses to give you a discretionary housing payment?

Discretionary Housing Payment and Universal Credit

If you've applied for Universal Credit, you can be considered for a Discretionary Housing Payment if you meet the following:

  • You are renting in the private sector
  • Your award of Universal Credit includes housing costs
  • You find there's a gap between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the eligible rent used to calculate the housing cost of their Universal Credit Award

If you're awarded a Discretionary Housing Payment under Universal Credit, it is valid for four months. You must then make a new application, if needed.

If your circumstances change, this can effect your Discretionary Housing Payment. You should let the Housing Executive know immediately.

A change in circumstances can include: 

  • Change of address
  • A decrease in rent charges
  • If you stop receiving Housing Costs in your Universal Credit payment

Applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment

If you are currently receiving Housing Benefit, vist the Northern Ireland Housing Executive website and complete the Discretionary Housing Payment application form. Then return it to your local Housing Executive Office. If you require more room to make your argument than is provided on the form, enclose a letter.  Include copies of any supplementary evidence which supports your claim for additional help. 

If you've been awarded Universal Credit, you can apply here. If you're applying by post, please send the completed form to the Housing Benefit Office in your area, as indicated in the form.  

Turned down for extra housing benefit

Unlike a housing benefit application, you have no right to have your application reviewed and no right to have an appeal heard by an independent tribunal. However, you can ask the Housing Executive District Office where you made your application to look again at their decision. One of our advisers might be able to help you get this decision overturned.

If you think your claim has been unfairly rejected, contact Housing Rights or another advice agency who may be able to assist you in challenging the decision.