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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Housing benefits for private tenants

Private renters can get help to pay their rent. If you are not already getting help to pay your rent, you should claim

  • housing benefit if you are over pension age, and
  • Universal Credit if you are below pension age. 

Both benefits use a system called Local Housing Allowance to calculate how much help private renters get with rent. A different system is used to calculate your benefit if you have been claiming housing benefit to pay your rent since March 2008 or earlier.

You can get help to pay your rent if you are a private renter and have a low income. 

If you are claiming help for the first time you should claim

  • housing benefit if you are over pension age, or
  • Universal Credit if you are under pension age.

You can only make a new claim for Housing Benefit if you are of pension age or if you are living in certain types of housing, such as supported housing or temporary housing. Most people who need to make a new claim for help to pay rent will have to claim Universal Credit. 

You should apply for help to pay your rent if you are on a low income or are struggling. For most people, this means claiming Universal Credit. Claim Housing Benefit instead if

  • you are a pensioner or
  • you live in supported or temporary housing. 

Your Universal Credit is normally paid directly to your landlord, but you can ask for it to be paid to you instead. If you get Housing Benefit, you can choose whether you want the money paid to you, to the landlord or to the estate agent. 

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 whether you are entitled to extra benefit and how much you should get.

The government restricts the amount of benefits it will give to private renters who are under 35. Your housing benefits will only cover the cost of renting a room in a shared property, unless

  • you have a partner living with you, or
  • your household includes children, or
  • you meet one of the exceptions to this rule.