When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Housing benefit & LHA for private tenants

If you are on a low income, you may be entitled to Housing Benefit to help you pay your rent.  Most people who rent privately have their entitlement to housing benefit worked out under a system called Local Housing Allowance. The amount of housing benefit you receive under the Local Housing Allowance rules depends on your circumstances and not on the actual rent for the property in which you live.

If you started receiving housing benefit to pay for your rented home before April 2008 and have not had a break in your claim since then, your entitlement to housing benefit is worked out under a different set of rules.  You can find out more about this in the housing benefit sectionIf your claim for help with your private rented housing costs began after April 2008 your housing benefit is assessed under Local Housing Allowance rules.

Local Housing Allowance rules set out how much benefit can be paid to help private tenants with their rent. These rules are used by Universal Credit and Housing Benefit.  The scheme was introduced in April 2008 and it applies for certain groups of private tenants only.

If you don't already get Housing Benefit, you can only make a new claim for it if you get a Severe Disability Premium as part of your other benefits or if you are over pension age. You also need to have a responsibility to pay rent or rates. Other people with responsibility for rent and rates can get help with these payments by applying for Universal Credit.  

The amount of benefits you will get depends on your personal circumstances, such as your income and savings, the size of your household and the area you live/wish to live in.

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, but you may still be able to claim Housing Benefit if you are a pensioner or if you get a severe disability premium in your other benefits. 

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 amount of housing benefit that is paid to single people aged under 35 who rent privately is often restricted. There are some exemptions that apply.

When a private tenant applies for housing benefit, the Housing Executive will normally calculate how much housing benefit that person will get based on the appropriate Local Housing Allowance rate. The Local Housing Allowance rate is almost always less than the amount of rent you actually have to pay. However, in certain circumstances, the Housing Executive can use a higher figure to work out how much housing benefit you are entitled to.