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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Applying for housing benefit

If you think you may be entitled to housing benefit, you should claim as soon as possible. In some circumstances you may be able to request for your claim to be backdated.

How to claim local housing allowance?

To make a claim, you will need to fill in the Housing Benefit Application Form (HB1).  You can get this form from the Housing Executive or a local benefits office. You should automatically be given a Housing Benefit application form by the Jobs & Benefit office staff if you are making a new claim for:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit (Guarantee element).

Your housing benefit will be backdated to the date that you made your new claim for the above benefits as long as the Housing Executive receives it within 4 weeks of that date.

Send in your claim form as soon as possible.  Your claim will start on the Monday after the Housing Executive receives your form and any other information you need to send in as part of your claim. If you hand your form in at a Housing Executive office, make sure that you get a receipt to show the form has been received.

Landlord won't complete form

The Housing Executive will usually require that your landlord or agent complete the Certificate of Occupation part of your housing benefit claim form.  If your landlord refuses to complete this, you should tell the Housing Executive.  In these circumstances, the Housing Executive will have to accept other proof of your legal obligation to pay rent to your landlord, such as:

  • your rent book
  • a copy of your tenancy agreement
  • bank statements and receipts which prove that you have been paying rent to the landlord.

If the Housing Executive refuses to accept any of these forms of proof, you should speak to an adviser.

Paying rent while your claim is being processed - ask for an interim payment

The Housing Executive should process your claim within 14 days of receiving all the information you’ve been asked to provide.  You have to keep paying your rent while you’re waiting for your housing benefit to start.

If your payment is late you can ask for an Interim Payment. This is a temporary payment that can be made if there's been a delay processing your claim.  You can get an interim payment if there has been a delay caused by

  • your landlord
  • your employer
  • the Social Security Agency
  • Land & Property Services or
  • the Housing Executive

Ask for this payment by writing to or telephoning the Housing Executive.  Keep a copy of your letter or keep a note of the time and date of your call and the name of who you spoke to.  If it turns out that you're not entitled to housing benefit or you're only entitled to have some of your rent paid by housing benefit you might have to pay this interim money back. 

Can I backdate my claim?

You can backdate your LHA claim for a maximum of one month if you had "continuous good cause" for not making a claim during a period in which you were entitled to it.

"Good cause" does not have a firm definition. The Housing Executive may accept your state of health or unfamiliarity with the benefit system as "good cause" and must examine all relevant evidence in your case before they reach a decision. If you are over 60 and you failed to claim during a period in which you were entitled to claim Housing Benefit, you will be able to get your claim backdated without having to show "good cause".

What if my circumstances change?

Once you are awarded local housing allowance, the rate you are entitled to will generally apply for a year. At the end of the year, your rate will be reviewed. Your claim will also be reviewed if your circumstances change.

A change in circumstances could include:

  • moving house
  • someone else moving into your home or moving out of it
  • having a significant birthday, which changes your entitlement to housing benefit.

You should notify the Housing Executive as soon as your circumstances change. If you don't, you may lose out on a higher rate, or you may be liable to pay back any benefit you were not entitled to. It is important to keep your claim up to date.