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.
Claiming Universal Credit
You claim Universal Credit online. This benefit will include support with your living costs, housing costs, childcare costs and other elements depending on your circumstances. Find out more about Universal Credit.
Claiming Housing Benefit
You can claim Housing Benefit online or by completing a paper application form and returning this to NIHE.
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 confirm my details
Whether you are applying for Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, the agency processing your claim has to be satisfied that you have a legal responsibility to pay rent. They will want to see certain evidence to prove that your tenancy exists. Universal Credit claimants will normally have to provide a tenancy agreement and a letter from their landlord or agent, while people who apply for Housing Benefit need to get their landlord to complete a section of the application form.
If your landlord refuses to provide the paperwork to prove your tenancy exists, you should get advice urgently. It should be possible to prove you have a legal liability to pay rent even without those documents, and the decision maker should accept other forms of proof, such as:
- your rent book
- confirmation that your deposit has been protected
- bank statements and receipts which prove that you have been paying rent to the landlord.
Paying rent while your claim is being processed - ask for an interim payment or an advance
It normally takes at least 2 weeks for a Housing Benefit claim to be processed, and you could be waiting up to 6 weeks to get your first payment of Universal Credit. If you are going to struggle to pay your rent while you wait you should ask for
- an interim payment if you have applied for Housing Benefit and more than 14 days have passed since you gave NIHE all the information they need to make a decision
- an advance payment of Universal Credit if you need money while you wait for your first payment.
Interim payment of Housing Benefit
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.
Advance of Universal Credit
You can ask your work-coach to approve an advance. If you request an advance when you first apply for Universal Credit you should also ask to apply to the Universal Credit contingency fund. This is a fund that can give payments to people who have made a new claim for Universal Credit and who are having a hard time financially. While you have to repay your advance, you won't have to pay back any money you get from the contingency fund. You have to request an advance in order to be eligible for a contingency fund payment.
Can I backdate my claim?
You may be able to backdate your Housing Benefit claim for up to a month from the date you applied, but only if you have good cause. You don't have to show "good cause" if you are a pensioner.
It's quite difficult to get a backdated payment of Universal Credit, and this will only be paid in very limited circumstances. Get advice if you think you have a good reason for not claiming sooner and an adviser can help you work out if you are eligible for a backdated payment.
What if my circumstances change?
You need to report any change in circumstance to the agency that manages your benefits claim. If you claim Universal Credit, you can report a change of circumstances in your journal. If you receive Housing Benefit, you should contact NIHE by phone and then send a follow-up email as evidence that you have reported the change.
A change in circumstances could include:
- moving house
- starting or finishing work, or changing your hours at work
- having a baby or becoming responsible for caring for a child or young person
- someone else moving into your home or moving out of it
- having a significant birthday, which changes your entitlement to benefit.