When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Payments of benefits to help with rent

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. 

When will you receive your benefits?

Your benefit will be paid

  • once a month in arrears if you receive Universal Credit. Your journal should tell you when the Housing Costs part of your payment was sent to your landlord
  • every four weeks in arrears if you receive Housing Benefit. 

Because your benefits are paid in arrears, they won't cover your first month's rent if you've been asked to pay this in advance. If you don't have enough money saved up to pay this yourself, you could apply for a loan from the Discretionary Support Fund. Remember to keep receipts for any cash payments that you make to your landlord. 

Moving out of the property

You should always keep a record of how much you have paid to your landlord while you've been renting. Your records should include details of

  • any cash payments or bank transfers you have made (such as rent in advance or top up payments)
  • any Universal Credit or Housing Benefit payments made directly to the landlord or agent
  • any rates payments made on your behalf to Land & Property Services. 

When you move out, add up all these payments to check if your rent account is fully paid up. If you have paid more than you should have, you should ask your landlord to return any money that was overpaid. If they do not do this, you could try to take your old landlord to court to get your money back. If you haven't paid enough rent, your landlord can ask you to pay what you owe or could deduct whatever rent you owe from your security deposit. 

If you receive Universal Credit, you can only get the Housing Costs part of the benefit if you are still renting at the end of your assessment period. If you are thinking of moving out of your home and into another place where you won't have to pay rent, get advice before you decide when to move.

Can I get a 'top-up' if the my benefits don't cover my rent?

You can apply for extra help if your benefits don't cover your full rent, but there is no guarantee that you will get any extra help. You can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment if you are struggling to pay the shortfall yourself. This is usually a short-term solution, and if you are worried about being able to afford the rent on your home, you should seek advice.

Challenging decisions about housing benefit or Universal Credit

You can request a review of your housing benefit decision if you think it was incorrect. 

You need to request a mandatory reconsideration of a Universal Credit decision that you think is incorrect. You should do this within 4 weeks of being told about the decision. 

Contact an advice agency for help challenging decisions about your benefits.