Most people who normally live in Northern Ireland, have a low income and have to pay rent or rates can claim housing benefit. If you have savings or own property the amount you get may be reduced. People who have recently moved to the UK and full time students will not normally get housing benefit.
Housing benefit can't be used to cover mortgage payments. If you're a homeowner and you receive certain benefits you might be able to get some help paying off the monthly interest on your loan through Support for Mortgage Interest.
Normally resident in Northern Ireland
The property you’re claiming for must be your main home. You can sometimes get housing benefit on two homes, but only in certain circumstances. You are only eligible to claim housing benefit if you are habitually resident in Northern Ireland. This means that:
- you normally live in Northern Ireland,
- you don't need a visa to enter or leave the UK,
- you are able to work in Northern Ireland.
If you have a British or Irish passport and live in Northern Ireland you are probably habitually resident.
If you receive means tested benefits and you have to pay rent or rates you’ll automatically be entitled to housing benefit. Means tested benefits are
- income support
- income based jobseekers allowance
- income related employment & support allowance
- guarantee element of pension credit.
If you work, but don’t earn much you might also be entitled to housing benefit. It’s always best to put in an application, just in case you’re entitled to something. A benefits agency, like Citizens Advice, can help you work out if you’re entitled to any benefits on top of your wage.
Pay rent or rates
You have to show the Housing Executive that you are legally required to pay rent or rates. The Housing Executive will sometimes refuse housing benefit if they think that you are not legally required to pay rent and that you’re only claiming housing benefit to take advantage of the system. This could happen if
- you live with your landlord who is a close relative
- you pay rent to a former partner who previously lived with you in the property
- you or your partner is responsible for caring for your landlord’s child
- you are renting a property that you owned at some point in the last 5 years
- you live in accommodation provided by your employer as part of your job
Get in touch with Housing Rights if your housing benefit claim was turned down because the Housing Executive doesn’t believe you have a legal responsibility to pay rent.
Savings and property
You won’t get any housing benefit if you have savings or capital worth over £16,000 unless you get the guarantee element of pension credit.
If you are under 60 and have between £6000 and £16000 the amount of housing benefit you get will be reduced. If you are over 60 the amount of benefit you get will normally reduce if your savings or capital are valued at over £10,000. This won’t happen if you’re getting the guarantee element of pension credit.
Capital includes anything of value you or your partner owns, aside from the house you live in. It includes shares, property, investments and redundancy payments but doesn't include everything you own. The following capital can be overlooked or disregarded:
- the value of your personal possessions; car, jewellery etc
- the value of the home you own and live in
- the value of the home you own will be disregarded for 26 weeks if you cannot live there because of a relationship breakdown;
- the value of the home you own will be disregarded completely if your former partner still lives there and is a lone parent;
- the value of the home you own will be disregarded for 26 weeks or longer if you are taking reasonable steps to sell the property. The 26 week period applies from when you first took steps to sell the property, this may have been before you made a claim for housing benefit;
- business assets are disregarded for someone who is self employed while they continue to work as a self employed person;
- business assets will be disregarded for 26 weeks for a self employed person who is unable to work due to illness;
This is not a complete list of when capital can be ignored and in most of these cases certain conditions apply. The best thing to do if you the Housing Executive has turned down your claim because it believes you have capital is to get in touch with Housing Rights. An adviser can help you work out if this decision was fair or if your capital should have been ignored.
Students and housing benefit
Part time students can apply for housing benefit. The Housing Executive will use the college or university's description of the course as full or part time. It doesn't matter how many hours you actually attend classes.
Full time students are not normally entitled to housing benefit unless
- you are under 19 and on a further education course, such as A levels, not a third level course
- you are under 20 and child benefit is payable in your name
- you are a single parent or solely responsible for a child
- you receive Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance
- you are disabled or deaf
- you have been incapable of work for 28 weeks
- your partner is also a student and you are a parent of a dependent child
- you’re over 60
- your college has given you a leave of absence from your studies because you are ill or because you are caring for someone.
Even if you're eligible for housing benefit, the amount that you get may be restricted if you're renting privately and you're single and under 35. In these circumstances, you will probably only get the Shared Accommodation Rate.
Your partner may be able to claim if he or she is not a student, but your student loan or grant will be counted as income when working out how much housing benefit your partner should get.