Housing benefit is a social security benefit which helps people with their housing costs. You can apply for housing benefit if you have to pay rent and you’re not working or you don’t earn much. Housing benefit can be used to help with rent, rates and some service charges but won’t cover things like heating, lighting, fuel, food, laundry.
If you rent your home from a private landlord or agency you should find out more about housing benefit for private tenants.
Claiming housing benefit
You need to fill in the Housing Benefit Application Form and return this to the Housing Executive. You can get this form
- from a Jobs & Benefits office or
- from the Housing Executive or your housing association.
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 are signing up for a new Housing Executive or housing association tenancy your Housing Officer should help you make a claim for housing benefit.
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 receive it within 4 weeks of that date.
Backdating a claim
If you can show good reasons why you didn’t claim in time, you might be able to get your claim backdated for up to 4 weeks. You need to ask for the claim to be backdated on your form and should explain why you didn’t claim earlier. It can be difficult to get a claim backdated. You can speak to an adviser at Housing Rights if you want to know more about backdating your claim.
Completing the form
Read the application form and the guidance notes. Fill in the form carefully. Answer all the questions that apply to you and be completely honest.
You need to show the Housing Executive some evidence to prove the information you’ve given them is correct. Pages 4 and 5 of the Housing Benefit Application Form explain the types of evidence that can be used.
Your housing benefit claim could be held up if you don’t answer all the questions you’re supposed to or if you forget to send in any of the evidence the Housing Executive. If you need help filling in the form, contact Housing Rights.
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.
Paying rent while your claim is being processed
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.
Social tenants in England, Scotland and Wales have their housing benefit reduced if their home has more bedrooms than they are seen by law to need. This has become known as the Bedroom Tax or the Under-occupation Penalty.
The NI Assembly hasn’t passed laws to bring the Bedroom Tax in but will probably do so in the near future.