You normally have to be living in a property in order to claim and receive housing benefit. However, in certain circumstances you may be able to claim for a property that you're not actually living in. The length of time that you can claim for depends on why you can't live in the property and on whether or not you are still in Northern Ireland.
Temporarily outside Northern Ireland
You may need to leave Northern Ireland temporarily. You will only be able to get Housing Benefit for the first four weeks of your absence from Northern Ireland. After that period, your benefit will stop. There are a few exceptions to this rule, where your Housing Benefit may continue for a longer period even if you've left NI. The period could be increased in the following circumstances
- if your partner or child has died and it is unreasonable to expect you to return to Northern Ireland within four weeks, you can get Housing Benefit for a maximum period of 8 weeks
- if a close relative of yours or your partner has died or if a child or young person who normally lives with you has died and your absence from NI is related to this death, you can get Housing Benefit for a maximum of 8 weeks
- if you are outside Northern Ireland because you, your partner or a child or young person who lives with you is receiving medical treatment or recovering from treatment, you can get Housing Benefit for a maximum of 26 weeks
- if you have left Northern Ireland due to domestic violence, you can get Housing Benefit for a maximum of 26 weeks
- if you are a continental shelf worker, mariner or a member of the armed forces who has been posted overseas, you can get Housing Benefit for a maximum of 26 weeks while you are outside Northern Ireland.
Housing benefit for 52 weeks if you are still in Northern Ireland
You can sometimes get housing benefit to help with your rent for up to 52 weeks if you can’t live in your home at the moment but you intend to go back to it. You could get this payment if
- you have been admitted to hospital
- you are getting medical treatment
- you are absent because your dependant is receiving medical treatment
- you are on remand or in a bail hostel
- you are in residential accommodation, and you are planning to return home
- you are afraid to return home
Housing benefit for 13 weeks
Housing benefit can also be paid for up to13 weeks if you are still in Northern Ireland and plan to return to your home but you’re not currently living there because:
- you are on holiday
- you are staying in residential accommodation on a trial basis
- you are a convicted prisoner serving a sentence up to 13 weeks
Housing benefit on two homes
You may be able to get housing benefit for 2 homes for up to 52 weeks if
- you had to leave your main home because of domestic violence or a risk of domestic violence and
- you're now paying rent in another property but remain responsible for rent on your main home and
- you intend to return to your main home.
You may be able to get housing benefit on a home you're not living in for four weeks if you become responsible for paying rent on two properties at once and this responsibility couldn't be avoided. It happens most often when someone is renting a home from a private landlord and then is offered a social tenancy. Because tenants have to give at least 4 weeks' notice to quit to their landlord, you may be able to get housing benefit to pay for both properties for a 4-week property.
The maximum amount of time you'll get benefit for 2 homes is 4 weeks, even if you have to give more notice than this to your landlord.
If you end up having to pay rent on 2 properties, but you're told you can't get housing benefit for both speak to an adviser at Housing Rights.