When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Paying for your home

Paying for your home
Paying for your home

Wherever you're living, you'll have to pay something to stay there.  If you're renting you'll have to pay rent and homeowners will usually have to pay a mortgage.  If you're not earning much, you can apply for benefits to help with these costs.  You'll have other housing costs too: rates, insurance and all your heating and utility bills. 

Most people need to apply for a mortgage when they’re buying a home. This is a long term loan from a bank or building society. The loan is secured on your home so if you stop paying the bank can repossess the property. You should speak to an independent financial adviser to find out which type of mortgage is best for you.

Almost everyone who lives in a property in Northern Ireland has to pay rates. Rates pay for services throughout Northern Ireland; like schools, hospitals and roads; and for services in your local area; like bin collection, parks and leisure centres. The amount you pay depends on the value of your property and which council area it is in. You can get help to pay your rates if you're on a low income or receiving certain benefits.

Housing benefit is a social security benefit which helps people on low income with their housing costs. It can cover rent, rates and some service charges. There are different systems for working out housing benefit for social tenants, who rent from the Housing Executive or housing associations, and for private tenants, who rent from a private landlord or agent. 


Whether you own your home or rent it, you need to have contents insurance. Homeowners will also need to have buildings insurance and may have to have life assurance as part of the conditions of their mortgage. Insurance protects you against risk. In return for this cover, you pay a premium to the insurance company. You can usually pay your premiums in a lump sum or in monthly deduction

You have to pay rent to your landlord, whether that’s the Housing Executive, a housing association or a private landlord. When you’re offered a property you should be told how much the rent is and how much your rates and service charges are. If you're not given this information, make sure you ask for it before agreeing to take on a property.

Utility costs can be hard to budget for, particularly if you get a bill rather than using a pay as you go meter. You can switch your utility supplier if you can get a better deal elsewhere. There are lots of comparison websites about that can help you decide if switching supplier can save you money.

A new system of Discretionary Support replaces the Social Fund from 28 November 2016.  As with the Social Fund, this new system will provide financial assistance to people who find themselves in urgent financial need because of a crisis or an emergency. 

You could be entitled to financial support to help you resolve a housing problem.  You could apply for a loan to help pay rent in advance if you’re renting privately or from a housing association or to help buy emergency supplies for your new home.

Universal credit is rolling out across Northern Ireland. From 5 December 2018 most new claims for social security assistance will be for Universal Credit. You will only be able to make new claims for older benefits, such as Housing Benefit in limited circumstances. You can make and manage a Universal Credit claim online. The phone number for Universal Credit in Northern Ireland is 0800 012 1331 

The government will start moving existing claimants of certain other benefits on to Universal Credit from 2019 and plans to finish this process by 2022. 

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