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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Help with mortgage payments

If you’re a homeowner and on qualifying benefits, you may be entitled to Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI). This is paid in addition to certain benefits and can help you meet some or all of the interest payments on your mortgage.

This is a loan payment which you'll have to pay back with interest when you sell or transfer ownership of your home. If you were previously receiving SMI before it was a loan, you can find out more about the change here. 

Who qualifies?

You may be entitled to SMI if you are a homeowner and receive any of the following benefits:

  • Income support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment & Support Allowance
  • Universal credit
  • Pension credit

What does it cover?

SMI covers interest on:

  • your mortgage
  • loans you’ve taken out to buy your home
  • loans to repair or carry out essential adaptations to your home

It doesn't cover:

  • paying the balance on your mortgage
  • loans which you’ve secured on the property where the money has paid for something other than repairs
  • loans for improvements, such as adding a conservatory
  • arrears on your account
  • insurance payments

How much will I get?

If you qualify, SMI will help cover the interest on an amount up to £200,000 of your loan or mortgage. However, if you receive pension credit or your mortgage was taken out before 5 January 2009, SMI will help cover interest on an amount up to £100,000. 

The interest rate used to calculate how much assistance you get is 2.61%. 

If your interest rate is lower than this, your SMI payment will be higher than the interest payment on your loan. This money will be credited to your mortgage account. If your rate is higher you will have to make up any shortfall yourself.

How do I apply?

You can apply for SMI at your local Jobs & Benefits or Social Security Office. If you’re making a new claim for income support, income based JSA, income related ESA, Universal Credit or Pension Credit,  you should include all information about your mortgage and loan payments.

You’ll need to bring some proof of your payments to your interview and your lender may have to complete some forms to confirm the details of your loan.

If you’re already getting some of these benefits but you’re not getting any SMI, ask for an application form at your local Social Security Office.

There is no fee to set up the loan.

If you need more advice on applying, or if you're not sure if SMI is for you, please call our Housing Advice line.

How it's paid

SMI is normally paid direct to your lender.

Payments can start either:

  • from the date you start getting Pension Credit
  • after you’ve been getting Universal Credit for 9 consecutive months
  • after you’ve claimed any other qualifying benefit for 39 consecutive weeks

This is a long time to wait so it's really important that you get advice on how to deal with your mortgage arrears while you wait for these payments to start. 

Repaying the loan

You don’t have to make regular repayments towards the loan. The government will only expect this money back when:
 
  • You sell the property, or
  • You transfer the property to someone else, or
  • You die, or the last remaining person in your benefit claim dies.
The money that you owe will normally be registered as a charge on the property. This means that the money will be paid back out of the proceeds gained from selling the property or from your estate. However, if you want you can make voluntary repayments to clear the loan before this happens. Any voluntary payments must be of at least £100.
 

How long will it last?

SMI will be paid for a maximum of 2 years to people who are on Jobseeker’s Allowance and began claiming SMI on or after 5 January 2009. There’s no SMI time limit for people who receive Income Support, Income-related ESA, Universal Credit or Pension Credit.

What happens if there’s not enough equity to pay back the loan?

When you sell your property, you may have other secured debts which need to be paid off, such as a remaining loan, rates arrears or a mortgage. If there is not enough equity in your property to repay all or any of the loan after certain other debts have been cleared, the amount owed will be written off.

However, if you sell the property for less than its market value and there would have been equity to repay the loan if you had sold it at the market value, the Department could decide to treat you as though you did sell the property at the higher price. If this happens, there is a risk that the Department will insist you pay the loan, but you could challenge this decision.

Benefits to help with shared ownership rent and rates payments

You can also get help to pay the rent on your home if you only part-own it. You can get this help by applying for Housing Benefit or through your Universal Credit claim. 

People who receive Universal Credit can apply for help with their rates payments via the rate relief system, managed by Land & Property Services. If you live in an area where Universal Credit hasn't yet been introduced, you can apply for Housing Benefit to help with your rates, but Land & Property Services will process your claim.