When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Help with mortgage payments

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

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
  • Pension credit

What will it cover?

SMI can be used to cover the interest on your mortgage and certain loans which you’ve taken out to purchase, repair or carry out essential adaptations to your home. SMI won’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

SMI will cover interest on an amount up to £200,000 if your loan was taken out after 05 January 2009 or up to £100,000 if you receive Pension Credit or your mortgage was taken out before 05 January 09. The interest rate used to calculate SMI has been set at 3.12% since July 2015, but will drop to 2.61% on 18 June 2017. 

If your interest rate is lower than this your benefit payment will be higher than the interest only 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 much will you get?

The amount you receive depends on the balance of your loan and on the rate currently being used to calculate SMI payments. This rate can change when the average mortgage rate published by the Bank of England changes. Over the past few years, the interest rate used to calculate SMI payments had reduced a number of times. 

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 or Pension Credit.

Making a claim

You can claim 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 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.

Waiting for your payments

If you are on Pension Credit your claim should be processed immediately. 

You have to wait 39 weeks from the date you claim ESA, Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance before your SMI payments start.  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. 

SMI will be paid directly to your lender. It is usually paid in 4-weekly, rather than monthly, instalments. You can use our converting tools to convert the 4-weekly payment into a monthly payment. This will help you to work out how much you need to pay your lender to make up the rest of your monthly mortgage payment. 

Future changes

The government plans on changing the Support for Mortgage Interest system in the future by making this payment into a loan. This means that anyone who receives this assistance after the change will have to pay back any financial help that they receive. We do not yet know when this change will take place. 

Housing benefit

Housing benefit can be used to cover rent and rates payments. If you bought your house through Co-Ownership you may be entitled to some housing benefit to help with your rent payments to the housing association. Contact your local Housing Executive office to make a claim.