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.
The amount of benefits tenants get towards rent will not always match up to the amount of rent you charge. Instead, the amount of benefit paid depends on the size of the claimant's household, their personal circumstances and the area in which they live.
You must pay rent to your landlord in return for living in the property. If you stop paying your rent, are late with a payment or do not pay in full, your landlord may begin eviction proceedings against you.
If you are on a low income, you may be entitled to benefits to help you pay your rent. Most people who rent privately have their entitlement to benefit worked out under a system called Local Housing Allowance.
If you don't already get Housing Benefit, you can only make a new claim for it if you get a Severe Disability Premium as part of your other benefits or if you are over pension age. You also need to have a responsibility to pay rent or rates. If you can't apply for Housing Benefit, you may be able to get help to pay your rent by applying for Universal Credit.
Private tenants can apply for extra housing benefit if the amount they are getting doesn't cover their rent. This is known as a discretionary housing payment. The Housing Executive decides whether you are entitled to extra benefit and how much you should get.
Renting a home from a private landlord or through an agent could be an option, but there are potential problems which you should be aware of before taking on a tenancy. Know your rights and responsibilities.