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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Local Housing Allowance

Housing benefit can help some people to pay their rent and rates. The government is replacing housing benefit with Universal Credit. Most people who need to claim help to pay rent for the first time will claim Universal Credit instead of housing benefit. 

You can only make a new claim for housing benefit if you are of pension age or if you live in supported or temporary housing. 

All tenants have a legal right to apply for housing benefit to help them with their housing costs. You should get to know how housing benefit is calculated and paid.

If someone has to pay rent or rates for their home and is on a low income, they can make a claim for housing benefit. There are some people who cannot apply for housing benefit.

Private tenants who claim help with their rent will get either Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. There are two different systems used to calculate how much Housing Benefit someone will get. In most cases, the Local Housing Allowance rules will be used to calculate how much Housing Benefit or Universal Credit a private tenant gets to help with rent. But, if you have tenants living in protected tenancies or tenants who have continuously been receiving Housing Benefit since before April 2008 without a change in circumstances their benefits will be calculated using the old Housing Benefit rules that existed before 2008. 

The local housing allowance (LHA) system calculates how much benefit private tenants get towards rent. Both Housing Benefit and Universal Credit use the LHA rules. 

The amount your tenant gets in benefits will not usually match the rent you charge. It's common for tenants to get a lot less than they have to pay the landlord. 

Housing benefit is paid in arrears and at either fortnightly or four weekly intervals. When a tenant moves out of the property you need to tell the Housing Executive so it can stop the claim. If the tenant moves out, but the Housing Executive is still paying housing benefit, it may try to reclaim this overpayment from you.

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.

Private renters can get help to pay their rent. If you are not already getting help to pay your rent, you should claim

  • housing benefit if you are over pension age, and
  • Universal Credit if you are below pension age. 

Almost everyone will experience difficulties paying their bills at some point. If you are worried about falling into arrears or missing a payment of rent, you should talk to your landlord about the problem. Free debt advice is available from a variety of local advice agencies.

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