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.
You should apply for help to pay your rent if you are on a low income or are struggling. For most people this means claiming Universal Credit, but you may still be able to claim Housing Benefit if you are a pensioner or if you get a severe disability premium in your other benefits.
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.
Your Universal Credit is normally paid directly to your landlord, but you can ask for it to be paid to you instead. If you get Housing Benefit, you can choose whether you want the money paid to you, to the landlord or to the estate 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.
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.