Almost everyone who lives in a property in Northern Ireland has to pay rates. Rates pay for services throughout Northern Ireland; like schools, hospitals and roads; and for services in your local area; like bin collection, parks and leisure centres. The amount you pay depends on the value of your property and which council area it is in. You can get help to pay your rates if you're on a low income or receiving certain benefits.
A set of rules is used to work out how much help private tenants can get with their rent. These rules are known as Local Housing Allowance and are used by Universal Credit and Housing Benefit. The LHA rules have been used since April 2008. Almost all private tenants have their rent help worked out under this system, but there are a few exceptions.
Most people have to pay rates on their homes. Land & Property Services is responsible for collecting this money and can take legal action against you if you don't pay. If you're on a low income you may be entitled to housing benefit or rate relief to help you pay the rates on your home.
Your rate bill is worked out by multiplying the capital value of your property by the total of the domestic regional rate and the domestic district rate. The regional rate is set by the NI Assembly each year. The district rates are set by each local council.
Certain people can apply for housing benefit and rate relief to help with rates. You can only make a new claim for this assistance if you are over pension age or get certain disability benefits. People who don't fit in these categories can get only get help with rates if they are receiving Universal Credit.
If you are paying off a mortgage and you are on remand, you may be able to get help with your repayments. You'll only get help towards the interest on your mortgage and you'll only get help for a certain amount of time.
If you own a property you'll normally have to pay rates on it, even if the property is empty. You'll get a rates bill for the empty property automatically and you won't be entitled to an early payment discount. Some empty properties can be excluded from the rating system. It's worth checking to see if you can apply for an exclusion.