When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Working out your housing benefit

The amount of housing benefit you’ll get to help with your rent depends on your personal circumstances.  There are different systems for calculating housing benefit for private tenants and for housing association or Housing Executive tenants.

Private tenants

If you rent your home from a private landlord or agent your housing benefit will be worked out using the Local Housing Allowance rules. If you meet any of the following criteria, you come under the main Housing Benefit rules, which are explained below:

  • You live in a protected or rent controlled tenancy
  • You made a claim for housing benefit before 7 April 2008 and have been living in the same privately rented accommodation, continually claiming housing benefit ever since
  • You live in a supported tenancy, where you receive care, support or supervision from a housing association, registered charity or voluntary organisation. 

Housing Benefit or Universal Credit?

You should apply for Universal credit to get help with your rent, unless

  • you are of state pension credit age or 
  • you receive a severe disability premium in your other benefits. 

In these cases, you can apply for Housing Benefit. If you are a pensioner or get certain disability benefits, you can apply for Housing Benefit online or by completing a paper application form and returning this to NIHE. 

An advice agency can help you work out if you’re getting the correct amount and may be able to find other benefits you should be getting.

How much Housing Benefit will you get?

If you are receiving income-related benefits your Housing Benefit will normally cover your full rent, minus certain deductions. If you are doing paid work, the amount of benefit you receive may decrease, depending on how much you earn. 

What kind of deductions can be made from your Housing Benefit?

Your Housing Benefit can be reduced if

  • there are other non-dependent adults living in your home
  • you have savings, capital or assets valued at between £6,000 and £16,000
  • your property has more bedrooms than you need
  • you earn more than the limit set by the government - the limit depends on your household circumstances.

Non-dependent deduction because another adult lives with you

Your housing benefit will be reduced if there are other adults living in your home with you and your partner.  This includes any children who live with you who are over 18.  The amount taken from your housing benefit is called a non-dependant deduction.

Deductions won’t be made if you or your partner

  • is blind
  • receives the care component of Disability Living Allowance or the daily living allowance of PIP
  • receives Attendance Allowance

Deductions will be made from your Housing Benefit for rates and any Housing Benefit you receive to help with the cost of your rates. The amount that will be deducted depends on the income of the person living with you.

Deductions won’t be made if a non-dependent is living with you but the person

  • is receiving a youth training allowance
  • is a full-time student during term time, or a full-time student who is unemployed during study leave
  • has been in hospital for more than 6 weeks
  • is in prison
  • is living with you, but his/her main residence is elsewhere.

The point of these deductions is to make sure that adults living in a property are contributing to the rent.  The amount of the deduction is the amount the government thinks the adult living with you should contribute to the weekly rent.  If you are finding it hard to cope because of a non-dependant deduction you should speak to the person living in your home and explain that your Housing Benefit has been reduced because of their circumstances. They may be willing to make up the difference out of their income or earnings

Deductions because your savings or capital are over the limit

If you have savings and capital above £16,000 you won’t be entitled to housing benefit, unless you receive the guarantee element of pension credit.  If your savings and capital are worth between £6,000 and £16,000 the amount you get will be reduced. If you are of pension age your housing benefit will start to reduce if you have between £10,000 and £16,000 in savings or capital.

Your rent

The Housing Executive sets acceptable rent levels for each property type.  Your housing benefit may not cover all your rent if the Housing Executive believes the rent charged for your property is too high. Housing benefit won’t cover certain charges that you might be required to pay your landlord.  This includes charges for laundry, fuel and meals.  Communal charges for things like cleaning can be covered, as long as paying these charges is a condition of your tenancy.

Size of your property

You will only receive enough Housing Benefit for the size of property that you actually require.  This policy is known as Local Housing Allowance for people who rent their homes privately and is commonly referred to as the "bedroom tax" for people who rent their homes from a social landlord.  The bedroom tax was introduced to Northern Ireland in 2017, but the effects of this change will be offset by another fund until March 2020. Pensioners are not affected by the bedroom tax.