Some people who rent their homes from the Housing Executive or a housing association and who receive Housing Benefit may be subject to the “social sector size criteria” or “bedroom tax”. This is a cut to your Housing Benefit if your home has more bedrooms than the Government says you need. This change to Housing Benefit will take effect in Northern Ireland from 20 February 2017. This information explains how this new system works, who is and who is not affected, and what help is available if your Housing Benefit is cut because your home is too large.
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.
Secure Housing Executive (NIHE) and housing association tenants can exchange their homes with other secure NIHE or housing association tenants as long as the landlords both agree. Introductory tenants can only exchange in rare circumstances. Speak to Housing Rights if you’re an introductory tenant who needs to swap.
Get advice as soon as possible if you can't pay. The Land & Property Services have a strict procedure for recovering rates arrears. There are strict time limits. If you contact your local Land & Property Services office, you may be able to negotiate a payment plan.
The maximum discount available to Housing Executive or housing association tenants applying to buy their home is £24,000. The amount of discount you’ll get depends on how long you’ve lived in the property and how much of the property you’re buying.
Things can go wrong with your housing benefit claim. If you were getting Housing Benefit when you shouldn’t have been, you’ll have to pay this money back. You could also have problems if you have to pay rent on two homes for a while or have to leave your home temporarily.
You may be able to pass your tenancy on to other people if you can't continue to live in the property. Your landlord needs to give permission to allow this to happen and will only do it in certain circumstances.
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. Other people with responsibility for rent and rates can get help with these payments by applying for Universal Credit.