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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Housing benefit

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. 

You can only make a new claim for Housing Benefit if you are of pension age or if you are living in certain types of housing, such as supported housing or temporary housing. Most people who need to make a new claim for help to pay rent will have to claim Universal Credit. 

You will only be able to make a new claim for Housing Benefit if you are over pension age. Other people can get help to pay rent from Universal Credit. 

Private renters can get help to pay their rent. You can apply for help if you're out of work or if you are working. 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. 

You may be able to get help to pay your rates bill.  There are 2 different benefits to help with rates:

  • housing benefit, including rate relief and
  • rates rebate.

You can make a new claim for housing benefit if you are a student and you have reached pension age. Younger students will only be able to claim housing benefit if

  • they are living in temporary or supported housing, and
  • they meet certain requirements. 

Some younger students may be able to claim Universal Credit, but this is not always possible. 

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.

You normally have to be living in a property in order to claim and receive housing benefit. However, in certain circumstances you may be able to claim for a property that you're not actually living in. The length of time that you can claim for depends on why you can't live in the property.

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 challenge or appeal a housing benefit decision if you think it is wrong or unfair. This can be a complicated process so it's best to get help from an advice agency.

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.