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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Housing benefit after a sudden change in income or a death in the family

When a private tenant applies for housing benefit, the Housing Executive will normally calculate how much housing benefit that person will get based on the appropriate Local Housing Allowance rate. The Local Housing Allowance rate is almost always less than the amount of rent you actually have to pay.  However, in certain circumstances, the Housing Executive can use a higher figure to work out how much housing benefit you are entitled to. 

If you suddenly can't afford your rent and you haven't claimed housing benefit in the past year

If you were able to afford your rent when you moved into the property and you haven't made a claim for housing benefit in the last 52 weeks, the Housing Executive should base your housing benefit on your actual rent for the first 13 weeks of your claim.  This means that you will get your full rent paid, except for any excluded service charges, if you aren't working for 13 weeks.  After 13 weeks, your housing benefit will be recalculated based on the LHA rate that applies to you.   

If your hours have been reduced or your wages have been cut, the Housing Executive should use your actual rent to work out your housing benefit claim, as long as you could afford the rent when you moved in and you haven't made a claim for housing benefit in the past 52 weeks.  This means that your housing benefit will be paid at a higher rate for 13 weeks and will then be recalculated based on the LHA rate that applies to you.  

If there has been a death in the household

You need to notify the Housing Executive whenever there is a change in circumstances that will affect your housing benefit entitlement.  This could include someone reaching a significant birthday, someone moving out of the home or someone dying. 

If a family member who lives in your home dies and this means that you are now entitled to a lower Local Housing Allowance rate, the Housing Executive will protect your housing benefit from dropping for 12 months.  You will continue to receive the amount of housing benefit that you got before this person died.  

When will these protections stop?

This protection will last for either 13 weeks or 12 months, depending on which set or circumstances apply.  However, the protection will also stop if

  • you leave the property
  • a new maximum LHA rate is set during this period that is higher than the figure the Housing Executive is currently using to calculate your housing benefit, meaning you'd be better off without the protection or
  • there is a further change in circumstances that means your benefit needs to be recalculated. 

Getting extra help with housing benefit

If your housing benefit doesn't cover your full rent, you can apply for a top up payment, called a Discretionary Housing Payment.  If you're worried about falling behind on your rent, you should speak to a housing adviser.