The amount of housing benefit you will get under Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules depends
- on the number of people who live in your home
- on where your home is situated and
- on how much income or savings your household has.
Often, your Housing Benefit will be lower than the rent you have to pay your landlord. Tenants in this situation have to make up the difference out of their other income, but should apply for extra help in the form of a Discretionary Housing Payment.
To work out how much you'll get the Housing Executive looks at which broad rental market area (BRMA) you live in, the number of bedrooms your household requires and how much income and capital you have.
Where is your home?
The Housing Executive will need to know which "Broad Rental Market Area" your rental home is in. There are 8 broad rental market areas in Northern Ireland:
- Belfast (BT1, BT2, BT3, BT4, BT5, BT6, BT7, BT8, BT9, BT10, BT11, BT12, BT13, BT14, BT15, BT16)
- Lough Neagh Upper (BT29, BT36, BT37, BT38, BT39, BT40, BT41, BT42, BT43, BT44, BT45, BT46, BT80)
- Lough Neagh Lower (BT25, BT62, BT63, BT64, BT65, BT66, BT67, BT69, BT70, BT71)
- North (BT51, BT52, BT53, BT54, BT55, BT56, BT57)
- North West (BT47, BT48, BT49, BT82)
- South (BT31, BT32, BT33, BT34, BT35, BT60, BT61, BT68)
- South East (BT17, BT18, BT19, BT20, BT21, BT22, BT23, BT24, BT26, BT27, BT28, BT30)
- South West (BT74, BT75, BT76, BT77, BT78, BT79, BT81, BT92, BT93, BT94).
You can find the map with different BRMAs on the Housing Executive's website.
If there aren't enough rental properties in the area you want to live in for the Housing Executive to work out the LHA rate, the Housing Executive may use the rental data from similar areas to work out the LHA rates.
How many rooms does the government think you need?
It doesn't matter how many rooms are in the property you're actually renting. The Housing Executive can only award you the LHA rate which is suitable for the size of your household, which means the number of bedrooms needed for the people living in your home.
In most cases, one bedroom is allocated for:
- every adult couple
- every other adult aged 16 or over
- any two children under 10
- any two children of the same sex
- any other child.
Extra bedroom if you need overnight care
If you or your partner requires regular overnight care you may be entitled to an additional bedroom allowance. There are certain criteria which apply:
- there must be a genuine, proven need for regular overnight care
- the care must currently be provided by someone outside of the household
- there must be a bedroom in the household which the carer can use.
If you think you should be entitled to this additional allowance, speak to an advice agency or contact the Housing Executive. You will have to provide some sort of evidence to support your claim.
People with disabilities
Under the Local Housing Allowance system, 2 children would be expected to share a room until they are 10 years old if they are of different genders and until the age of 16 if they are the same gender.
However, a number of court cases in recent years mean that an extra bedroom should be awarded where an adult couple or two children, who would otherwise have to share, cannot do so because of a disability. In deciding whether any additional benefit is payable, the Housing Executive should consider
- the nature and severity of the disability
- the nature and frequency of care required during the night
- and the extent and regularity of the disturbance to the sleep of the child who would normally be required to share the bedroom.
The Housing Executive will normally expect you to provide adequate medical evidence to convince them of the need for an additional bedroom and there will have to be an extra bedroom in the property for the person affected to use.
Portion of rent covered by housing benefit
Once you know how many bedrooms are allowed for your household, you can find out the maximum LHA rate for a property of that size in the area you live or want to live in. The maximum amount of housing benefit you'll get is the local housing allowance rate and some housing benefit to help with your rates, if you have to pay these. If your rent is higher than this, you'll have to cover any extra yourself. You might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment to help cover the extra rent, but there's no guarantee you'll get this.
Even if the LHA rate for your property appears to be greater than or equal to your rent, the actual amount you get may not cover all of your rent. This is because your income, savings and non-dependants living with you may influence the final calculation.
Under 35 or sharing a home with other people who aren't your family?
There are special rules for single people who are under 35. These people are usually only entitled to a shared rate of local housing allowance. You'll also only be entitled to the shared rate if you actually live in shared accommodation, no matter what age you are.