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.
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.
Working out housing benefit for Housing Executive, housing association and some private tenants
The Housing Executive manages claims for housing benefit. It will look at your income, your rent and your personal circumstances when working out how much benefit you should get.
Your income, savings and capital
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.
The Housing Executive will look at your income and your partner’s income if you live together. Each year the government sets the amount of money you need to live on. This is called an “applicable amount”. This amount will change depending on
- how many people live in your home;
- your age;
- if you have any health problems.
If you earn more than your applicable amount your housing benefit is reduced. The more you earn above your applicable amount, the less housing benefit you will receive. Some benefits may count as income. The following benefits are not counted:
- Child Benefit
- Disability Living Allowance
- Attendance Allowance
- income based Job Seekers Allowance
- income related Employment & Support Allowance
- Income Support
- guarantee element of Pension Credit
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.
Other people who live in your home
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
- 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. If they’re under 25 and receiving income based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support or they are in the assessment phase of Employment and Support Allowance no deduction will be made. The rent deductions start at £14.65 per week for people in receipt of benefits and rise to £94.50 per week for people earning over £420 each week. The deductions for rates range from £3.30 to £9.90 per week. 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.
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 will be introduced in Northern Ireland in 2017, but the effects of this change will be offset by another fund for the next four years.
Help working out your claim
If you think you may be entitled to housing benefit, fill in the application form and send it to the Housing Executive. 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.