Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA)

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has the power to recover Housing Benefit overpayments by:

  • asking an employer to make deductions from an employee’s earnings and
  • pay them to us.

This is called a Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA).

This means we can contact your employer to start taking deductions from your wages.

We will do this if you have not made or maintained a voluntary arrangement with us to repay the overpayment.

What legal authority allows the Housing Executive to take DEA recovery action?

The law now allows us to take DEA recovery action without applying to a civil court.

Your employer is legally bound to comply if requested to do so and they can be fined £1,000 per employee for not complying with the DEA rules.

For more information, please visit:

What will happen if we use a Direct Earnings Attachment?

  • We will send your employer a letter detailing the total amount that has to be repaid to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
  • Your employer will calculate how much money will be taken from your pay and advise you.
  • Your employer will begin taking the money from your pay and repay it to the Housing Executive.
  • This will continue until the debt has been repaid in full. 

How much will be deducted from your pay?

The deduction will be based on your earnings after:

  • Tax,
  • National Insurance; and
  • Workplace pension contributions.

A percentage will then be deducted from your earnings.

There are two percentage deduction rates for the calculation:

  • Standard; and
  • Higher

When we contact your employer to advise them to start the DEA process, we will inform them of what rate to apply. 

You can read more information about how a DEA is calculated in our leaflet on

Multiple DEAs

Your employer may already be making DEA deductions from your pay for another agency or organisation.

Your employer will still be required to make deductions from your pay for the Housing Executive but they must ensure that you are left with at least 60% of your net pay.

This is known as the Protected Earnings Amount.

Administrative charges

For each deduction made, your employer can take up to £1 from your pay towards administrative costs.

Your employer can take this charge even if it reduces your pay below the 60% protected earnings amount.

Your role as an employer

If you have received a letter from the Housing Executive with instructions to implement a DEA, you will be required to:

  • calculate the amount to be deducted from your employee’s earnings and
  • pay that amount directly to us until the debt has been repaid in full.  

It is important to know that employers can be fined £1,000 per employee for not complying with the DEA rules.

Do I need to tell my employee?

The Housing Executive has informed your employee that we have requested you begin the DEA process. But, you do have a duty to tell your employee in writing of:

  • the amount of the deduction taken, including any amount taken for administrative costs
  • how the deduction amount was calculated

What you need to do

The DEA rules require you to

You will need to complete and return this payment schedule each time you make a deduction from your employee’s wages.

This will reduce the need for us to contact you.

  • Pay NIHE by either BACS or cheque
  • Continue to make employee deductions and payments to the Housing Executive at every pay day until either:
  • we advise you to stop;
  • the employee leaves your employment;
  • the employee dies and the salary is paid after the date of the employee’s death;
  • the amount to recover is no longer outstanding; or
  • we ask you to apply a fixed rate deduction.

It is important to make payments regularly to the Housing Executive in line with your payment cycle.

This will reduce the need for us to contact you.

It is also important that you maintain a record of deductions taken from each employee’s earnings and stop deductions when the debt has been paid in full. This will also reduce the need for us to contact you.

Protected Earnings Threshold

DEA rules require employers to ensure that your employee is left with at least 60% of their net pay.

This is known as the Protected Earnings Amount.

Administrative charges

For each deduction made, you can also take up to £1 from your employee’s pay towards administrative costs.

You can take this charge even if it reduces your employee’s pay below the 60% protected earnings amount.

How to complete a Direct Earnings Attachment Payment Schedule

You will need to complete a Direct Earnings Attachment Payment Schedule each time you make deductions from your employee’s earnings. Download the

This is to ensure we can correctly allocate your payment.

Please complete this as follows:

  • Enter your company name, address and telephone number;

  • Enter your employee’s surname and National Insurance Number;

  • Enter the Housing Executive Unique Reference (Invoice) number. You can find it on the letter we sent you (it is important that you use this to assist in correctly allocating your payment);

  • Enter the amount to be deducted from the employee’s pay;

  • Enter the payment you are using – either by BACS or Cheque; and

  • Enter the date of payment.

Please remember not to include any additional personal information regarding your employee.

It is important that you send the payment schedule each time you make a payment. This will reduce the need for us to contact you.

Where do I send a Direct Earnings Attachment Payment Schedule?

The completed Direct Earnings Attachment Payment Schedule should be sent by:

Housing Benefit Payments

Income Management

1st Floor Housing Centre

2 Adelaide Street

Belfast

BT2 8PB

Multiple DEAs

You may already be making DEA deductions from your employee’s salary for another agency or organisation.

You will still be required to make deductions from your employee’s pay for the Housing Executive. But, you must ensure that your employee is left with at least 60% of their net pay.

It is also important that you pay the correct organisation the monies they are due.

Please read page two of our

This provides details of how to pay us. to obtain details of how to pay us.

This will reduce the need for us to contact you.     

  • Wages
  • Salary
  • Fees
  • Bonuses
  • Commission
  • Overtime pay
  • Occupational pensions, if paid with wages or salary
  • Compensation Payments
  • Statutory sick pay
  • Payment in lieu of notice
  • Most other payments on top of wages
  • Statutory maternity pay
  • Statutory adoption pay
  • Ordinary statutory paternity pay
  • Any pension, benefit, allowance or credit paid by DfC, NIHE or HM Revenue & Customers (HRMC)
  • A guaranteed minimum pension under the Pensions Scheme (Northern Ireland) Act 1993 (a)
  • Amounts paid by a public department of the Government of the United Kingdom or anywhere outside the United Kingdom
  • Sums paid to reimburse expenses wholly and necessarily incurred in the course of the employment
  • Pay or allowance as a member of Her Majesty’s forces;
    • other than pay or allowances payable to them by you as a special member of a reserve force Statutory Redundancy Payments

Further information

For more information, please visit:  

The information in this section is for general advice only.

Contact the Housing Benefit Recovery office if you have any queries.

Telephone: 028 9598 1580                    

Email: hb.recoveryoffice@nihe.gov.uk


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