More help with paying your housing costs

More help with paying your housing costs

If you are living in Northern Ireland and you find the help you’re already getting through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit to pay your housing costs (rent/rates) is not enough then there may be other help available, including:

  • Discretionary Housing Payment
  • Additional Housing Benefit
  • The Rate relief scheme

If you live in Great Britain then you’ll find more information on www.gov.uk.

Discretionary Housing Payment

There are three circumstances where you might qualify for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) when you’re getting Housing Benefit and you live in Northern Ireland.

1. Family Premium

We may not have been able to include a ‘family premium’ when we calculated your housing benefit if:

a) you made a new claim after 5 September 2016 and had a child(ren); or

b) you were getting housing benefit and had a child(ren) born / adopted / join your household since 5 September 2016. 

If either affect you and you did not get full housing benefit you may qualify for DHP.

The maximum you might be awarded to help with paying your rent is £11.34 per week.

2. Benefit Cap

You have been affected by a cap in your benefit payments since 7 November 2016.

Couple/Family: If your housing benefit decreased because of Benefit Cap you may be getting a Welfare Supplementary Payment (WSP). But if there is a change in your circumstances which means your housing benefit reduces again, WSP does not increase.  If this is the case then you may qualify for DHP.

The maximum amount you might get if you’re a Couple/Family is the difference between the old benefit cap amount and the new benefit cap amount that is not met through WSP. 

Single: if you’re affected by Benefit Cap you will not receive a Welfare Supplementary Payment.  You can apply for DHP.

If you’re single it is the full shortfall between the old housing benefit amount and the new amount.

3. Shortfall in rent (private rented sector only)

If there is a difference between the rent charged by your landlord (contractual rent) and the rent used by us (eligible rent / Local Housing Allowance) to calculate your housing benefit award you may qualify for DHP to help make up some of the difference.

The maximum you will get will not be greater than the difference between the rent you pay and the eligible rent the Housing Executive uses to work out your Housing Benefit claim.

How we pay Discretionary Housing Payment

Any award made will be dated from the Monday of the week your application was received. 

DHP will last for a set period of time and will be detailed in the ‘letter of offer’ you are sent.  If your claim is successful we will pay your DHP at the same time as your Housing Benefit.  But DHP is not a payment of Housing Benefit.

How to apply for Discretionary Housing Payment if you’re getting Housing Benefit

Download and complete the Discretionary Housing Payment application form (PDF 262 kB). Please return the completed form to your nearest Housing Executive office. 

If you are renting your home privately and you are awarded Universal Credit you can be considered for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) if:

  • You are living in Northern Ireland;

  • You are renting in the private sector; and

  • There is a gap between the actual rent charged by your landlord and the rent (eligible rent / Local Housing Allowance) used to calculate the housing cost of your Universal Credit award.

How to apply for Discretionary Housing Payment if you’re getting Universal Credit

The application should only be completed if:

  • You are renting in the private sector

  • You have applied for Universal Credit (DHP can only be considered once UC is awarded)

  • Your award of Universal Credit includes housing costs

  • There is a short-fall between the actual rent you pay and the rent used when calculating the housing element of Universal Credit

The quickest way to apply is online

or you can Print and Post: download the Universal Credit Discretionary Housing Payment Form (pdf icon PDF 572 kB)  

How we pay Discretionary Housing Payment

Any award made will be dated from the Monday of the week your application was received. 

DHP for Universal Credit claimants will only be valid for four months from date of claim.  If your claim is successful we will pay your DHP every four weeks.

Frequently asked questions about Discretionary Housing Payments

Before your award ends we will write to you to remind you this date is coming. You may apply again and we will look at your claim based on your ‘current’ need. Even if you had a previous DHP award it does not guarantee that another award will be made.

In the case of a shortfall in rent you must show that you are in need of financial help to meet this. Wherever it is possible, and reasonable to do so, you will be expected to take steps to improve the circumstances that led to your need for a discretionary housing payment (for example: find more affordable accommodation).

There is no list of circumstances that will automatically qualify you for DHP so an award cannot be guaranteed. 

Awards are made from a limited budget given to the Housing Executive by the Department for Communities (DfC) for a financial year (1 April – 31 March).  Once the budget has been used up the fund will close until the next financial year.

If you disagree with our decision for any of the following reasons:

  • not to give you a discretionary housing payment; 

  • with the amount we have decided to give you; or

  • how long your award lasts

you can ask us to look at the decision again.

To do this you must write to us within one month of the date on your letter.

Discretionary Housing Payment is not an award of Housing Benefit so you cannot appeal to the ‘Appeals Service’ about our decision.

Housing Benefit Claimants

If you are getting housing benefit and your circumstances change, you must tell us straight away. We will look at your award of Housing Benefit and DHP to see if we need to change either or both.  

If you delayed in telling us about the change and we have paid you too much housing benefit or DHP you will be asked to repay the money.

Universal Credit Claimants

The following changes in circumstances might affect your award:  

  • change in address
  • a decrease in rent charges
  • you stop receiving the housing cost in the Universal Credit award

You must tell us immediately if any of the changes in circumstances happen to you. If you delay in telling us about a change and we have paid you too much DHP you will be asked to repay the money.

Additional Housing Benefit

There are two reasons where we might be able to look again at how much Housing Benefit you qualify for:

Extra bedroom needed

If you’ve been affected by the under-occupation rules (SSSC or LHA) and the amount of housing benefit has been reduced you may be able to have your claim looked at again if:

  • you are providing a bedroom for use by a carer (or team of carers) who doesn’t actually live in your home but provides overnight care for you, a disabled child or adult who lives with you; and/or
  • you are a couple that cannot share a bedroom because of a disability.
  • you have a child that cannot share a bedroom because of a disability.

Since 11 May 17 you’ve had a third child (or more)

There is a limit on the allowances for children in the housing benefit calculation. Therefore, if you did not receive housing benefit to cover the full housing costs (rent/rates) and a third child, or more, joined your household after 11 May 2017 and this child is included in your ‘Tax Credit Notification Letter’ we may be able to include the child(ren) in the housing benefit calculation. 

If this is the case, please contact Housing Benefit immediately and arrange to send a copy of your 'Child Tax Credit Assessment' to us. 

Important note

If you already get Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based), Employment Support Allowance (Income Related) or Guarantee Pension Credit this 'third child' rule does not affect you.

Rate Relief Scheme

You may qualify for ‘rate relief’, (extra help with paying your rates bill) if:

  • You live in Northern Ireland; and
  • You’re on a low income, you are of working age and you and your partner's total capital and savings do not exceed £16,000; or
  • You are over 60 and have savings of up to £50,000

If you own your home and find it difficult to pay your rate bill, or you think you might be entitled to help paying your rates, you can apply for Housing Benefit Rate Relief.

This scheme is run by Land & Property Services and you will find more information on nidirect 

If you have been awarded Universal Credit it only pays the rent part of your housing costs.  You must apply for ‘Rate Rebate’ to get help paying your rates.

If you are currently getting help with your housing costs through Housing Benefit then you may already be getting help with paying your rates.  You may qualify for additional help with paying your rates through the ‘rate relief scheme’.

We will use the information you have already given us in your claim for Housing Benefit to decide your entitlement to ‘rate relief’.

Change in your circumstances may also affect how much help you get with ‘rate relief’.  Please see change in circumstances.

If you have been awarded Universal Credit it only pays the rent part of your housing costs.  You must apply for ‘Rate Rebate’ to get help paying your rates.

If you are 70 years or over, you live alone and you pay rates you may be entitled to help with your rates.  This could be up to 20% off your rates bill.

If someone else lives with you, you may still qualify for the allowance if they are providing care to you and they are not a disqualified relative (partner / spouse).

It is not means tested so you don't need to provide information about your income or savings to be eligible.  And your social security benefits should not be affected.

When you complete the application form you will need to provide:

  • your National Insurance number
  • your date of birth
  • how much you pay for your rates (only if you rent from a private landlord or housing association)

If you are a Housing Executive tenant, or you own your own home, you don't need to confirm how much you pay for your rates.

If you rent or ‘have your time in’ your home

If you rent your home or you previously owned the property you live in and you still pay rates, download and complete our Lone Pensioner Allowance form.

Download the Lone Pensioner Allowance Form (pdf icon PDF 79 kB)

If you own your home

You must apply to Land & Property Services (LPS) using their application form.

If you qualify for Lone Pensioner Allowance, you will continue to get this unless:

  • someone comes to live with you
  • you no longer have to pay rates

If there is a change to the amount you have to pay for your rates your Lone Pensioner Allowance may change to reflect this.

Lone Pensioner Allowance is always paid direct into an account for you. This could be:

  • your rent or rates account if you are a Housing Executive or a housing association tenant
  • your rate account if you are a private tenant or you pay your rates to Land & Property Services

Please note you must still pay your rate bill while your claim for help is being assessed.

If a property has been suitably adapted or has additional features to accommodate a disabled person's special needs, you might be entitled to 25% (per cent) reduction in your rates.

This scheme is run by Land & Property Services and you will find more information on nidirect

Advice disclaimer

The information in this section is for general advice only. We recommend that you contact your local Housing Benefit office if you have any queries.
 


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