Understand Housing Benefit letters

When you make a new claim or inform us about a change in your circumstances, by law, we have to send you a Housing Benefit notification letter.

The notification letter tells you:

  • your Claim Reference number (top right corner)

  • the reason why the Housing Benefit calculation has been made

  • when your Housing Benefit starts (and if applicable when it ends)

  • how much your Housing Benefit entitlement is

  • if you have a Housing Benefit overpayment deduction, and

  • how your Housing Benefit has been worked out.

Please check the details in your notification letter and make sure they are correct.

If you think any details are incorrect or you want more information, please contact your local Housing Benefit Unit.

You can do this by:

  • Phone on 03448 920 902 (regardless of where you live) or

  • Email your local Housing Benefit office.

You can get further details and an email address at:

To help you better understand your Housing Benefit letter and for an explanation on some of the terms we use, please read the following information.


Rent and Rates Charge

Many tenants only pay a single amount to their landlord, which is normally made up of rent and rates.  We have to carry out separate calculations so we must break it down into two separate charges (rent and rates).


Weekly amount charged

The weekly amount charged is the amount you have to pay your landlord. If you pay monthly, we convert that figure to a weekly amount.


Weekly eligible charges

The weekly eligible charge on your letter may be different from the weekly amount charged figure. This is because the rent charge that we use to assess your Housing Benefit is different depending on your tenure type.

If you rent from the Housing Executive or from a housing association we normally use the actual rent charged by your landlord to assess your Housing Benefit unless, you are impacted by the Social Sector Size Criteria also known as the Bedroom Tax.

If Social Sector Size Criteria affects you, the rent used to calculate your Housing Benefit award is based on the number of bedrooms your household needs. It is not calculated on the number of bedrooms in your home.

For more information about Social Sector Size Criteria, read our section on:


The weekly eligible rent charge for private tenants will be set at the Local Housing Allowance (LHA).

The LHA used to calculate your Housing Benefit award depends on:

  • the area you choose to live in; and

  • who lives with you and the number of bedrooms you need.

For more information about LHA, read our section on:


If you own and occupy your home, you can receive help through Housing Benefit for rates only. 
Although Land and Property Services issue an annual rate bill, Housing Benefit is calculated on a weekly basis.
Therefore, the rate charge shown on your letter will be the weekly rate charge for your property. 

Non-dependant deduction

Before we calculate your Housing Benefit, we may have to reduce the weekly eligible charges if someone over the age of 18 (other than your partner) lives in your home. This reduction is called a non-dependant deduction.

It is made because your non-dependant may be expected to help with your household costs, even if they do not contribute to your household’s expenses.

The non-dependant deduction amount is based on their age and circumstances and will vary. If we do not know their income, we may assume the highest income, which may affect the amount of help you receive.

There are certain circumstances where we will not make any non-dependant deduction.

For more information about Non-Dependant deductions and the circumstances when a deduction is not made, read our section on:



Maximum Housing Benefit

This is the most Housing Benefit that we can pay you after taking account of:

  • the weekly amount charged by your landlord;

  • the weekly eligible charges; and

  • if you have a non-dependant deduction.


Applicable Amount

Under Housing Benefit rules, an applicable amount is the maximum amount of income you can receive before it starts to affect your Housing Benefit and is intended to reflect the basic living needs of you and your family. This can vary depending on your age and the number of people in your household. The UK Government sets the amounts and it changes every year.

It is made up of two elements:

Personal Allowances

  • an amount for you and your partner

  • an amount each child or young person still at school


Premiums are an extra amount added for particular circumstances like:

  • if you, your partner or children have a disability

  • caring responsibilities

Generally, premiums depend on the type and amount of benefits you receive. There are complex rules as to when and how many premiums can be awarded. Some cannot be awarded in addition to others. Some are only awarded to people of working age.

To work out your applicable amount we add your personal allowances together with your premiums.



For Housing Benefit, all of your household income is taken into account. Although some amounts can be disregarded either partially or in full. Types of income can include:

  • earnings
    • as an employee, or
    • self-employed income
  • benefits
  • any other income such as capital or savings

We add your income from earnings, benefits and any other income to arrive at the total income figure.

We include income you receive from employment, either as an employee or if you are self-employed and we covert that figure to a weekly amount even if you are not paid on a weekly basis.

If an employer pays you, we use your net earnings after deductions for:

  • tax

  • national insurance, and

  • half of any pension contributions you make

To see how we work out your income if you are self-employed, read our section on:


If you are paying for approved childcare, we may be able to deduct some of these costs from your earnings when we calculate your entitlement to Housing Benefit.

Approved childcare is childcare provided by a:

  • registered childminder, nanny, play scheme, nursery or club
  • childminder or nanny with a registered childminder agency or childcare agency
  • registered school, or
  • home care worker working for a registered home care agency

If you are paying for approved childcare for one child, the maximum amount that can be deducted is £175 per week.

If you are paying for approved childcare for two or more children, the maximum amount that can be deducted is £300 per week.

If you are earning less than what you pay for approved childcare, then the difference may be taken out of your Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit.

You also must be:

  • working 16 hours or more per week if you are a lone parent, or
  • if you live as a couple, both you and your partner must be working 16 hours or more per week*.

*If you live as a couple and you or your partner don’t work 16 hours or more per week, you may still be eligible, but you must contact your local Housing Benefit office for more information.

You can get further details and an email address at:

For information, read the ‘Childcare’ section in:

We include income you receive from social security benefits or Tax Credits paid by HMRC.

If you start or stop receiving a benefit then we need to know, as this could have an impact on your Housing Benefit award.

We include income from:

  • an occupational pension

  • student income

  • assumed income from capital

If you have capital over £16,000, you will not be entitled to Housing Benefit unless you are receiving Guaranteed State Pension Credit.

If you are single, your own capital is taken into account. If you are a couple then we take into account the amount of capital both you and your partner have.

Types of capital can include:

  • cash
  • accounts you hold with a bank, building society, credit union and/or post office
  • ISAs, stocks and shares, Premium Bonds, National or Ulster Savings Certificates
  • ownership or part ownership of property#


If you are:

Non-Pensionable age

For every £250 you have over £6,000 in capital, £1 will be treated as tariff income per week


Pensionable age

For every £500 you have over £10,000 in capital, £1 will be treated as tariff income per week

Excess Income

We look at your applicable amount and take away your total income. If you have any income over your applicable amount then this is called excess income.


How is Housing Benefit calculated?

You will receive the maximum Housing Benefit award, if you receive any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Guaranteed  Pension Credit

If not, your Housing Benefit is calculated as follows:

If your total income is the same or less than your applicable amount, you will receive maximum Housing Benefit.

If your total income is more than your applicable amount then for every £1 extra you have extra, your maximum Housing Benefitis reduced by:

  • 65p a week for your rent; and

  • 20p a week for your rates

If you are not entitled to the full award for rates through Housing Benefit, you will automatically be assessed for Low Income Rate Relief.  


What is Low Income Rate Relief (LIRR)?

If you are currently getting help with your housing costs through Housing Benefit, then you may already be getting help with paying your rates.  If your Housing Benefit award does not fully cover your rates charge, you may qualify for additional help with paying your rates. This is known as Low Income Rate Relief.

Low Income Rate Relief is automatically assessed along with your Housing Benefit and you do not need to make a separate application.


How is Low Income Rate Relief calculated?

We will use the same information you have already given us in your claim for Housing Benefit, to work out your entitlement to Low Income Rate Relief.

The LIRR calculation uses the same income and disregards as your Housing Benefit calculation; however, LIRR has different allowances if the claimant is of Pension Credit age. There is also an enhanced Carers premium for LIRR and no non-dependant deduction.

The information in this section is for general advice only.

Contact your local Housing Benefit office if you have any queries.

Rent limits