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An introduction to Housing Benefit

Updated: 17 Mar 2019
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You don't need to be unemployed to claim Housing Benefit
Young man in kitchen
Housing Benefit is a social security benefit paid by the Housing Executive. It helps people on a low income pay their rent and rates. You do not need to be unemployed to get Housing Benefit.

Who can claim Housing Benefit?

Anyone who has to pay rent or rates for their home can claim. It does not matter if your landlord is:
  • the Housing Executive
  • a housing association
  • a private landlord.
You can also claim if you:
  • live in a hostel
  • live in bed and breakfast accommodation
  • are a boarder or lodger.

How do I make a claim for Housing Benefit in Northern Ireland?

If you think that you might be entitled to Housing Benefit you will need to apply by filling in a claim form.
Read our Housing Benefit advice section for more information about how to claim.

Changes in Circumstances

When you make a claim for Housing Benefit you are required by law to tell us about any changes of circumstances that then occur. You must tell us immediately about changes to ensure that we are using up to date information to calculate your housing benefit award. If you delay reporting changes any overpayments will be recovered from you.

How do I qualify for Housing Benefit?

To qualify for Housing Benefit you must have a responsibility to pay rent and/or rates for a dwelling that you occupy as your main home. We would then compare all your incomes with the amount that the government says you need to live on to decide if you are entitled to Housing Benefit.
Click here to see how we calculate your entitlement to Housing Benefit

Are there exceptions?

There are some circumstances where you may not qualify for an award of Housing Benefit. More details are available in the advice section.
For example, you may not qualify if:
  • your capital exceeds £16,000
  • you live with a close relative
  • most single students (unless you have a disability or responsibility for a child)
  • certain persons from abroad
  • you recently sold the home you lived in and are now renting your former home from a private individual

Local Housing Allowance and Private Tenants

If you rent from a private landlord, we must apply the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules to decide how much of your actual rent charge can be used in any calculation of Housing Benefit. In some cases the rent figure that we use to calculate any award of Housing Benefit may be less than the amount of rent you are actually being charged. Please visit our section on Local Housing Allowance to see the current LHA amounts that apply to your circumstances.
You should read the section on working out your LHA before you consider taking on a tenancy in the private sector to ensure that you are able to meet any shortfall.

Housing Benefit calculator

To find out how much Housing Benefit you may be entitled to, you can use our online Housing Benefit calculator. If you are a private tenant you must find out what rate of Local Housing Allowance will apply to your particular circumstances before using the Housing Benefit calculator.

Owner occupiers

If you own your own property and need help with your rates only, you must apply to the Land and Property Service (formerly the RCA).


If you would like to find out more about renting your property to someone who receives Housing Benefit, please read our advice for landlords.

Further information

Please note that all the information in this section is for general advice only. We recommend that you complete and send in a Housing Benefit application form in all cases, to allow us to fully consider your circumstances and make a decision.