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Housing Benefit for housing association tenants

Updated: 15 Jan 2019
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We can only pay Housing Benefit once you move in to your Housing Association property
Housing Association Portstewart
There are specific Housing Benefit rules that apply to tenants of housing associations and some other secure tenants. This is an overview of those rules - if you require more detailed information about your own circumstances please call us on 03448 920 902.

What is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit is a social security benefit administered by the Housing Executive; it is designed to help people on a low-income meet their housing costs. It does not matter whether your landlord is a housing association, a company or a private individual. Anyone can apply; you do not have to be unemployed or receiving state benefits to get Housing Benefit.

Will all my rent be paid?

This depends on your income, family circumstances, the amount of rent you are being charged and who you pay your rent to. If you have someone over 18 living with you this may also affect any possible award of Housing Benefit.
If your landlord is a registered housing association then the full amount charged is usually eligible for Housing Benefit.
Please note, the Government is proposing rent restrictions where under occupation is occurring in Housing Executive properties and housing association properties. The proposal is targeting working age claimants only. Please check our welfare reform page for updates.
A restriction may also be applied to non housing association properties if your tenancy is subject to the Private Tenancies Order, which limits the amount your landlord can lawfully charge. If this is the case we cannot pay more Housing Benefit than the law allows your landlord to charge even if you have agreed to pay more.
You should also remember that because of your income and family circumstances you might not get full Housing Benefit. You will therefore need to be sure that you can afford to pay any difference between Housing Benefit awarded and the actual rent charged by your landlord.

Can I get Housing Benefit before I move in?

There is a legal requirement that you must be occupying a property as your home in order to be entitled to an award of Housing Benefit.

I plan to decorate the house before moving in, does this count as occupation?

No, by occupation we mean that you have moved yourself, your family and possessions into the property and you cannot be considered as living anywhere else.

I was waiting on a social fund loan, are there no exceptions?

There is an exception to this rule if you are disabled, aged over 60 or have a child aged 5 or under living with you. If this is the case we may be able to pay Housing Benefit for a period up to 4 weeks before you move in providing the delay in moving in was reasonable. Your claim for Housing Benefit would also have to be made before the date you actually move in and you must not have been receiving Housing Benefit on another dwelling. (Any award of Housing Benefit in these circumstances would be made after you have moved in to the property).

My rent also includes a service charge; can I get Housing Benefit on this?

Yes, provided the service charge is not for “personal” things like heating, electricity or meals as everyone has to meet such expenses. Service charges for heating & cleaning of communal areas are eligible for Housing Benefit provided that you have to pay these as a condition of occupying the property. We must also be satisfied that the service charge is reasonable.

How will my Housing Benefit be paid?

At present, you can choose to have your Housing Benefit paid directly to you by cheque, to your landlord or straight into your bank account which is safe, secure and convenient.

I would like my Housing Benefit to be paid directly to my landlord, is this possible?

Yes, if you agree we can make payments of Housing Benefit directly to your landlord. We will also make payments to your landlord (even if you do not agree) if we are notified that you owe more than 6 weeks rent or we think this method of payment is in your best interests.

When will the payments be made?

Unless you have been receiving Housing Benefit continuously from before October 1996 the law requires us to make all Housing Benefit payments in arrears.
You will receive a payment every two weeks in arrears but if payments are being made directly to your landlord these will be issued every four weeks in arrears.
If you have been receiving Housing Benefit from before October 1996 we will make payments of Housing Benefit every two weeks in advance.

How soon can I expect payment?

Once we have received all necessary information from you we should take no longer than 14 days to process your claim. Once this is done payment will be issued subject to rules on making payments in arrears if these apply to you.
If we are unable to finalise your claim within 14 days and you have provided all the information we need we are obliged to issue a payment on account (or interim payment) to you. This payment does not have to be for the full amount due, it may be smaller to prevent overpayments occurring. If you are overpaid as a result of a payment on account being too high we will always recover the overpayment.

What if my landlord increases my rent?

The Housing Executive reserves the right not to take a rent increase into account if it is unreasonably high or less than 12 months from the last increase.