More help with paying your housing costs

If you live in Northern Ireland, you can get help to pay your housing costs (rent/rates) through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.

If you already receive these payments, but they do not cover all your housing costs, there may be other help available, including:

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

 

Discretionary Housing Payment

If you are receiving Housing Benefit and live in Northern Ireland, you may qualify for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) in the following circumstances.

1. Shortfall in rent (private rented sector only)

There may be a difference between the rent charged by your landlord and the rent we use to work out your Housing Benefit award.

You can check the rent that applies to your property at:

You may qualify for DHP to help make up some of the difference.

The most you could receive in a DHP award would be the difference between the rent charged by your landlord and the rent the Housing Executive uses to work out your Housing Benefit award.

2. Benefit Cap

The amount of benefits a person can receive has been restricted, or capped, since 7th November 2016. If your Housing Benefit was reduced because of this, you will normally receive a Welfare Supplementary Payment to cover the reduction.

If the WSP does not cover the Housing Benefit reduction in full, you may be entitled to a Discretionary Housing Payment for the difference.

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 for Housing Benefit after 5 September 2016 and were responsible for a child; or

b) You were entitled to Housing Benefit and (since 5 September 2016) your household changed because:

  • A child was born
  • A child was adopted
  • A child joined your household

If any of these affect you and you did not get full Housing Benefit you may qualify for DHP.

The maximum DHP you could receive is £11.34 per week.
 

How we pay Discretionary Housing Payment

A DHP award will apply from the Monday of the week we receive your application.

The award will be made for a set period of time. We will provide details of this in the ‘letter of offer’ that we send to you. 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

The quickest way to apply is online

OR

You can download the:

Then print, scan and email the completed application form to your local Housing Benefit Unit.

Shortfall in rent (private rented sector only)

If you are a tenant in privately rented accommodation, and you are in receipt of the housing costs element of Universal Credit, you can be considered for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) if:

  • You are living in Northern Ireland; and
  • There is a difference between the rent charged by your landlord and the rent used to calculate your housing costs

You can check the rent that applies to your property at:

13 Week Protection Rule 

If you could previously afford your rent

The 13 week protection rule provides extra financial help for tenants in privately rented accommodation who are in receipt of the housing costs element of Universal Credit.

A Discretionary Housing Payment can be considered for the full difference between the rent charged by your landlord and the rent used to assess your housing costs element of Universal Credit.

Who can receive DHP for 13 Week Protection
If you are living in the private rented sector and you are awarded the housing costs element of Universal Credit, you can be considered for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) which includes the 13 week protection rule if:

  • There is a shortfall between the rent charged by your landlord and the rent (Local Housing Allowance) used to calculate the housing cost element of your Universal Credit award; and
  • You have recently lost your job, have been made temporarily redundant or your income has reduced; and
  • You have not received Housing Benefit or the housing costs element of Universal Credit in the last 12 months; and
  • You could afford your rent when you first entered into your rental liability (no matter how long ago that was)


After 13 weeks

After 13 weeks we will review your DHP award.

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

The quickest way to apply is online

or

You can download the:

Then print, scan and email the completed application form to your local Housing Benefit Unit.

How we pay Discretionary Housing Payment

A DHP award made will apply from the Monday of the week we receive your application. If your claim is successful, we will pay your DHP every four weeks.

Frequently asked questions about Discretionary Housing Payments

If you are receiving Housing Benefit and are awarded a DHP, the DHP award will continue until the end of the financial year providing your circumstances do not change. We will then review your award in the new financial year.

A DHP award for Universal Credit claimants will initially be made for six months from the date of your claim.  After six months, if your circumstances have not changed we will review your award.

In the case of a shortfall in rent, you must show that you are in need of financial help. Where it is possible, and reasonable to do so, you should take steps to improve your circumstances.

This may include finding more affordable accommodation.

There are no exact circumstances that will automatically ensure you qualify for a DHP. 

The Housing Executive receives a limited budget from the Department for Communities (DfC) for DHP awards. 

Once the budget is exhausted for the financial year (1 April – 31 March) the fund will close until the next financial year.

If you are unhappy with the decision on your DHP application, you can ask for the decision to be looked at again.   This is called a review and can be made by telephone, email or in writing to your local Housing Benefit unit.

A review can look at different parts of the decision, including:

  • the amount of DHP you have been awarded;
  • the length of time you will receive a DHP; or
  • the decision not to award you a DHP.

You must tell us your reasons for requesting the review within one month of the date on your letter.

The Manager in your Housing Benefit unit will look at your request and if the DHP decision is changed to your advantage, they will notify you of this and your review will end.

If the Manager does not change the decision, your request for a review automatically passes to the Central Housing Benefit Policy Team who will look at the decision again. Your case will be reconsidered, and you will be notified of the outcome.

A Discretionary Housing Payment is not an award of Housing Benefit, so an appeal cannot be made to a Housing Benefit Appeal Tribunal.

Housing Benefit Claimants

If you receive 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 do not tell us of a change in circumstances and we pay you too much Housing Benefit or DHP, we will ask you to repay the money.

You can read more in our section on:

Universal Credit Claimants

The following changes in circumstances might affect your award:  

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

You must tell us immediately if any changes in your circumstances occur. If you do not and we pay you too much DHP, we will ask you to repay the money.

Additional Housing Benefit

There are 2 situations where your Housing Benefit claim can be reviewed;

 1. Extra bedroom needed

If you have been affected by the under-occupation rules (SSSC or LHA) and your Housing Benefit reduced as a result, we may review that decision if:

  • you provide a bedroom for an overnight carer who does not live in your home and who provides care for you, a disabled child or an adult  who lives in your household

  • you and your partner cannot share a bedroom because of a disability

  • a child in your household cannot share a bedroom because of a disability

You can read more about:

 

2. You are responsible for more than 2 children

The allowances in the Housing Benefit calculation are limited to 2 children, so you may have received a reduced Housing Benefit award as a result. We may be able to include additional children in the Housing Benefit calculation if:

  • A further child joined your household on or after 11 May 2017; and

  • this child is included in your ‘Tax Credit Notification Letter’.

If you are in this situation contact Housing Benefit immediately. You must provide a copy of your 'Child Tax Credit Assessment'. 

Important note

This 'third child' rule does not affect you if you already receive:

  • Income Support

  • Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based)

  • Employment Support Allowance (Income Related) or

  • Guarantee Pension Credit

 

Low Income Rate Relief

You may qualify for Low Income 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 Pension Credit age and have savings of up to £50,000.

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

The information in this section is for general advice only.

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

Find your nearest:

 


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