Am I entitled to Housing Benefit?

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Q. I am moving into private rented accommodation, could I be entitled to Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit is a benefit for people on a low income to help them pay their rent and rates. You may be able to get Housing Benefit if you are on other benefits, work part-time or work full-time on a low income.

Who can get Housing Benefit

To get Housing Benefit you must be responsible for paying the rent or rates. It does not matter if your landlord is the Housing Executive, a housing association or a private landlord.

You can also claim Housing Benefit if you rent a room in a hostel or are a boarder.

You can claim it if you share a flat or a house and can get Housing Benefit as a joint tenant or a sub-tenant.

You cannot get Housing Benefit if you rent your home from the Crown or you are 16 or 17 and have been in care, there are some exceptions to this.

You must also live in the accommodation for which you are claiming Housing Benefit.

There are some people who will be treated as though they are not responsible for paying rent even though they are paying it, for example, if you are renting from a close relative who also lives in the home.

When you will be treated as not paying rent

In some situations, the Housing Executive may treat you as if you are not responsible for paying the rent, even though you have to pay it, and you will not get Housing Benefit.

This will be the case if you have a rental agreement the Housing Executive thinks is ‘non-commercial’, for example, because it is not legally enforceable.You may be excluded from Housing Benefit by this rule if you pay rent to a close relative who lives in the home, or to a former partner for the home where you used to live together.

It can apply if you pay rent to a company or trust that you have some connection with. It can also apply if you (or your partner) used to own the home and your ownership ended within the last five years.

It can apply if you live in your home as a condition of your employment or your partner’s employment, or if you live there because you are a member of a religious order which provides you with your living costs.

The Housing Executive may also apply this rule if they think the rental arrangement has been set up only to get Housing Benefit.

Restrictions on how much rent Housing Benefit will cover

If you pay rent to a private landlord, the Housing Benefit you receive will normally be restricted to an amount set by the Housing Executive using Local Housing Allowance rules, this may not cover your full rent.

If you are a Housing Executive or registered housing association tenant, your Housing Benefit will not be restricted in this way.

How much Housing Benefit can you get

To get Housing Benefit, you must have income and capital below a certain level. However, if you’re getting certain benefits, different rules apply and you may qualify for the maximum amount.

How much Housing Benefit you can get depends on how much rent you pay, what income you have coming in and where you live. From May 31, 2016, it can also depend on the total amount you get from all benefits.

This is known as the Benefit Cap.

Housing Benefit will not cover some costs and services which could be included in your rent, for example, charges for heating, hot water, lighting or cooking, and payments for food or fuel.

Also, the Housing Benefit you can get may be reduced if another person lives with you who could be expected to pay towards their accommodation, even if they do not.

Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice at www.citizensadvice.co.uk or for further information go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland