What financial support is available with housing costs in Northern Ireland?

This article is written to give a brief overview of the type of support you may be entitled to towards your housing costs. It is aimed at people living in Northern Ireland only.

The type of support that a household may be entitled to towards their housing costs is dependent on a number of circumstances including:

  • Whether you are a homeowner or tenant
  • If you are currently in receipt of benefits or not
  • Household income
  • The people who normally live at the property.

For more detailed information including a calculation of what support you may be entitled to contact the Family Benefits Advice Service on 028 9267 8200 or email hello@employersforchildcare.org.

I am a tenant: Can I get help towards my rent and rates?

If you rent your home, you may be eligible for support toward your rental costs whether you are renting from a private landlord, the Housing Executive or a housing association.

The two forms of support are:

  • Housing Benefit (for existing claimants only, unless you and your partner are both over State Pension age or living in supported or temporary accommodation)
  • Universal Credit (for most new claimants).

If you are not currently receiving any support for housing costs then most people will have to apply for Universal Credit, and can then also apply for a Rate Rebate. If you are currently in receipt of Housing Benefit and Rate Relief you can continue to claim this support until you have to a change of circumstances or the Government requires you to move to Universal Credit.

You can claim Housing Benefit or Universal Credit if you’re employed or unemployed and are liable to pay rent or rates on a property you live in as your main home. However, you usually can’t claim help with your rent if:

  • you or your partner have savings over £16,000, unless you’re entitled to Guarantee Credit of Pension Credit
  • you rent your home from a close relative who lives in the same property
  • you’re responsible for a child and pay rent to the landlord who is the child’s parent.

The amount of support you receive will depend on your income, household circumstances and size of the property. The support may not cover the full cost of rent and rates. Where this is the case, you are responsible for paying any remaining amount not covered by Universal Credit or Housing Benefit.

For more information and how to apply see: nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/universal-credit and www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/housing-benefit-and-rate-relief-tenants.

I am a homeowner: Can I get help toward my mortgage payments?

If you are a homeowner and are in receipt of certain benefits you may be able to qualify for Support For Mortgage Interest (SMI). SMI gives help towards the interest payments on a mortgage, or loans taken out for certain repairs or improvements to your home. It does not pay off the amount borrowed or any arrears you may owe, nor will it pay for any insurance policies you have.

SMI is a loan that interest is charged on, however it does not have to be repaid until you sell your home or transfer ownership. You will not be asked to sell your home to repay the SMI loan.

To be eligible you must either:

  • be in receipt of Pension Credit; or
  • have been in receipt of Universal Credit for 9 months, without any earned income; or
  • have been in receipt of one of the following qualifying benefits for 39 weeks:
    • Income Support
    • Income based Job Seekers Allowance
    • Income based Employment Support Allowance.

For more information and how to apply for SMI go to www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/support-mortgage-interest.

Can I get help towards my rates as a homeowner?

There are various forms of support that may help you with paying your rates, depending on your circumstances. For example:

  • If you are a homeowner and entitled to Universal Credit then you may be able to get help towards your rates through the Rate Rebate scheme.
  • Alternatively, if you and your partner are both over State Pension age you may be able to claim help through Housing Benefit and Rate Relief.
  • There is also a lone pensioner allowance for ratepayers aged 70 or over who live alone.

For more information and how to apply go to www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/guide-rates.

What about co-ownership?

If you own your home through co-ownership or ‘rent to own’ it may be possible for you to get help with the rental portion of your payment or your rates. Eligibility would be determined as in the information given above but you should also speak to the organisation with whom the shared ownership arrangement is made. In Northern Ireland this is usually Co-Ownership Housing.

We are here to help!

For personalised information on help with your housing costs or any of the other benefits mentioned in this article contact the Family Benefits Advice Service on 028 9267 8200 or hello@employersforchildcare.org.