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Last updated:
14/11/2017

Can I claim Welfare Benefits if I’m living with a mental illness?

Housing Benefit

  1. Overview
  2. How do I check what I’m entitled to?
  3. Universal Credit
  4. Employment and Support Allowance
  5. Jobseeker’s Allowance
  6. Income Support
  7. Incapacity Benefit
  8. Severe Disablement Allowance
  9. Statutory Sick Pay
  10. Working Tax Credits
  11. Personal Independence Payment
  12. Housing Benefit
  13. Support for Mortgage Interest
  14. Rates: Exemptions and Support to pay
  15. Social Fund
  16. Next steps

What is Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit (HB) is a benefit to help people on a low income to pay their rent, paid by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive - you can't use it to pay your mortgage.

Can I claim HB?

You can claim HB if you:

  • Are not excluded from getting housing benefit,
  • Have to pay rent on your normal home,
  • Don't have savings and capital more than £16,000, and
  • Are claiming:
    • Employment and support allowance,
    • Income-related jobseeker's allowance,
    • Income support,
    • Guarantee credit of pension credit, or
    • Have a low income.

Some people are excluded from being able to claim housing benefit. The list is very long and we've not included all of them here, but these are the most common:

  • You lived in your home before you started renting it.
  • You live with your landlord who is a close relative.

You can sometimes claim HB if you live in a property owned by a close relative as long as they do not live there too; the rules can be complicated. You should speak to a welfare rights adviser if you want to claim HB to live in your relative's property.

 

Local Housing Allowance

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules are used to work out how much housing benefit you get if you rent from a private landlord. The LHA rates depend on how old you are, what area you live in, the number of people in your household and the size of the property. This can range from a single room in a shared house up to a property with four bedrooms.

LHA does not apply to you if you have:

  • a tenancy with the Housing Executive,
  • a tenancy with a housing association,
  • a tenancy where you get support from health and social services, a housing association, a charity or a voluntary organisation,
  • a tenancy which  is not included in the current rent restrictions (these are tenancies which started before April 1996), or
  • a tenancy in a caravan, mobile home, houseboat or hostel.

The amount of housing benefit you get can go up if you:

  • Have evidence that you need overnight care,
  • Are getting that care, and
  • Need an extra room in your property.

You may be able to claim HB for a property with an extra room, if you have a non-resident carer that needs to stay overnight a lot of the time, for example.

People under the age of 21 may not be able to claim housing benefit and if this applies to you, you will need to talk to your local council.

Single people under the age of 35 without children have a LHA of one bedroom in shared accommodation. Some people will not be affected by the changes such as people who qualify for a severe disability premium. 

Capping LHA rates

The Housing Executive cannot exceed certain caps for LHA rates. These caps were set by the UK Government as a means of preventing the housing benefit bill in expensive areas, like London, from escalating out of control. This means that the LHA rate cannot rise above a certain rate, even if the normal LHA rent setting rules say that the rate should be higher. This rate capping is unlikely to affect people in Northern Ireland. The LHA rate for each property size is capped at:

  • £250 per week for a 1 bedroom dwelling
  • £290 per week for a 2 bedroom dwelling
  • £340 per week for a 3 bedroom dwelling
  • £400 per week for a 4 bedroom dwelling. 

Find out more information on current rates for your Local Housing Allowance in different areas of Northern Ireland.

Housing benefit will cover all of your rent if:

  • Your only income is from means-tested benefits, and
  • You live in a property owned by Northern Ireland Housing Executive or housing association.

You may only get part of the rent paid if you have other income and if so, you are responsible for paying the rest of the rent.

You may get less housing benefit if:

  • Part of your rent pays for bills or services that are not covered by HB. This could include electricity, water charges, meals or laundry services.
  • You have a non-dependant living with you. A non-dependant is someone who should pay towards the rent. Non-dependants may be:
    • An adult child,
    • Friend, or
    • Relative. 

Non-dependant deductions are not made if the person living with you is:

  •  Under 18,
  • Under 25 and on income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA) or assessment-phase income-based employment and support allowance,
  • Under 25 and entitled to Universal Credit, unless they have earnings,
  • On pension credit,
  • Have been in an NHS hospital for over 52 weeks,
  • Have their normal home elsewhere,
  • A prisoner,
  • A member of the armed forces away on operations, or
  • A full-time student.

Non-dependant deductions are not made if you or your partner is:

  • Certified as severely sight impaired or blind by a consultant ophthalmologist,
  • Getting Disability Living Allowance care component at the middle or highest rate,
  • Getting Personal Independence Payment daily living component,
  • Getting Armed Forces Independence Payment,
  • Getting attendance allowance or constant attendance allowance, or
  • Getting pension credit.

 

Bedroom Tax

You will lose some of your housing benefit if you have more bedrooms in your property than you need - this is known as bedroom tax or under-occupying your property.

You will lose some of your housing benefit if you have more bedrooms in your property than you need – this is known as bedroom tax or under-occupying your property.

Your housing benefit will be reduced by:

  • 14% if you have one spare bedroom, or
  • 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms.

There are some exceptions that allow you to keep one extra bedroom without under-occupying your property.

What if I need the extra bedroom for a carer to stay in?

You may be able to keep one extra bedroom if you, your partner, or your child need overnight care from a carer.

You can keep the bedroom if:

  • You or your partner claim:
    • Attendance allowance,
    • The care component of Disability Living Allowance at the middle or higher rate, or
    • The daily living component of Personal Independence Payment, or
    • Armed Forces Independence Payment.

You can still claim the extra bedroom even if you are not claiming any of the above benefits, but you will have to prove that the overnight carer is needed and you can do this with any certificates, evidence or documents you have. The carer must actually provide overnight care, and stay in the bedroom regularly to claim the exemption.

 

What if I need the extra bedroom because I cannot share one with my partner because of my/their disability?

If you cannot share a bedroom with your partner because of your disability or theirs, then you may be able to keep one extra bedroom without the tax.

You can keep the bedroom if:

  • You or your partner claim:
    • Attendance allowance at the higher rate,
    • The care component of disability living allowance at the middle or higher rate, or
    • The daily living component of Personal Independence Payment, or
    • Armed Forces Independence Payment.

In this case, you or your partner must claim one of the above benefits and prove that you cannot share a room with each other.

 

What can I do if I am affected by the bedroom tax?

You have some options to think about if you are affected by the bedroom tax.

You could: 

  • Move house,
  • Take in a lodger,
  • Apply for discretionary housing payments from your local council,
  • Increase your work hours,
  • Get a benefits check to make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to,
  • Pay the difference out of your benefits or other income if you can afford to do this.

 

Shared Ownership Scheme

Shared ownership means that you buy a share of your home through a shared ownership scheme but still pay rent - you can get housing benefit during this time. You may be able to get help with mortgage interest payments through the Support for Mortgage Interest scheme.

 

Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)

To qualify for DHP, you must get housing benefit - DHP is not a benefit and this means that you do not have a right to claim it. Northern Ireland Housing Executive can give you a DHP if they believe that you need extra money to help with housing costs. DHPs are limited, so there is no guarantee that you will get one but you can contact Northern Ireland Housing Executive to apply for DHP.

 

When will HB stop?

You will be able to keep claiming HB for as long as you need to, as long as you meet the conditions.

Within this subject

  1. Overview
  2. How do I check what I’m entitled to?
  3. Universal Credit
  4. Employment and Support Allowance
  5. Jobseeker’s Allowance
  6. Income Support
  7. Incapacity Benefit
  8. Severe Disablement Allowance
  9. Statutory Sick Pay
  10. Working Tax Credits
  11. Personal Independence Payment
  12. Housing Benefit
  13. Support for Mortgage Interest
  14. Rates: Exemptions and Support to pay
  15. Social Fund
  16. Next steps

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