Housing Costs

New claims for core housing costs (rent and service charges) must now be made as part of a claim for Universal Credit (UC). However, as UC does not include an amount in respect of rates a separate claim for Rate Rebate is required.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) is the public housing authority responsible for providing access to decent, affordable housing and is often the gatekeeper for relevant support services.

Information on the independent social housing sector is available via the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA).

Housing Rights provide a wealth of locally-relevant independent information on housing matters through the Housing Advice NI website.

Discretionary Housing Payment

Discretionary Housing Payments give private-sector tenants extra financial help towards rent if the amount of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit they receive does not cover the full amount they have to pay their landlord.

More information about Discretionary Housing Payments can be accessed at the NIHE Housing Help website:

Housing Benefit and Rate Relief

Renters and home owners on a low income might be entitled to Housing Benefit, Rate Relief or both to help pay housing costs. Awards are managed by NIHE.

Housing Benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit for payment of rent and service charges, with Rate Rebates available from Land & Property Services for those liable for payment of rates.

More information about Housing Benefit and Rate Relief can be accessed at nidirect:

Lone Pensioner Allowance

Lone Pensioner Allowance is a 20% discount for ratepayers aged 70 or over who live alone. The allowance is not means-tested and should not impact on other benefits.

More information about the Lone Pensioner Allowance, as well as an application form, can be accessed at nidirect:

Rate Rebate

Rate Rebate is a reduction in rates liability for homeowners and tenants receiving Universal Credit. It is paid in different ways depending on whether the claimant is a homeowner or a housing association, NIHE or private tenant, but is never paid direct to the claimant. To get Rate Rebate, tenants and homeowners must apply online to Land & Property Services (LPS).

More information about Rate Rebate and details about creating an account can be accessed at nidirect:

Support for Mortgage Interest

Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) is a loan offered to homeowners on the following means-tested benefits to help with mortgage interest payments:

  • income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit

In most cases, you will need to have been receiving means-tested benefits for 9 months to qualify for the support, although you can claim SMI from the start of an award of Pension Credit.

SMI is paid direct to the mortgage lender and must be repaid with interest when the homeowner sells or transfers ownership of the property, providing there is enough money left from the sale to cover the loan.

More information about SMI, as well as an application form, can be accessed at nidirect: