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NIFHA | About | Housing FAQs

Housing FAQs

The Frequently Asked Questions below should address any queries you have but please do contact us if you have another question…

How do I apply for a house?

All applications for Housing Executive (NIHE) AND housing association properties should be made through the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE).

A housing application form must be completed from which your circumstances will be assessed and you will be awarded points. You will then be placed onto the housing list and your amount of points will determine where on the list you will be.

For more information or to request an application please contact the NIHE on 034 48 920 900 or click on Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

What is the waiting list?

The waiting list (also known as Housing Selection Scheme or Common Selection Scheme) makes provision for determining the order in which prospective tenants are allocated social housing in Northern Ireland.

The rules of the scheme detail the criteria used in relation to the assessment of points used to rank applicants. A Housing Needs Assessment is based on four categories:

  • Intimidation;
  • Insecurity of tenure;
  • Housing conditions; and
  • a Health and Social Well Being Assessment.

Points may be awarded in relation to any of these categories if appropriate.

For more information or to request an application please contact the NIHE on 034 48 920 900 or click on Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

How do I apply for Housing Benefit?

Housing Benefit is a social security benefit paid by the Housing Executive. It helps people on a low income pay their rent and rates. You do not need to be unemployed to get Housing Benefit. All applications and inquiries for Housing Benefit must be made through the NIHE / 034 48 920 902.

How may I be affected by Welfare Reform?

If you claim housing benefit to help pay your rent you may be affected by changes during 2013. The changes mean that some people will get less housing benefit than they did before.

The government is introducing legislation during 2013, which means that if you live in a housing association home and have one or more “spare” bedrooms your housing benefit may be reduced.

This could affect you:

  • if you are 16 to 61 years old
  • even if you only get a small amount of housing benefit – for example if you are working
  • even if you are sick or disabled

You won’t be affected if:

  • you live in a one bedroom flat or bedsit, or if
  • you or your partner are old enough to receive pension credits. In April 2013 the pension credit age will be around 61 years and 6 months

What is a ‘spare’ bedroom?

Under the new rules if you have more bedrooms than the Government says you need, you will lose part of your housing benefit. The rules mean you will be allocated one bedroom for:

  • each adult couple
  • any other person aged 16 or over
  • two children of the same sex under the age of 16
  • two children under the age of 10 regardless of their sex
  • any other child
  • a carer (who does not normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care.

It does not matter how the ‘spare’ bedroom is used, the new rules will apply even if:

  • You and your partner need to sleep apart because of a medical condition
  • The main residence of your children is another address, but you have a spare room for when they stay with you.

What happens if you have a ‘spare’ bedroom?

One ‘spare’ bedroom your housing benefit will be cut by 14% of the rent you pay every week. If you have two or more “spare” bedrooms, your housing benefit will be reduced by 25%.

If your benefit is cut you will have to pay your housing association the difference between your housing benefit and your rent.

Do you have a disability and need overnight care?

If you are of working age and, have a disability in your household and need a ‘spare’ bedroom so a carer can stay overnight contact your housing association or housing benefit office. The staff may be able to help you keep more of your housing benefit.

Limit on benefits

From April 2013 the overall amount of benefit you can receive will be capped. The Government will add up how much money you get from a range of benefits, including:

  • bereavement allowance,
  • carer’s allowance,
  • child benefit,
  • child tax credit,
  • employment and support allowance
  • housing benefit.

If the total comes to more than the maximum amount allowed your housing benefit payments will be reduced.

How much is the benefit cap?

The level of the cap will be:

  • £500 a week for couples (with or without children living with them)
  • £500 a week for single parents whose children live with them
  • £350 a week for single adults who don’t have children, or whose children don’t live with them

This will not apply to you if:

  • You get pension credit or working tax credit
  • A member of your household is claiming benefits such as, but not restricted to, disability living allowance, attendance allowance, industrial injuries benefits or the support element of employment support allowance.

What should you do?

If you are worried about being able to afford to pay your rent when these changes are introduced you should ask for advice now. If you don’t pay your rent you could lose your home, so talk to your housing association about different ways to pay. You can also:

  • Talk to your housing association about transferring to a smaller home or taking in a lodger
  • Contact your housing association or the social security agency to discuss if you can get extra help with money through the discretionary housing payment scheme.
  • Get in touch with an advisor if you have worries or concerns about money or debt.

Debt Action NI provides a free, confidential, debt advice service across Northern Ireland they may be contacted on:

Freephone 0800 917 4607 Text ACTION to 81025*

*network charges may apply

How do I apply for a transfer?

All social housing tenants wishing to transfer from a housing association or housing executive house must complete the housing transfer form.

If you wish to transfer from an exisiting Housing Executive house you should contact the NIHE on 034 48 920 900.  They will make an appointment for you to be visited.

If you are a housing association tenant wishing to transfer you should contact your housing association directly with regard to your transfer application.

Who do I contact if I feel someone has received a housing association home inappropriately?

Housing Associations make housing allocations from the housing list which is held by the NIHE. If you feel someone has given the wrong information on their housing application to the NIHE to help acquire a house please contact the NIHE directly with your complaint. T: 034 48 920 902 or online form: NIHE Feedback.

Would a housing association purchase my home / land?

An association may purchase your home / land but this would depend on many factors including funds available for the association to purchase, also if the association has a need for your particular type of house or your land in your particular area. Housing associations will look at estate agent listings when looking to purchase so the best advice is to make sure you have your property registered with your local estate agents.

What are my rights when renting a housing association house in Northern Ireland?

If you rent your home from a housing association or the Housing Executive you have a legal agreement with your housing provider. This gives you rights and responsibilities.  Please ensure you read your tenancy agreement closely when you move in.

Not all housing association tenants have the same protection from eviction. Introductory tenants can be evicted more easily than secure housing association tenants. If you want further information please click on: Housing Association Tenancies

What are housing associations’ responsibilities?

Your housing association usually has a number of responsibilities to you as your landlord.  Check your tenancy agreement if you are unsure about your housing association’s responsibilities.  If you are unhappy with the housing association’s service you may be able to use their complaints procedure.

Your housing association should not normally interfere in your tenancy arrangements so long as you keep to the terms of your tenancy agreement.

Your housing association will usually have to:

  • carry out repairs to the structure and outside of the accommodation
  • decorate the outside of the accommodation at least once every seven years
  • give you permission to keep lodgers, sublet, transfer or exchange your accommodation if the request is reasonable
  • investigate why you are behind in your rent before starting legal proceedings for rent arrears
What are your responsibilities as a tenant?

Your responsibilities to your housing association are outlined in your tenancy agreement. You can also find information on your responsibilities in your Tenant’s Handbook.

In general you must:

  • pay the rent and rates when due
  • keep the property in good condition
  • repair anything that your tenancy agreement states is your responsibility
  • replace any items damaged because of neglect or carelessness
  • report any repairs to the housing association
  • not carry out antisocial behaviour
  • leave the property in good condition when you leave your tenancy.

You must ask the housing association for permission if you want to:

  • exchange your accommodation
  • transfer your accommodation
  • sublet your accommodation
  • decorate the outside of your accommodation
  • make alterations to your accommodation
  • add a shed or loft
  • keep more than one domestic pet.

Get advice if you are unsure about your responsibilities.  If you think you may not be able to meet your responsibilities, such as paying your rent on time, contact your housing association as soon as possible.

How do I make a complaint about a housing association?

All housing associations have complaints procedures which need to be followed. These can usually be found on the specific associations’ website or you can contact them directly to request these.

In extreme circumstances where you have already followed ALL of the association’s procedures and you are still not happy you can take your complaint to the ombudsman.

A: The Ombudsman, Freepost BELFAST BT1 6BR
Freephone: 0800 34 34 24


Online form


T: 028 9023 3821
F: 028 9023 4912

Please note the ombudsman will only deal with your complaint if you have exhausted all of the Associations complaints procedures.

Mortgage arrears / Debt advice

If you are finding it difficult to afford your monthly payments, or your lender has started court proceedings to take possession of your home, you have no time to lose – the sooner you do something about your finances, the more options you may have for saving your home from repossession. There are a variety of organisations which can advise you. They include:

What is the Golden Share scheme?

The ‘Golden Share’ scheme was introduced to support owner occupiers living in areas which are undergoing major redevelopment or regeneration. This initiative provides the opportunity to purchase a new home in the community post regeneration, with any difference in the value of their old and new home held by the Housing Association building the new housing. Those wishing to avail of the scheme in a regeneration area should make an application to the relevant housing association.

The policy does not compensate for any loss arising from negative equity it may indirectly mitigate the problems facing those owner occupiers wishing to remain in their community post regeneration.

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