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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Backdating deadline looms

The Housing Benefit (Abolition of the Family Premium and date of claim) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2016 will reduce the backdating period for Housing Benefit claims from six months to one month and will remove the family premium for new claimants. These changes come into effect on 5th September 2016.

This significant new piece of legislation will add further amendments to the Housing Benefit (NI) Regulations 2006. The 2006 Regulations are the main regulations to refer to when dealing with Housing Benefit matters.

Changes to backdating

Claimants should always make a claim for Housing Benefit at the earliest opportunity, to ensure that their rent liability is met. However, there will be times when this is not possible. In these circumstances, a claimant may be able to ask for their Housing Benefit claim to be backdated to an earlier date. In order to have a claim backdated a claimant must show that they have a ‘good cause’ for not having made the claim on time.

The 2016 Regulations reduce the amount of time for which a working-aged claimant can ask for a claim to be backdated. From 5th September 2016, a claim will only be capable of being backdated for up to a maximum of one month (a reduction from the current six-month limit).  The new Regulations do not change the provisions around good cause. Good cause is determined on a case-by-case basis, but can include reasons such as ill-health, inability to cope and illiteracy.

The reduction in the access to backdating means that it is even more important than ever for claimants to make a claim in a timely manner.

Abolition of the family premium

When carrying out an assessment of a Housing Benefit claim, the Housing Executive (or Land and Property Services in the case of rates) will determine the claimant’s ‘applicable amount’.  The applicable amount is the amount of money that a household needs in order to meet its basic living costs.  Depending on the household’s circumstances, the applicable amount for the claim can include a number of premiums and this had included a "family premium" for families with children.  However, the family premium will be abolished for new Housing Benefit claims from 5 September 2016. In effect, this means that the means-test for Housing Benefit for families with children has become less generous. 

Some transitional provisions are being put in place to ensure that a claimant  will continue to receive the family premium until such time as they make a new claim or they no longer have responsibility for a child or young person if

  • they are entitled to receive Housing Benefit on 4th September 2016 and
  • they are responsible for at least one child, (under 16), or young person, (under 20), who is part of their household.

Helping families adjust to a reduced income

It is more important than ever that tenants (both private and social) have the skills to best manage their money.  Housing Rights are running a practical course that will help you to equip clients with the tools to help manage their finances better. Improving the money management and financial capability skills of clients  is a 1 day course running on the 8th September in our office in Belfast. 

Further information on these changes is available in Housing Law in Practice NI.

Tagged In

Benefits, Money Matters, Welfare Reform, Legal


Sharon Geary

This article was written on 23 August 2016. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.