DfC: COVID-19 and Housing

COVID-19: Housing

This page provides the latest information about COVID-19 and the Department's Housing services. It will be updated regularly with the latest information.

This information is for Northern Ireland only, if you live in England, Scotland or Wales please visit GOV.UK

For general heath advice relating to COVID-19, please visit the Public Health Agency's website. Key information is also available in Sign Language on this PHA page.

We have become aware that spoofed emails are being sent pretending to be from Government organisations with a Gov.uk email address being used. Read on for more advice as to how DfC customers can protect themselves.   


Housing Services

Homeless or threatened with homelessness

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive, which leads on the response to homelessness, has a central COVID-19 team in place and will continue to fulfil its statutory homeless obligations during this period.

Social Housing Tenants

DfC has an agreement in place with all social housing landlords (Housing Executive and Housing Associations) that any social housing tenant facing difficulties paying rent during COVID-19 will not be evicted. 

The Department will work with Housing Associations and the Housing Executive to help them keep tenants in their homes and to ensure that the welfare system can provide help to their tenants as quickly as possible. 

Private Rented Sector

The Department has produced a guidance document setting out general advice and information predominantly for tenants and landlords in the private rented sector.  The guidance covers issues which may arise during the Covid-19 outbreak including what to do if you/your tenant is struggling with paying rent, advice around carrying out emergency repairs, and information on minimising moves within rented accommodation and eviction proceedings.

The Department has put in place legislation to extend the notice to quit period a landlord must give a tenant to 12 weeks.

Co-ownership customers

The Department has also been assured by Co-ownership for those facing difficulties keeping up with their payments, that their customers’ homes are secure and that both Co-ownership and mortgage lenders will treat these issues with sensitivity, and support their customers during a difficult period.

Struggling to pay your rent

Anyone experiencing difficulties paying their rent through loss of employment for example can get help with their housing costs by applying online for Universal Credit.  Help with housing costs as part of Universal Credit is paid directly to landlords. For social tenants this, along with mitigations for Social sector Size Criteria will cover their rent.

Local Housing Allowance

An increase in Local Housing Allowance rates from 1 April will provide additional financial support for private tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit or the housing costs element of Universal Credit. The 2020/21 rates are available on the NI Housing Executive website,

In addition, anyone who has lost their job and who makes a claim to Universal Credit can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to have their full rent paid for 13 weeks.

With this support, evictions should be avoided as rent payments will continue to be made.

Landlord seeking to evict tenants

A recent announcement by the Lord Chief Justice's Office has directed that Courts will only be listing urgent matters.  A landlord cannot legally seek possession of a tenant’s house without a Court Order. Once a landlord has served a notice to quit on a tenant, they can then only get possession of the property through an application to the Court.

Homeowners

The Chancellor has also announced that mortgage lenders will offer at least a three month mortgage holiday for homeowners.  This has been extended to cover ‘Buy to Let’ mortgages, to help landlords cope with lost income

In need of advice?

The Department is also looking at additional funding for the Housing Rights service, a housing and debt helpline for Northern Ireland.

 

Supporting People funding

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey announced an additional £10 million to support vulnerable individuals, who can be particularly at risk during the Covid-19 emergency, to continue to live independently. The additional funds announced will help maintain Supporting People services, which are commissioned by the Housing Executive and delivered through the public and voluntary and community sectors.


 

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