If only 50% of your rent is being covered
It’s a good idea to check your online account regularly, including checking the breakdown of your Universal Credit award each month.
If you find that the amount of your Housing Cost Element is only half your rental liability, you need to find out why this is and get it sorted.
The usual reason is that you are a joint tenant with someone who is not your partner. Therefore the UC system assumes you are only liable to pay half your rent – with the joint tenant being responsible for the other half.
If you do have a joint tenancy with someone other than a partner, and they are living in the property with you, then this would be correct.
However, sometimes you may still have a joint tenancy when the person who is on the tenancy with you no longer lives in the property – and this is a permanent situation.
The DWP call this an “Untidy Tenancy” because the names of the people responsible for paying the rent don’t match with the people who are actually paying it.
In such cases – as long as you explain the situation to the DWP – the amount of your Housing Costs Element can be increased to be based on the full rent.
And the DWP should not insist that your tenancy is changed to a sole tenancy – there are often reasons why this can’t be done.
However, we also know that the DWP don’t always agree and sometimes continue to base the Housing Cost Element on only 50% of the rent.
Sasha lives in a two bedroom house with her daughter. The tenancy is in joint names with her ex-partner Rick who doesn’t live there any more. Sasha made a claim for Universal Credit when her daughter turned 5. She’d been on it for a few months but is struggling to manage. She mentions this to her Housing Officer who looks at her last payment breakdown to see how this is broken down and he spots that the Housing Costs Element included in her award is only half of her rent. Her Housing Officer helps her put a message on her journal explaining that she has an ‘untidy tenancy’ – that she is liable to pay the full 100% of her rent and that Rick hasn’t lived in the property for years. Her Universal Credit award gets reassessed and she gets a large back payment.
What can I do?
Once the DWP know that you are liable for 100% of the rent they can change the Housing Cost Element, and should pay back any Universal Credit you have not been paid for past months where they based it on 50% of the rent.
So you need to explain your circumstances to your Work Coach. It may be best if you contact a Benefits Adviser who will be able to give you the correct wording for your journal to get this sorted out.
But I’m not a joint tenant – what could be the reason?
If the amount of the Housing Costs Element included in your award is less than you were expecting you should speak to a Benefit Adviser who will help you find out why.
Warning! Sometimes the DWP will adjust the Housing Cost Element only to change it back the following month! So keep an eye on those award breakdowns in your online account.