TIP: If your income has dropped and you are now struggling to pay your rent, then you may be entitled to some Universal Credit. Working people can claim and are often surprised at how much they get.
If you are already getting Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit, then seek advice before claiming Universal Credit to make sure it is your best option.
Help with rent
If you’re entitled, a Housing Costs Element is included when your award for Universal Credit is calculated.
To be entitled to a Housing Costs Element, you must be responsible for making payments of rent for the home where you live.
This help isn’t paid separately, like Housing Benefit. The Housing Costs Element is included when your Universal Credit is assessed and any resulting entitlement is usually paid straight to you.
This means it is your responsibility to budget and pay your rent from your Universal Credit payment and any other income you may have.
So, if you make a claim for Universal Credit, let your landlord know.
Will is the tenant of a two bedroom house where he lives with his grown up son. Will has just lost his job and so is making a new claim for Universal Credit. The online claim will ask him details about where he lives, how much rent he pays and who his landlord is. As long as he provides all the information and evidence asked for, his Universal Credit award will include a Housing Costs Element when it is assessed to help him pay his rent.
*If you are claiming Universal Credit in Scotland, then there is a different system called Scottish choices. This means you can choose to have your Universal Credit award paid to you twice a month and for an amount of your Universal Credit to be paid direct to your landlord and will be offered these options when you first make your claim.
Can’t I choose to have the Housing Costs Element paid directly to my landlord?
If you are in debt, have rent arrears or are vulnerable, you or your landlord can ask for an amount up to the value of your Housing Costs Element to be paid direct to them under the Alternative Payment Arrangements scheme – it’s called a ‘managed payment’.
See Alternative Payment Arrangements for more information.
Your landlord can also request that an amount of your Universal Credit goes towards paying off rent arrears every month until these are paid off – called a third party deduction.
See What if I get into rent arrears? for more information.
I’m on Universal Credit but I’ve been told to make a claim for Housing Benefit – is this right?
Most people on Universal Credit get the help to pay their rent by having a Housing Costs Element included in their UC award.
But if you live in ‘specified’ or ‘temporary’ accommodation such as a hostel, women’s refuge or certain supported accommodation, you’ll need to claim Housing Benefit to help pay your rent – even if you are on Universal Credit – instead of getting a Housing Costs Element in your Universal Credit award.
See Living in Supported Housing? for more information.
Linda and her partner Phil have been claiming Universal Credit. Linda is moving out of their one bedroom flat and into a domestic violence refuge. Her support worker explains that her Universal Credit award can continue in payment – she just needs to report the separation and move on her UC account. But now that she is living in ‘specified accommodation’ she will need to make a claim for Housing Benefit to help her pay the rent on the refuge.
I’ve been getting Housing Benefit but have just made a claim for Universal Credit – what will happen to my Housing Benefit?
If you receive Housing Benefit when you apply for Universal Credit, then unless you live in ‘specified’ or ‘temporary’ accommodation your Housing Benefit will end. You will become responsible for making sure your rent is paid in full.
Your Universal Credit award will take account of the rent that you pay – a Housing Costs Element will be included when it is assessed. In some circumstances the Housing Costs Element may not cover your full rental charge.
You may be entitled to a two week run-on – called the ‘Transition to UC Housing Payment’. These are usually paid automatically but if you move home you should contact the council that’s been paying the Housing Benefit to check.
See Two week HB run-on for more information.
Andy has been getting Income Support and Housing Benefit. He was the carer for his elderly aunt but sadly she has died. His Income Support will be coming to an end and he has been advised to claim Universal Credit. He makes his claim for UC on 7th September and provides all the information and evidence the DWP need to process the claim. The claim for Universal Credit brings his Housing Benefit award to an end – but he is entitled to the Transition to UC Housing Payment – so his landlord continues to receive Housing Benefit payments for him up to 20th September. Andy’s Universal Credit payments include a Housing Costs Element in respect of his rent and he will have to make sure he pays the rent himself.
Will the Housing Costs Element cover my full rent?
The amount of the Housing Costs Element included in your assessment of Universal Credit may not cover your full rent.
It may be reduced due to ineligible service charges, an under-occupancy (Bedroom Tax) reduction / Local Housing Allowance or a Housing Costs Contribution (non-dependant deduction).
See How Much? for more information.
What the Housing Costs Element won’t pay for
You can’t get a Housing Costs Element for:
- Extra you pay your landlord if you’re behind on your rent on your current or previous home
- A mortgage
- A care home
- Ground rent
If you’re in a shared ownership scheme
You’ll normally be paying a mortgage and rent.
Universal Credit can help with your rent, but not your mortgage.
If you need help with your mortgage, you may be entitled to a loan to help with your mortgage interest. This help is called Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI).
See the gov.uk website for more information – click here.
Meg and Adam live in a shared-ownership property. Adam has just lost his job and so they now only have Meg’s part-time wages. Their Housing Officer advises them to make a claim for Universal Credit – which they do. Their award includes a Housing Costs Element to help them pay their rent. They are not entitled to help with their mortgage through Universal Credit – neither are they entitled to the SMI loan – so they discuss their situation with their mortgage provider.
Frequently Asked Questions