Housing costs under universal credit

You can apply for help with the cost of your rent or mortgage as part of your claim for universal credit.

Housing costs universal credit can help with

You get one monthly payment of universal credit. Housing costs are just one part of your universal credit payment.

Universal credit can help with the cost of:

  • rent if you are not in work or have a low income
  • paying your mortgage if you and your partner are not in paid work

If you own your home through a shared-ownership scheme, universal credit could help with both rent and mortgage costs.

Housing costs for tenants

Universal credit can help with the cost of rent if you are working or out of work.

Money to help with your rent costs is paid directly to you as part of your universal credit payment. If you live with a partner, only one of you gets a payment to cover you both. This can be paid into a joint account.

Your housing costs are counted as starting from the first Monday following the date you made a claim for universal credit.

You are expected to budget for your rent and pay it from your single monthly universal credit payment and any other money you get.

If you can't manage your budget, you can ask for your housing costs element to be paid direct to your landlord.

Housing costs for homeowners

You won't get any money to help pay your mortgage if you are in paid work.

You can get help with the interest payments on your mortgage but not for the first 9 months following your claim for universal credit.

After 9 months, help with mortgage costs is paid direct to your mortgage lender.

The 9-month waiting period does not apply to any other part of your universal credit claim.

Housing costs are paid for the interest on any part of the mortgage up to the value of £200,000. A standard rate of interest rate is used to calculate what you will get, regardless of the actual interest rate you pay on your mortgage.

Contact your mortgage lender if you're having problems paying your mortgage.

If you are a leaseholder you may also be eligible for a payment towards some service charges.

Paying for a hostel, refuge or temporary accommodation

If you stay in a hostel, women's refuge or certain other types of temporary accommodation, help with your rent won't be paid through universal credit

Help with your rent is usually paid through housing benefit.

How to make a claim for housing costs

Your claim for housing costs is part of your universal credit claim. You don't make a separate claim.

Claims for universal credit must be made online

If you don't have a computer, you may be able to use one at your local library or Jobcentre Plus office.

To get help with your housing costs, you must provide information about your:

  • landlord or mortgage provider
  • tenancy or mortgage agreement
  • rent or mortgage payments
  • service charges

You must also provide information about yourself, your partner and dependents, other people living in your home, your income and savings.

Gather your information together before you start your online claim.

You must complete the online claim form in one go – you can't save changes and come back to it later.

Backdating a universal credit claim

You can apply to have your universal credit backdated.

Your universal credit can be backdated for a maximum of one month.

A backdating claim is only allowed if you had a good reason for not claiming earlier for example because of:

  • ill health
  • disability
  • you were previously getting housing benefit and had not been told it was coming to an end

You can also ask for your claim to be backdated if there was a failure in the claims process that left you short of money.

Waiting times for first payment

After you have made your claim, it will be at least 6 weeks before you receive your first payment.

Universal credit payments are made in arrears. This means you are paid for a past period.

You may be able to get a short term advance if waiting for your first payment is likely to cause you hardship. This is an advance payment of universal credit which you have to repay.

Apply for a short term advance at the same time as you apply for universal credit.

Reductions if you have 'spare' bedrooms

The amount of universal credit you can get is limited if you rent a home with more bedrooms than rules say you need.

The actual size of your home doesn't matter. It is the number of bedrooms you have and the number of people living there that count.

The rules vary depending on your tenancy type.

If you are a private tenant, the rules are similar to those affecting private tenants claiming housing benefit under the local housing allowance scheme.

If you pay rent to a council or housing association, the rules are similar to those for the 'bedroom tax'

A room occupied by a lodger won't count towards the number of rooms universal credit can help with. A lodger's room is treated as a 'spare room'.

This means you may not get enough help to meet your full housing costs and could face a rent shortfall.

Any income you get from a lodger isn't counted when universal credit is calculated. You keep the full amount they pay you.

Housing costs if you are away in England, Wales or Scotland 

You can get universal credit housing costs on your normal home for up to:

  • 12 months if you've left home due to violence or a fear of violence
  • 6 months for any other reason

You must expect to return within the time allowed. If you stay away longer or expect to be away for longer you will not get help with housing costs while you are away.

There is no time limit if you have to move out because essential repairs are being carried out to your home. But you must intend to return home and you can't get help with housing costs for alternative accommodation unless the landlord agrees not to charge rent on your normal home while you are away. 

Housing costs if you are away from home abroad

If you go abroad, you can only usually get universal credit housing costs for up to 1 month. 

It counts as going abroad if you go anywhere outside of England, Wales and Scotland. Staying in Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man count as going abroad.

In certain situations you can get housing costs for a longer period if you go abroad. You can get help for up to:   

  • 2 months if you are away because of the death of a close relative
  • 6 months if you are receiving medical treatment or care abroad

You must expect to return within the time allowed. If you stay away longer or expect to be away for longer you will not get help with housing costs while you are away. 

Changes in circumstances

You must report changes in your circumstances. If you don't, you risk being overpaid universal credit.

Report changes through your online universal credit account. You are given details of this after you first claim.


Any overpayment can be recovered from you, even those caused by an error made by the benefit centre administering your claim.

The Benefits Agency decides if you have to pay the money back.

You also risk a fine of £50 if an overpayment is the result of your error. For example because you failed to report a change in circumstances or you provided wrong information.

The fine is recovered along with the overpayment, through deductions from your benefits, earnings or court action.

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