Housing costs under universal credit

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

Who gets help with housing costs

If you claim universal credit you get a single monthly payment into your bank account.

The payment can include a housing costs element if you have to pay rent or a mortgage.

Universal credit can help with the costs of:

  • rent if you are not in paid work or have a low income
  • mortgage interest if you are not in paid work

If you live in a shared ownership property, the housing costs element could help with both rent and mortgage interest.

From 1 April 2017 some single jobseekers under the age of 22 will not be entitled to help with housing costs under universal credit.

Help with housing costs if you rent

You are not usually entitled to any money for the first 7 days after you claim universal credit.

Your entitlement begins on the 8th day but you will not receive a payment until about 6 weeks after you claim because universal credit is paid in arrears.

You can ask for a universal credit advance if the delay in payment will cause rent arrears or other financial hardship.

The DWP expects you to budget for your rent and pay it from your monthly universal credit payment and any other income you have.

If you find it difficult to budget on a low monthly income, you can ask for your housing costs element to be paid direct to your landlord.

Housing costs for 18 to 21 year olds

From 1 April 2017 you might not be able to get help to pay your rent if you are under 22 and make a new claim for universal credit in a full digital service area.

You will not be affected by this rule if you:

  • already get universal credit housing costs or housing benefit
  • claim universal credit in a live service area
  • work at least 16 hours per week

Check if you are claiming in a full digital service area on Gov.uk

Even if you are a new claimant in a full digital area, you can still get help to pay your rent if you:

  • claim as a couple
  • have a dependent child
  • were in care when you were 16 or 17
  • get the daily living component of PIP or middle or high care component of DLA

You can also get help to pay your rent if you cannot live with either of your parents because you would be at risk or suffer significant harm if you did.

Paying for a hostel, refuge or supported accommodation

If you stay in a hostel or women's refuge or certain other types of supported accommodation, you might not get the housing costs element of universal credit.

You should be able to claim housing benefit instead to help pay your rent.

Help with housing costs for homeowners

You can't get help with housing costs if you do any paid work.

If you are unemployed or can't work, you can get help with mortgage interest payments but not for the first 9 months following your claim for universal credit.

After 9 months, your housing costs element is paid direct to your mortgage lender.

The housing costs element can help with mortgage interest payments on a loan of up to £200,000. You don't get any help towards your capital repayments.

The DWP uses a standard rate of interest to calculate the help you get with mortgage interest. Your housing costs element may not cover your full mortgage repayment. 

The standard rate of interest is:

  • 2.61% from 18 June 2017
  • 3.12% from 6 July 2015

Check Gov.uk for any changes to this rate.

If you are a leaseholder you might also get help to pay some service charges.

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

How to claim help with housing costs

The housing costs element is part of your universal credit award. You don't make a separate claim.

You usually have to claim universal credit online.

Information you'll need to provide

You'll probably be asked to bring proof of your tenancy when you attend your Jobcentre Plus interview. A written tenancy agreement or letter from your landlord should be enough.

Jobcentre Plus will usually:

  • email your landlord to confirm your tenancy and rent payments
  • send a form to your lender to confirm details of your mortgage repayments

You must also provide information about your household members, your income and any savings.

Moving home

You won't get the housing costs element if you don't pay rent or have a mortgage when you first claim universal credit.

Tell the DWP as soon as you can if you take on a new tenancy while you are claiming universal credit. The DWP will recalculate your entitlement to housing costs and adjust your universal credit payment.

Report a move as a change of circumstances:

  • through your online universal credit account
  • by calling the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 9344 if you don't have an online account 

Bedroom entitlement under universal credit

The housing costs element of universal credit is calculated according to the number of bedrooms that the 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.

You could apply for a discretionary housing payment if the housing costs element doesn't cover your full rent.

If you rent from a private landlord

The rules are similar to those affecting private tenants claiming housing benefit under the local housing allowance scheme.

If you're a council or housing association tenant

You may be subject to the bedroom tax if you're classed as having a spare room.

If you have a lodger

A room occupied by a lodger won't count towards the number of rooms you can get help with under universal credit.

However, any income you get from a lodger is completely ignored when your universal credit is calculated.

Housing costs if you're away from home

You can continue to get universal credit housing costs paid for your normal home if you are away in some circumstances.

Staying in England, Wales or Scotland

If you are away from your normal home, you can continue to get help with your housing costs for:

  • up to 12 months if you've left home due to violence or a fear of violence
  • up to 6 months for any other reason
  • as long as it takes for essential repairs to be done - if you can't live in your home while works are carried out

You only get help with housing costs if you expect to return within the time allowed.

If you stay away longer than the period allowed, you won't be entitled to any housing costs while you are away. You will have to repay any housing costs that you have received.

If you've left home due to violence and have to pay rent elsewhere, you can get help with housing costs at that address too. If you're in a hostel or refuge you usually claim housing benefit.

Staying abroad (away from England, Wales or Scotland)

It counts as going abroad if you go anywhere outside of England, Wales and Scotland.

Time spent in Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man counts as time abroad.

You can only usually get universal credit housing costs paid for up to 1 month if you go abroad. You must expect to return and actually return within the month.

You can sometimes 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

Tell your work coach at Jobcentre Plus if you need to go abroad because of a bereavement or for medical treatment. You risk losing benefits if your claimant commitment isn't adjusted.

Last updated 29 Nov 2017 | © Shelter

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