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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

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

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. 

The DWP uses a standard rate of interest of 3.12% to calculate your housing costs. You don't get any help towards your capital repayments. Your housing costs element is unlikely to cover your full mortgage repayment. 

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

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

You can't get help to pay your mortgage interest if you do any paid work.

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.

Call the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723 if you need help

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

If you claim universal credit in a full digital service area the DWP will email your landlord to confirm your tenancy and rent payments.

If you need help to pay your mortgage interest, the DWP will 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.

If you take on a new tenancy while you are claiming you'll need to tell the DWP about your change in circumstances.  

Do this as soon as the change takes place so the DWP can recalculate your entitlement to housing costs and adjust your universal credit payment.   

If you claim universal credit in a full digital service area you can report the change on your online account.

Or you can call the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723. 

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.

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

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. 

If the housing costs element you receive doesn't cover the full rent you can apply for a discretionary housing payment

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.

You can only get universal credit housing costs paid for one home at a time. You won't get payment for alternative accommodation unless your landlord agrees not to charge rent on your normal home while you are away.

Staying in England, Wales or Scotland

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

  • as long as it takes for essential repairs to be done - if you can't live in your home while works are carried out
  • 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

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.

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 may risk losing benefits if your claimant commitment isn't adjusted.

Last updated 26 Jul 2016 | © Shelter

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