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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
If you claim in a full digital service area you should report the change via your online account.
If you claim in a live service area call the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723 to report the change.
Speak to you work coach at Jobcentre Plus if you're not sure whether you're in a full service area or a live service area.
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.
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 may risk losing benefits if your claimant commitment isn't adjusted.
Last updated 13 Jun 2017 | © Shelter
Still need help?
If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help