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Universal credit after a change of circumstances

Your universal credit (UC) payments can go up or down if your situation changes.

You need to tell the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) about some changes.

These include:

  • rent increases or moving home

  • splitting up or moving in with a partner

  • having a child, adopting or becoming a foster carer

  • other people moving in or out

  • the death of someone you live with

  • inheriting money or property

How to report changes

Report changes through your UC account. Use the report a change tab in your journal. You can also report changes over the phone or at the jobcentre.

You do not need to report wages going up or down if your employer tells the DWP.

You need to report income changes if you're self employed or the DWP tells you to.

GOV.UK explains how to report self employed earnings.

When will your payments change?

Your UC payment is worked out over a monthly assessment period.

You should report the change as soon as it happens.

The change usually applies from the start of the assessment period if you report it by the end of your assessment period.

Example: Reporting changes on time

You have your first child in early December.

Your UC assessment period is from 12 November to 11 December.

You report the change by 11 December.

Your next UC payment will include a child element. It's backdated to 12 November even though your baby was born after this.

You get this around 18 December because universal credit is paid in arrears.

Reporting changes late

Try to report changes during the assessment period in which they happen.

Reporting changes after the end of the assessment period could mean you either:

  • have to pay some money back

  • lose out on money

Ask for more time report the change if you have a good reason for the delay. For example, you were in hospital.

Find out what to do if your UC payments are suspended while the DWP look into a change.

For example, if they ask for more information or proof of a change.

Changes in earned income

Wages and self employed earnings affect how much UC you get each month.

Your UC usually goes down by 55p for every £1 you earn above what you would get if you were not working.

Work allowances

Families with children and some disabled people get a work allowance. This is not an extra amount. It means you can earn some money each month without losing any UC.

You can earn up to:

  • £404 a month - if you get the housing element

  • £673 a month - if you do not get the housing element

If your earnings go up and down

Your UC will go up and down if:

  • your earnings are different each month

  • you get paid every week, 2 weeks or 4 weeks

GOV.UK explains how earnings affect UC.

Rent increases

You should report a rent increase if you rent privately. But your UC will probably not go up.

The most you can get is the local housing allowance (LHA) rate. Many private landlords ask for more than this in rent.

Find out more about dealing with a rent increase if you get benefits.

Report the change if you rent from a council or housing association. Your UC should go up when your rent increases.

Moving home

You can get a housing element as part of your UC payment if you start paying rent.

You need to show a tenancy agreement or letter from the landlord.

Report the change as soon as you move. Your UC for the whole of that assessment period will be worked out based on your new rent.

Moving in with a partner

You have to claim benefits as a couple if you live together, even if you're not married.

Your UC will stop if your partner earns too much to get benefits.

If you both get UC already, you both need to report the change. You need to link your claims together. Speak to your work coach if you cannot see how to do this on your UC account.

If your partner gets pension credit, housing benefit or other 'legacy' benefits these will stop if you claim UC as a couple.

Citizens Advice have more on moving to universal credit from other benefits.

Splitting up with a partner

Report the change if you get UC as a couple and:

  • your ex moves out

  • you separate but continue to live in the same home for a time

Your children can only be part of one person's benefit claim. You can agree between you who is the main carer. If you cannot agree, the DWP decides.

Your UC claims will be unlinked by the DWP and you will each get your own money.

You need your own bank account to get your UC payment.

Find out about basic bank accounts with no credit check.

If you do not feel safe to report the change online because of domestic abuse, speak to your work coach on the phone or at the jobcentre.

You can also get benefits advice from a domestic abuse charity.

Changes to the size of your family or household

Report the change if:

  • you become a foster carer

  • a friend or family member moves in

  • your child reaches an age where they're not expected to share a bedroom

  • a disabled household member cannot share a bedroom or needs an overnight carer

These affect how many bedrooms you can claim for. Your housing element could go up.

Tell the DWP if someone moves out. Some temporary absences do not affect your UC but you should still report them.

Adults aged 21 or over who live in your home

The DWP take £91.47 a month from your UC for each adult expected to help with your rent.

These deductions are called housing costs contributions.

You have to tell the DWP if:

  • someone you live with turns 21

  • someone aged 21 or over moves in or out

Reaching pension age

Your UC will stop unless you claim with a partner who is still working age.

You can apply for these benefits if you have a low retirement income:

If your partner is still working age, your UC payments will go up now you are pension age.

If someone who lives with you dies

Your UC will not usually go down straight away if someone you live with dies.

For up to 3 months your benefit is worked out as if they had not died. This is sometimes called 'bereavement run on'. After this your UC will probably go down.

Marie Curie charity has a guide to benefits when someone dies.

Inheriting money

You cannot get UC anymore if you inherit more than £16,000.

If you inherit between £6,000 and £16,000, you can still get UC but it will usually go down. Savings or capital between these amounts affect how your universal credit is worked out.

Be careful how you spend inherited money. The DWP could decide you have spent it deliberately to keep getting UC. This would affect your claim.

You can use money you inherit to reduce your debts or for other reasonable spending without it affecting your claim.

Inheriting a property

The DWP treat a property that you do not live in as your home as having a 'capital value'.

Capital value is the money you would get if you sold the property, after:

  • paying off the mortgage and any secured loans

  • taking off 10% for sales costs

This amount might not count for up to 6 months or sometimes longer if you are moving into or selling the property.

Last updated: 3 April 2024

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