How to claim universal credit

How your housing element is worked out

Your housing element is part of your universal credit payment. 

It helps with the costs of rent but won't always cover your full rent.

You must pay any shortfall if your housing element won't cover your rent.

There are different housing element calculation rules for:

  • private renters

  • council or housing association tenants

Private renters

Your housing element is worked out using local housing allowance (LHA) rules.

How much you get is based on:

  • where you live in the UK

  • how many bedrooms you can claim for under the rules

Find out how to to check your local housing allowance rate

You can usually only get the shared accommodation rate if you are single and under 35 with no children.

You won't get your full local housing allowance rate if your actual rent is lower than this but your rent is more likely to be covered in full.

Your full rent won't be covered if it's higher than the local housing allowance. You must pay any shortfall from other income. 

Council and housing association tenants

Your housing element is based on your actual rent minus any service charges that universal credit won't cover.

Service charges not covered include:

  • heating, water or lighting in your home

  • personal care and support

  • meals

Your housing element will be reduced under the bedroom tax if you have more rooms than the rules allow for

You must pay any shortfall from other income if the housing element won't cover your full rent.

Hostels, refuges, supported or temporary accommodation

You can claim universal credit if you live in these types of housing but you might not get the housing element as part of your monthly payment.

You have to claim housing benefit as well if you don't get the housing element.

Ask your landlord or housing provider if you don't know whether you need to claim housing benefit.                                

If you have a joint tenancy

Your housing element can be affected if you have a joint tenancy with someone who's not your partner. 

Although you and any other joint tenants are jointly responsible for the whole of the rent, your housing element is calculated based on your share of the rent.

If other adults live with you

Your housing element can be reduced if you have other adults living with you on an informal basis. For example, an adult child or friend who doesn’t pay rent.

These deductions are called housing cost contributions and are made even if the other person isn't paying.

From 6 April 2020 the deduction is £75.15 a month. Ask your friend or family member if they could contribute to your rent to make up the difference.

Other rules that affect the housing element

You can usually only get the housing element to help with rent on your main home that you live in. Sometimes it can be paid:

You can't get the housing element if you pay rent to a close family member who you live with or if your living arrangement is seen as non commercial.

Last updated: 2 April 2020

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