How to claim universal credit

How money for housing costs is worked out

Your housing element is part of your universal credit (UC) payment. 

You cannot get it if you pay rent to a close family member who you live with or if your living arrangement is seen as non commercial.

The money you get for housing costs will not always cover your full rent. You need to pay the rest of your rent from other income.

You can apply for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) if your housing element does not cover your rent.

Private renters

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

How much you get is based on:

  • your age

  • where you live in the UK

  • how many bedrooms you can claim for under the rules

Most single renters under 35 can only get the shared accommodation rate.

There are some exceptions. For example:

  • care leavers under 25

  • people who have lived in homeless hostels or refuges

If your benefits do not cover the rent

Your LHA rate is the maximum amount you can get to help with rent. It is often lower than the total rent you have to pay.

You may not get the full rate. For example, if you're working.

If you're struggling, you can:

Council and housing association tenants

Your housing element is based on your actual rent.

Your rent is more likely to be covered in full if you're not working.

UC does not cover some service charges, including:

  • meals

  • care and support

  • heating, water or lighting in your home

You could get less because of the bedroom tax if you have more rooms than the rules allow.

Hostels, refuges, supported or temporary housing

You can claim UC if you live in these types of housing but you might not get the housing element.

You need to claim housing benefit if you do not get the housing element of UC.

Ask your landlord or housing provider if you do not know which benefit to claim.

Joint tenants

If you and your partner are joint tenants, the DWP base your housing element on your full rent because you're joint tenants with a joint UC claim.

This should continue if your relationship breaks down and your ex partner moves out. If they are still named on the tenancy, the DWP should base your housing element on your full rent.

If you have a private joint tenancy with someone who is not your partner, the DWP base your housing element on your share of the rent or your LHA rate – whichever is lower. You and the other joint tenants remain legally responsible for the whole of the rent.

If other adults live with you

The DWP can reduce your housing element if you have adults living with you in an informal way. For example, an adult child or friend who does not pay rent.

These deductions are called housing costs contributions. The DWP does this because they expect your friend or family member to help with your rent.

The deduction is £85.73 a month. Ask your friend or family member if they can help pay this.

Find out when the DWP should not make a deduction.

If you or a family member are away

Find out what happens if you're away from home temporarily.

Paying rent at more than one address

Find out when you can get the housing element for 2 homes.

Help with mortgage payments

You cannot get the UC housing element to pay a mortgage.

You could get a support for mortgage interest (SMI) loan if you've been on UC for at least 3 months.

Last updated: 6 April 2023

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