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How to claim universal credit

Housing element to help with rent

The housing element of universal credit (UC) helps with these housing costs:

  • rent

  • some service charges

It is paid to you as part of your monthly UC payment.

It is not the same as housing benefit but it is worked out in a similar way.

You need to show proof that you have to pay rent. For example, a tenancy agreement. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will confirm this with the landlord.

You usually have to pay your rent direct to your landlord or letting agent.

You can sometimes ask for your housing element to be paid to your landlord.

Universal credit might not pay your full rent

You must pay all of your rent. You could get extra help with rent from the council.

Find out about discretionary housing payments (DHPs).

Private renters

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

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. This means you probably need to look for a room in a shared house or house in multiple occupation (HMO).

Council and housing association tenants

Your housing element is based on your actual rent. Some service charges are also covered.

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

Joint tenancies with a partner

Your housing element is based on your full rent if you claim UC together with a partner.

Tell the DWP if your relationship breaks down. If your ex partner moves out and stops paying rent, your housing element should be based on your full rent.

Find out what to do if an ex partner stops paying rent.

Joint tenancies with other people

If you rent privately and have a joint tenancy with someone who is not your partner, your housing element is based on either:

  • your actual share of the rent

  • your LHA rate

The DWP use the lowest of these amounts to work out your housing element.

You and the other joint tenants are still legally responsible for the whole of the rent.

Deductions if other adults live with you

If relatives or friends live in your home, the DWP expect them to help with your rent.

Your housing element goes down by £91.47 a month.

These deductions are called housing costs contributions. Ask your friend or family member if they can help pay this.

Find out when the DWP should not make a deduction.

Can your housing element be sanctioned?

The DWP can cut your benefit for a time if they think you have not met a condition in your 'claimant commitment'.

Only your standard allowance is cut if you are sanctioned while on UC.

Your housing element will not change.

When universal credit cannot cover rent

You cannot get the housing element in these situations:

They might decide it's a 'non commercial' agreement if, for example, the rent is very low or the landlord takes no action if you miss rent payments.

Hostels, refuges, supported or temporary housing

You can get UC 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.

Paying a mortgage on universal credit

The housing element cannot help with mortgage payments.

After 3 months on UC you can get a support for mortgage interest (SMI) loan. This is not a benefit and has to be paid back when your home is sold.

Still need help?

Find out:

Last updated: 26 March 2024

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