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.
Your housing element is worked out using the local housing allowance (LHA).
How much you get is based on:
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:
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.
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
Paying rent at more than one address
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