Universal credit: How to deal with changes

How changes affect universal credit

Your entitlement is reassessed when you report a change and provide any required supporting information.

Your payments could increase, reduce or stop altogether.

Check your online account 7 days before your next payment is due. You should get an online notification if your entitlement has changed.

Work or self-employment

You must report it if you start work or a job ends.

You have to report income changes each month if you're:

  • self-employed
  • told to do so when working for an employer

You don't have to report income changes if your employer does this for you. Check your online account 7 days before your next payment is due to make sure the correct income figures have been used.

How earned income affects universal credit

Income changes are important because in many cases, you lose 63p of universal credit for every £1 of income you earn above what you'd get if you weren't working.

Your universal credit payment usually stays the same if you earn the same amount and get paid on the same day each calendar month. 

Your monthly universal credit payment usually changes if either:

  • your earned income varies
  • you get paid weekly, fortnightly or every 4 weeks  

Find out how different earning patterns affect universal credit from GOV.UK

Work allowances

You get a 'work allowance' if dependent children live with you or if you're not expected to seek work because of disability or ill health.

This means you can earn the following amounts before losing any universal credit:  

  • £287 a month - if you get the housing element 
  • £503 a month - if you don't get the housing element

'It's important to stay on top of your finances when you claim universal credit'

Fabiola got a job after starting to receive universal credit. She explains how working can affect your claim.

Changes in your household

The people in your 'benefit unit' affect how much money you get. Your benefit unit usually means a partner you live with and anyone you get child benefit for.

Report it if you:

  • move in with or separate from a partner
  • have a baby or adopt a child
  • start paying for registered childcare
  • have a disabled child who gets DLA or PIP

For children born on or after 6 April 2017, you can only get a child element for your first 2 children in most cases but you must still report the birth.

Bedroom entitlement

The number, age and sex of the people in your household affects your universal credit housing element. This is based on the number of bedrooms you can claim for. 

You should report changes which could increase your entitlement as soon as you can, for example, if:

  • a friend or family member moves in
  • you have a baby, adopt a child or become a foster carer
  • your child reaches an age where they're no longer expected to share
  • a disabled household member can't share or needs an overnight carer

You should also report it if someone moves out as your entitlement could go down although certain temporary absences are allowed

Find out more about how many bedrooms you can claim for

Housing costs contributions from adults in your home

Most adults aged 21 or over who live in your home are expected to contribute to your rent under universal credit rules but there are exceptions.

Report it if:

  • your child turns 21
  • an adult aged 21 or over moves in or out or goes to prison
  • anyone in your household gets DLA (middle or high rate care component), PIP (daily living component), attendance allowance, pension credit or carer's allowance

Your housing element is reduced by £73.89 a month for each adult expected to contribute even if they're not giving you any money towards the rent.

Find out more about housing costs contributions under universal credit


Report it if someone living in your home dies. You may qualify for 'bereavement run-on'. 

In this situation, your monthly universal credit is calculated as if the person hadn't died for up to 3 months after their death.

Rent increases

Report any rent increases.

Your housing element usually goes up if you're a council or housing association tenant.

If you rent privately, it probably won't change.

This is because the maximum you can get is the local housing allowance (LHA) rate that applies to your household. Your housing element will only increase if your previous rent was lower than the LHA rate.

Moving home

Report any change of address.

If you start paying rent, a housing element can be included in your universal credit payment. 

If you already get the housing element, it's recalculated based on your new rent.

Don't delay reporting a move or you could lose money to help pay rent.

Changes to your claimant commitment

Your claimant commitment sets out what you must do to get your full universal credit payment each month. You can be sanctioned if you don't meet the conditions.

You can ask your work coach to make the conditions easier for you if, for example, you're: 

  • unwell for up to 14 days
  • suffering domestic abuse
  • homeless and looking for somewhere to live
  • caring for a child or severely disabled person
  • on a recovery programme for drug or alcohol addiction

Find out more about changing your claimant commitment from Citizens Advice

Last updated 08 Apr 2019 | © Shelter

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