Moving from housing benefit to universal credit

Most working age people cannot make a new claim for housing benefit.

You usually have to apply for universal credit instead if you need help with rent.

If you already get housing benefit

You continue to get housing benefit unless:

  • you choose to claim universal credit instead

  • a change in circumstances means your housing benefit ends

  • you are moved onto universal credit in the future

What happens if you apply for universal credit?

The following benefits and tax credits will stop if you apply for universal credit:

  • housing benefit

  • child tax credit

  • working tax credit

  • income support

  • ESA (income related)

  • JSA (income based)

These benefits are sometimes called legacy benefits.

You cannot usually make a new claim for tax credits or other legacy benefits after they stop.

You have to wait at least 5 weeks for your first universal credit payment.

You get an extra 2 weeks of housing benefit when you apply for universal credit. You do not have to pay this back.

Choosing to switch to universal credit

Some people will be better off on universal credit.

It depends on your situation and if other benefits you get have stopped or will stop.

You may have to meet more conditions to get universal credit. The amount you get might go up or down. Not everyone who qualifies for tax credits can get universal credit.

Speak to an adviser before you apply.

Contact a Help to Claim adviser at Citizens Advice

Call 0800 144 8 444 or use their online chat service.

You can also check how much you could get on universal credit with a benefits calculator.

Changes that affect your housing benefit

Some changes mean you have to apply for universal credit instead if you need help with rent.

For example, your housing benefit stops if:

  • you move to a different council area

  • a partner moves out and the housing benefit is in their name

  • your income goes up and you no longer qualify for housing benefit

  • a partner moves in and already gets universal credit - you need to claim UC as a couple

Some changes don't end your housing benefit claim. But they could mean you are better off claiming universal credit.

For example, if:

  • you have a baby and cannot get tax credits

  • your youngest child turns 5 and you can no longer get income support

Moving to a different council area

You usually have to apply for universal credit if you need help with rent in a new council area.

You can only make a new claim for housing benefit in a different council area if you're either:

Your partner moves out

If you separate and the housing benefit is in your name, you can continue to get it. You should report the change to the council.

Find your council’s housing benefit department on GOV.UK

If the housing benefit was in your ex partner's name, you cannot make a new claim for housing benefit unless you're pension age.

If you had a joint claim for tax credits this also ends.

You may need to apply for universal credit instead if you need help with rent.

Your partner moves in

If either of you get tax credits these end if you move in together.

If your partner gets universal credit, then your housing benefit will also end. You will need to claim universal credit as a couple.

Your housing benefit and other legacy benefits will also end if your partner earns too much to qualify for benefits.

You can still get housing benefit if you are both pension age.

Having children

Having a baby or becoming responsible for a child will not end your housing benefit claim.

But you might be better off on universal credit.

This is because you cannot make a new claim for child tax credit unless you already get child tax credit or working tax credit.

You can choose to stay on tax credits and housing benefit if you get them already.

Get benefits advice to see if you would be better off claiming universal credit.

Youngest child turns 5

If you're a single parent who gets housing benefit and income support, you usually need to move to universal credit when your youngest child turns 5.

This is because your income support stops even though your housing benefit can continue.

You can continue to get housing benefit and income support if you're a full time carer for someone who is disabled.

Changes to your working hours

The number of hours you work does not affect housing benefit unless you earn too much to qualify.

You should report any changes in income so your benefit can be recalculated.

The number of hours you work can affect working tax credit and other legacy benefits.

You will usually be better off on universal credit if:

  • your hours drop and you no longer qualify for working tax credit

  • you start working 16 hours or more a week, and you don't already get tax credits

Who can get working tax credit?

You can get working tax credit if you already get tax credits and work enough hours.

This means at least:

  • 16 hours a week if you're disabled

  • 16 hours a week for single parents

  • 24 hours a week for couples with children (one of you must work at least 16 hours)

GOV.UK has more on working tax credit

You can choose to stay on working tax credit and housing benefit if you work enough hours.

Get benefits advice to see if you would be better off on universal credit.

Moving to universal credit in the future

The government wants to move all working age people on legacy benefits over to universal credit by late 2024.

The DWP and some councils call this process 'managed migration'. It is on hold because of the pandemic but is due to restart later this year.

If you move onto universal credit in this way, you will be invited to apply for universal credit to replace these benefits if you're still getting them at the time:

  • housing benefit

  • child tax credit

  • working tax credit

  • income support

  • ESA (income related)

  • JSA (income based)

You should get support to move to universal credit if you need it.

You also get 'transitional protection' if you move to universal credit in this way.

This means you will get at least the same amount as you got on legacy benefits unless your situation has changed.


Last updated: 14 March 2022

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