Moving from housing benefit to universal credit (UC)
Most working age people cannot make a new claim for housing benefit.
You usually have to apply for universal credit (UC) instead if you need help with rent.
What happens if you apply for universal credit?
These benefits and tax credits stop when you apply for UC:
child and working tax credits
ESA (income related)
JSA (income based)
They are sometimes called 'legacy benefits'.
You get an extra 2 weeks of housing benefit when you move to UC. It takes at least 5 weeks to get your first UC payment. You do not have to pay the extra housing benefit back.
You cannot usually make a new claim for tax credits or legacy benefits after they stop.
How universal credit helps with rent
Universal credit has a housing element to help with rent.
The money you get usually stays the same. Your housing element is worked out in a similar way to housing benefit.
Your housing element is paid monthly as part of your UC.
It is usually paid into your bank account and you have to pay the full rent to your landlord.
If you already get housing benefit
You can continue to get housing benefit unless:
the DWP move you to UC
you choose to claim UC
your housing benefit ends because your situation changes
If the DWP move you to universal credit
You will get a letter from the DWP called a 'migration notice'.
You must apply for UC to replace your:
other legacy benefits
You should get the same amount as you got on your old benefits unless your situation changes. This is called 'transitional protection'.
The DWP want to move most working age people to UC by April 2025. This process is sometimes called 'managed migration'.
Choosing to switch to universal credit
Some people are better off on UC.
It depends on your situation and if you get other benefits.
You may have to meet different conditions to get UC.
If you choose to switch to UC, the money you get could go up or down.
Check how much you could get on UC with a benefits calculator.
Changes that end your housing benefit
Some changes mean you have to apply for UC if you need help with rent.
For example, your housing benefit stops if:
you move to a different council area
your partner moves out and the housing benefit is in their name
your income goes up and you can no longer get housing benefit
your partner moves in and already gets UC - you need to claim UC as a couple
Moving to a different council area
You usually have to apply for UC 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:
pension age - your partner must also be pension age if you live together
Your partner moves out
You can continue to get housing benefit if the claim is in your name when you separate. Report the change to the council.
You cannot make a new claim for housing benefit if the claim is in your ex partner's name, unless you're pension age.
Any joint claim for tax credits also ends if you separate.
Your partner moves in
You will usually need to claim UC as a couple.
You can still get housing benefit if you are both pension age.
Tax credits end if you move in together.
Your housing benefit and other legacy benefits will also end if your partner:
gets UC already
earns too much to get benefits
Changes that could mean you're better off on universal credit
Some changes do not end your housing benefit but could mean you are better off on UC.
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
You might be better off on UC if you cannot make a new claim for child tax credit. You can only makes a new claim for tax credits if 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.
Youngest child turns 5
You usually need to move to UC when your youngest child turns 5 if you:
are a single parent
get housing benefit and income support
This is because your income support stops even though your housing benefit can continue.
You can keep claiming 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 can affect working tax credit and other legacy benefits.
You will usually be better off on UC if:
your hours drop and you no longer qualify for working tax credit
you start working 16 hours or more a week, and you do not already get tax credits
Who can get working tax credit?
You can get working tax credit if you already get child tax credit 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.
Last updated: 4 August 2023