Universal credit housing element when away from home
You can get the housing element for up to 6 months while away from home if you:
expect to return within this time
stay within England, Scotland or Wales
You can usually be away for any reason.
You cannot get the housing element if you know you'll be away for longer than 6 months.
But you will not usually have to pay back money if you expected to return within this time.
Away from home due to fear of violence
You can get the housing element for up to 12 months if you're away because of fear of violence in your home or from an ex partner.
Threats or violence could be aimed at you, your partner or any dependent children.
expect to return within 12 months
stay within England, Scotland or Wales
You can usually get help with housing costs at your temporary address too.
If you decide not to return, you must report this as a change in circumstances.
You will not get the housing element at your former address anymore and may need to end that tenancy to avoid rent arrears.
You may still get a housing element if you have to pay rent somewhere else.
If you're in prison
You cannot usually get any universal credit if you are in prison. This includes time before and after a trial or sentencing.
If you got the housing element as a single person immediately before going to prison, you can keep getting it for up to 6 months if you expect to return home within this time.
This can include if you're a:
remand prisoner waiting for a trial
convicted prisoner waiting for sentencing
sentenced prisoner who is expected to return home within 6 months
The Prison Service can confirm your earliest release date.
Many sentences of less than 12 months qualify unless you have already spent over 6 months as a remand prisoner.
You could also qualify if you're likely to be released in less than 6 months on a tag (home detention curfew). Find out more about release on a tag from Prisoners Families.
Moving out because of repairs
You can still get the housing element if you have to stay somewhere else because of essential repair work.
You get the housing element for your normal home if you still have to pay rent there. But you cannot get the housing element for your temporary address.
You can get the housing element at your temporary address if you do not have to pay rent at your normal home during the repairs. For example, if you and your landlord have agreed a rent free period.
There's no time limit on how long you can be away for. You must intend to return when the work is complete to get the housing element.
You can usually only get the housing element for up to 1 month when abroad. You must expect to return within the time limit.
Going abroad means leaving England, Scotland and Wales. Travel to Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or Isle of Man counts as going abroad.
Death of a close relative
The usual 1 month time limit can be extended up to 2 months if you're abroad because of the death of your:
children or step children
parents, step parents or in laws
brothers, sisters or their partners
Discuss it with your work coach if you need to be away for longer than a month. For example, because of funeral arrangements or mourning periods.
You will only get the housing element for up to 2 months if the DWP accept that it is not reasonable to expect you to return home within the first month.
Medical treatment abroad
You can get the housing element for up to 6 months if the only reason you're abroad is so that you, your partner or child can receive medical treatment or care.
You must expect to return home within the time limit.
If household members are away temporarily
You can usually claim for household members who are away temporarily if they're expected to return within:
6 months if they're in England, Scotland or Wales
1 month if they go abroad (including Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man)
You can claim for a child or step child indefinitely if they're away with the armed forces and they intend to return home when not on operations.
Counting the length of a temporary absence
An absence starts on the day you leave your home and usually ends if you return home for at least 24 hours.
If you go away again, it's usually treated as a new temporary absence.
Example: You leave a violent relationship and get the housing element for 3 months while away.
You return home when your former partner moves out. You get more threats so you leave again.
You can get the housing element on your normal home for a further 12 months if you intend to return within this time.
Last updated: 20 July 2022