Housing costs under universal credit

Your universal credit payment can include money to help with the cost of your rent or mortgage. You don't need to make a separate claim for help with housing costs.

Housing costs universal credit can help with

You get a single monthly payment if you claim universal credit.

Your payment can include a housing costs element to help with the costs of:

  • rent if you're not in paid work or have a low income
  • mortgage interest if you're not in paid work

If you live in a shared ownership property, the housing costs element could help with both rent and mortgage interest.

How to claim help with housing costs

The housing costs element is part of your universal credit award. You don't make a separate claim.

Find out more about claiming universal credit.

Information you'll need to provide

You'll be asked to provide proof of your tenancy. A written tenancy agreement or letter from your landlord should be enough.

Jobcentre Plus will usually:

  • email your landlord to confirm your tenancy and rent payments
  • send a form to your lender to confirm details of your mortgage repayments

You must also provide information about your household members, your income and any savings.

Housing costs if you rent

You get your first payment about 5 weeks after you claim because universal credit is paid in arrears. You can ask for a universal credit advance if the delay will cause rent arrears or other financial hardship.

You usually have to budget for your rent and pay it from your monthly universal credit payment and any other income you have. If you find this difficult, you can ask for your housing costs element to be paid direct to your landlord.

If you're under 22

Sometimes you can't get help to pay your rent if you're under 22.

You shouldn't be affected by this rule if you:

  • have a partner or dependent child
  • work at least 16 hours per week
  • were in care when you were 16 or 17
  • get the daily living component of PIP or middle or high care component of DLA
  • can't live with your parents because you'd be at risk of significant harm if you did  

If you're refused help with housing costs, contact a benefits adviser for further help:

Contact Citizens Advice online, by phone or in person

Housing costs in a hostel, refuge or supported accommodation

You might not get the housing costs element of universal credit if you live in a:

  • council-run hostel
  • domestic violence refuge
  • certain other types of supported accommodation

You can usually claim housing benefit instead to help pay your rent.

Housing costs for homeowners: support for mortgage interest (SMI)

Help with housing costs for homeowners is also called support for mortgage interest (SMI).

From 6 April 2018 SMI is only offered as a loan. It must be repaid when you die or sell your home.

SMI won't usually cover your full monthly mortgage payment because it: 

  • doesn't include any money towards capital repayments
  • uses a set rate of interest - currently 2.61% - rather than your actual interest rate
  • only covers interest payments on loans of up to £200,000

Who qualifies for SMI when claiming universal credit

You can't get any help with mortgage payments if you're in paid work.

If you're unemployed or can't work, you can get help with mortgage interest payments but not for the first 9 months of your universal credit claim.

After 9 months, your SMI is paid direct to your mortgage lender. These payments stop if you do any paid work.

Contact your mortgage lender if you're having problems paying your mortgage.

Moving home

Tell the DWP as soon as you can if you take on a new tenancy while you are claiming universal credit. The DWP will recalculate your entitlement to housing costs and adjust your universal credit payment.

Report a move as a change of circumstances:

  • through your online universal credit account
  • by calling the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 9344 if you don't have an online account 

Bedroom entitlement under universal credit

If you pay rent, your housing costs element is calculated according to the number of bedrooms the rules say you need.

The actual size of your home doesn't matter. It's the number of bedrooms you have and the number of people living there that counts.

You could apply for a discretionary housing payment if the housing costs element doesn't cover your full rent.

Renting privately

The rules are similar to those affecting private tenants claiming housing benefit under the local housing allowance scheme.

Council and housing association tenants

You may be subject to the bedroom tax if you're classed as having a spare room.

If you have a lodger

A room occupied by a lodger won't count towards the number of rooms you can get help with under universal credit.

However, any income you get from a lodger is completely ignored when your universal credit is calculated.

Housing costs if you're away from home

You can sometimes continue to get the housing costs element paid for your normal home if you're away temporarily.

Staying elsewhere in England, Wales or Scotland

You can continue to get help with housing costs on your normal home for:

  • up to 12 months if you've left home due to violence or a fear of violence
  • up to 6 months for any other reason
  • as long as it takes for essential repairs to be done - if you can't live in your home while works are carried out

You only get this help if you expect to return within the time allowed. If you decide not to return while you are away you must inform Jobcentre Plus. 

If you've left home due to violence and have to pay rent elsewhere, you can get help with housing costs at that address too. If you're in a hostel or refuge you usually claim housing benefit.

Staying abroad (away from England, Wales or Scotland)

You can only usually get universal credit housing costs paid for up to 1 month if you go abroad. You must expect to return and actually return within the month.

Time spent in Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man counts as time abroad.

You can sometimes get help for up to:

  • 2 months if you are away because of the death of a close relative
  • 6 months if you are receiving medical treatment or care abroad

Tell your work coach at Jobcentre Plus if you need to go abroad because of a bereavement or for medical treatment. You risk losing benefits if your claimant commitment isn't adjusted.

Last updated 21 Dec 2017 | © Shelter

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