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Occupation condition

This content applies to England

The circumstances under which a claimant will be treated as occupying the home.

Introduction

The housing cost element under universal credit will only be paid towards the accommodation the claimant occupies as their home. In certain circumstances the claimant can be paid if they are temporarily absent from the home.[1]

It should be noted that when a temporary absence (or expected absence):

  • outside Great Britain (GB) exceeds the period allowed the claimant will not be entitled to any universal credit
  • inside GB exceeds the period allowed the claimant will not receive the housing cost element of their universal credit).

GB comprises England, Wales and Scotland. It does not include Northern Ireland, the Channel Isles or the Isle of Man.

Temporary absences: in Great Britain

A claimant is treated as occupying their home for the following periods of absence in GB:[2]

  • up to six months, when the absence is no longer (or expected to be no longer) than this period (see below for prisoners)
  • up to 52 weeks when the claimant is living somewhere else because of reasonable fear of violence in their home, or by a former partner against the them, or a child they receive child benefit for. It must be unreasonable to expect them to return because of the fear of violence and the claimant must intend to return to their home.

In addition, a claimant can be treated as occupying their home for an unspecified period, when they have to move into alternative accommodation, due to essential repairs being carried out their home. They must intend to return to their home, and meet the liability and payment conditions for either their original home, or their temporary home. The housing cost element will only be paid for one home.[3]

Temporary absences: outside Great Britain

Universal credit is normally not payable when the claimant is absent outside of GB for a period exceeding one month (or when the absence is expected to exceed one month).[4]

In specified circumstances a person can get universal credit for up to two or six months' absence from GB.

Two months' absence

Where a claimant is absent from GB in connection with the death of a partner, child or close relative and the DWP considers it unreasonable for the person to return within the first month, universal credit can be paid for up to eight weeks.[5]

A close relative means children, step-children and in-laws, parents, step-parents and in-laws, siblings and partners of any of these.[6]

Six months' absence

A claimant can continue to get universal credit for up to six months where the claimant (or their partner or dependant child) is:[7]

  • receiving medical treatment
  • undergoing convalescent care for a condition that the claimant had before they left GB.

A claimant can also continue to get universal credit for up to six months if they are continental shelf worker (in UK, EU or Norwegian waters) or a mariner.[8]

Absence of household member

A claimant's partner, dependent child or ‘qualifying young person'[9] will be treated as occupying the home if they are away from home in Great Britain, and intend to return home within 6 months.[10]

Where the absence is abroad the absence allowed is restricted to the time limits that apply to the claimant (as set out above).

A child who is taken into local authority care will not be treated as occupying the home unless it is for a planned respite break for the claimant.[11]

A son or daughter (or step-son or daughter) who is a member of the armed forces away on operations will be treated as occupying the home indefinitely if s/he:[12]

  • lived at home as the claimant's non-dependant
  • intends to return home when not away on operations.

Prisoners

In general prisoners are not entitled to claim universal credit.[13] However, they will be able to receive the housing cost element if:

  • they were entitled to universal credit as a single person immediately before they became a prisoner
  • this included the housing element, and
  • they have been sentenced to a period in custody that is expected to last no more than six months.

There is no distinction between prisoners on remand or prisoners who have been sentenced. This is different to the housing benefit rules where there a longer period of temporary absence is allowed for prisoners on remand.

This only applies to the housing cost element of universal credit and an entitlement to any other element will cease once the claimant goes into custody.[14]

Moving into accommodation after a stay in a hospital or care home

A claimant staying in a care home or hospital, can have their housing costs met before they move in to a new home for up to one month. Under universal credit they'll be treated as satisfying the occupation condition for up to one month before they move in. This condition is only met once they move in, and the housing costs element will then be backdated and added to their universal credit claim.[15]

Payments on two homes

In limited circumstances a claimant can be paid the housing cost element of universal credit on two homes.

Domestic violence

When a claimant is living somewhere else because of fear of violence in their home, and they intend to return to that home they can be paid the housing cost element on both properties for up to 52 weeks where:[16]

  • they meet the payment and liability conditions for both properties
  • it is reasonable to pay housing costs for both of these properties.

The housing costs element of universal credit cannot be paid in respect of 'exempt accommodation' (see the page on the payment condition for more information), so where a claimant moves into exempt accommodation while temporarily absent from their home because of the fear of violence, s/he will need to claim housing benefit on the exempt accommodation. A claimant in this situation can be awarded both universal credit and housing benefit.[17]

Delay in moving due to disabled adaptations

A claimant can be paid the housing cost element for two homes for up to one month, where a move is delayed because they need to wait for necessary adaptations to be made because of a disability. Immediately before the move they must have:

  • satisfied the payment and liability conditions for the new accommodation
  • been entitled to the housing costs element for the old accommodation.

The delay must be reasonable. The disabled person can be the claimant, their partner, or any child for whom they receive child benefit. The claimant must be in receipt of:

  • the middle or higher rate of the care component under disability living allowance
  • attendance allowance, or
  • the daily living component of personal independence payment.

A payment can be backdated for up to one month where the claimant fell within the circumstances above during that period.[18]

Claimants with large families

Claimants with large families can be paid the housing cost element for two homes, if they were housed in the two properties by a provider of social housing due to the number of dependent children that live with them.

This could include situations where the landlord is a local authority or housing association, or where the family have been housed in the private sector by a local authority carrying out its duties or powers under relevant legislation, such as under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996.[19]

Wales

The information on this page reflects the law as applicable in England. Go to Shelter Cymru to check for variations applicable in Wales.

[1] Sch. 3 Part 1 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[2] Sch. 3 Part 1 para 9 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[3] Sch. 3 Part 1 para 3 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[4] reg.11(1) Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[5] reg.11(2) Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[6] reg.2 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[7] reg.11(3) Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[8] reg.11(4) Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[9] regs 4(1) and 5(1)-(2) Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[10] regs 3(6) and 4(7) Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[11] regs 4(6) and 4A Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[12] Sch. 4 para 2 and reg 10 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[13] reg.19(1)(b) Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[14] reg 19(1)-(3) Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[15] Sch.3 para. 8(1)-(3) Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[16] Sch. 3 Part 1 para 6 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[17] Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/386 as amended by reg.3 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) and Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/2070; HB Circular A19/2013.

[18] Sch.3 Part 1 paras 5 and 7 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

[19] Sch.3 para 4 Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

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