If you and/or your partner are responsible for paying rent for the home you live in, or if you have a mortgage, Universal Credit may provide help towards the cost. This is called Universal Credit housing costs.
Claiming housing costs
When you make a new claim for Universal Credit your housing costs will usually be paid as part of your Universal Credit payment. If you are receiving Housing Benefit, the Department for Work and Pensions will contact your local authority to stop your Housing Benefit payments. At this point you will receive an additional payment of 2 weeks’ worth of Housing Benefit to support you as you move to Universal Credit.
It is your responsibility to make sure you pay your rent and other housing costs to your landlord in full. If you are having trouble managing your money, or live in Scotland, you can ask to have your housing costs paid straight to your landlord. Talk to your work coach, use your journal or call the helpline for more information.
If you are making a new Universal Credit claim it may be 5 weeks until you receive your first payment. It’s a good idea to tell your landlord that you are claiming Universal Credit so that they understand your situation. You will need to tell them that you have made a new claim to Universal Credit and that a claim for housing costs has been included as part of your claim.
Information you need to make a claim
If you are applying for housing costs for rented property as part of your Universal Credit claim, you will need to bring evidence of how much your rent is to your new claim interview. This could be:
- a current tenancy agreement
- a current rent statement
- a current rent book, or
- a signed letter from your landlord
If you live in social rented property you won’t need to bring this information to your new claim interview. Instead you will enter details of your housing costs online, and the Department for Work and Pensions will contact your landlord to confirm that these are correct.
Types of housing costs
If you have a mortgage, Universal Credit may provide help towards the cost of your mortgage payments. It may also be able to help with loans (up to £200,000) you have taken out that use your property as security.
To get this help you will need to provide evidence of your mortgage or loan. This could be:
- a mortgage agreement
- a current mortgage statement
- a loan agreement, or
- bank statements showing the payment of the mortgage or loans
Help with mortgage payments or loans is provided as a loan. You will only be asked to pay back this loan if the property it was claimed for is sold or transferred to someone else. If you’re buying a new home you may be able to transfer the loan to it. You can choose to pay the loan back early if you wish.
The Department for Work and Pensions will check your evidence before paying Universal Credit housing costs. Any delays in providing this evidence may mean delays in your Universal Credit housing costs being paid.
The amount you receive will depend on the amount of your outstanding mortgage or loans. It is calculated using a standard interest rate, and it is usually paid straight to the bank, building society or lender. You will be notified of your Universal Credit housing costs amount and payments through your online account.
You can only get help with mortgage payments if you have been claiming Universal Credit for 39 weeks or more, with no breaks or earned income in that time. Earned income can include earnings from paid work or, for example, statutory sick pay or tax rebates.
If you have moved to Universal Credit within one month of another benefit ending, time spent on the first benefit counts towards the 39 weeks.
It is important to understand that you will not be eligible for help with mortgage payments on your own home if you receive earned income. If you start receiving earned income whilst you are getting help with mortgage payments, this help will stop.
If you have a break in your claim or receive earned income you will need to claim Universal Credit for a further 39 weeks with no breaks or earned income before you can receive help with mortgage payments.
Read more about support for mortgage interest
Shared ownership schemes
A shared ownership scheme is usually provided by housing associations where you part rent and part buy your home. You normally have to pay a mortgage amount and a rent amount. If you get help with this, your Universal Credit housing costs payment will include help towards your rent amount with any help towards your mortgage interest usually being paid direct to your mortgage lender.
Some people are expected to pay a service charge on their rented property, in addition to their normal monthly rent.
If you have to pay a service charge this will be shown on your service charge statement from your landlord. Universal Credit can help towards this cost, but you will need to show evidence of any service charges that you have to pay.
Paying rent on 2 homes
Universal Credit can help towards the costs of 2 homes if:
- a family is too large to live in one home
- a family member leaves their home through fear of violence or abuse, but intends to return, or
- a family member who receives a benefit because of disability has to wait to move into their new home because it needs to be adapted for them to live in it
Types of housing
The amount you receive towards your housing costs may be reduced if your home has spare bedrooms.
If you pay rent to a local authority, council or housing association you will get your full rent as part of your Universal Credit payment. This will be reduced by 14% if you have one spare bedroom, or 25% if you have 2 or more spare bedrooms. This is known as Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy.
Your Universal Credit housing costs may also be reduced if someone aged 21 or more lives with you who is not a dependant.
There are some exceptions to these rules – for more information see the factsheet on the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy
If you pay rent to a private landlord the amount of Universal Credit housing costs you receive will be worked out by looking at the number of people who live in your home. The actual size of your home doesn’t matter – the amount you get will be calculated by how many people live there. So if you have spare bedrooms you will only get housing costs to cover a smaller property. The amount you get is set by the Local Housing Allowance rate in your area.
If you live in temporary accommodation and make a new Universal Credit claim, your payment will not include an amount to help towards your housing. You will need to claim Housing Benefit from the local authority who placed you in temporary accommodation to get help with your housing costs. You can still receive Universal Credit to help with your other costs.
If you already receive help with temporary accommodation housing costs through Universal Credit this will continue until there is a change to the amount of rent you pay. If that happens you will need to claim Housing Benefit as well as Universal Credit.
There’s more advice for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Applying for Universal Credit: information for homeless people
Supported or sheltered housing
If you live in supported or sheltered housing you won’t be able to claim housing costs through Universal Credit. Instead you can claim Housing Benefit from your local council. This will be the case even if the rest of your money comes from Universal Credit.
Paying rent to a private landlord in Scotland
In Scotland all landlords must register their properties with the local authority. If your landlord has not done this for your property you can still get Universal Credit housing costs, but you will need to let your local authority know about it. You can also speak to your work coach for more help.
If you are under 35 years old and you live in private housing
If you do not live with a partner, the most you can usually get is based on the cost of renting a room in a shared house in your area, even if you do not live in shared housing. This is called the Local Housing Allowance shared accommodation rate (SAR).
The amount you get is set by the Local Housing Allowance rate in your area.
There are circumstances in which you may be able to receive higher housing payments, for example if you are responsible for a child, have a disability, or are a care leaver.
See this full list for circumstances where higher housing payments may be allowed.
Talk to your case manager or contact Universal Credit for more information.
If you live with someone who is 21 or older
If you live with someone who is 21 or older who is not your partner, your housing payment will usually be reduced. There’s more information if you pay rent to a private landlord or if you pay rent to a local authority or housing association
Reporting a change of circumstances
Changes to your circumstances could mean that the amount you get towards your housing costs will change. It is your responsibility to let the Department for Work and Pensions know about any changes in your situation straight away so that they can make sure you are receiving the right Universal Credit payments. Read more about things that count as a change of circumstances
If you move address
If you change address during an assessment period, the amount you get in housing costs for the whole month will be based on where you live at the end of that period.
This means that if you move to a property that has lower rent, the amount you receive that month won’t cover the higher amount that you will have been charged for the rent at the start of that period.
Help with managing housing payments
If you are behind on your rent
If you are 2 months or more behind on your rent, your landlord can apply to have the housing costs part of your Universal Credit paid directly to them. If you fall behind on your rent you may want to talk to your landlord about this.
This is one of the ways in which Universal Credit payments can be changed to help you manage your money. To find out more see the section on Alternative Payment Arrangements
If you are behind on your utility bills
Utility bills are for water, gas and electricity. It’s up to you to pay these out of your Universal Credit payments, and if you don’t pay them in full your suppliers could cut them off.
If you are struggling to manage your payments and are in danger of being cut off, it may be possible for part of your Universal Credit to be paid straight to your utility supplier. Talk to your work coach if you would like to know more about this.
Local Council Tax Reduction
If you receive Universal Credit you may have to pay less in Council Tax. This will depend on your circumstances and where you live.
You can start the process to apply for Local Council Tax Reduction on GOV.UK. It will take you to your local council’s website, which will tell you what you need to do.
If you are claiming Universal Credit for the first time you should apply for Local Council Tax Reduction straight away, as many local councils will not backdate it for you. You do not need to wait until your claim for Universal Credit has been approved or paid.
Other help with housing payments
If changes to your benefits mean you receive less money, you may be able to get extra help towards your housing costs from your local council. These are called Discretionary Housing Payments.
You will only be able to get Discretionary Housing Payments if you receive Universal Credit housing costs and you need more help. Find out how to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment