What to do if you have been charged a banned letting fee

What to do if you have been charged a banned letting fee

If you think you have been charged a banned letting fee there is action you can take.

Write to your landlord or letting agent

You can write to your landlord or letting agent and ask for the fee to be returned to you.

Use the sample text below to help you put together a letter.

Click anywhere in the white box to make changes.

Words in brackets are guidance – delete them before you send it.

Once you’re done, click copy text to clipboard and paste into an email, letter or text. Check and save the message before you send it.

Complain to your local council or Rent Smart Wales

If you do not get a reply, or your landlord or letting agent refuses to pay the banned fee back, you can complain to your local council or to Rent Smart Wales.

They have the power to:

  • give a notice to your landlord or letting agent telling them to show you evidence that they have kept to the rules (if they fail to give the evidence they can be prosecuted and fined)
  • give a fixed penalty notice of £1,000 to a landlord or letting agent
  • start criminal action to prosecute the landlord or letting agent. If found guilty of an offence, the landlord or agent could face a fine and/or have to repay any banned fee to you.

Rent Smart Wales can also consider whether the landlord or agent remains fit to continue to rent out properties in the future.

 

Apply to the county court

If you cannot get the fee returned, you are entitled to start a claim in the county court.

If the court agrees that it was a banned fee they can order the landlord or agent to pay the money back to you.

You will have to pay a court fee to start a claim. If you claim benefits or have a low income you might be able to get help with paying the court fee. Find out if you can get help here.

See Citizen’s Advice for details of how to start a claim.

Always think carefully before starting court action. If you already have a tenancy, your landlord may decide to try to evict you rather than risk being taken to court.

 

Defend any ‘section 21’ eviction action

Your landlord or letting agent cannot evict you using the ‘section 21 procedure’ if:

  • you have paid a banned fee and it has not been returned, or
  • they have failed to repay to you a holding deposit which should have been returned.

See our pages on eviction of private tenants for more information and get advice as soon as you can if you have received a section 21 notice.

How can I apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)

How can I apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)?

You apply for a DHP to your local council. Find your council’s DHP application process here:

Holding deposits

Holding deposits


A holding deposit is a payment to a landlord or letting agent to reserve a property. You should only pay a holding deposit if you are serious about taking on a tenancy.

From the 28 February 2020, a landlord or agent cannot ask you to pay a holding deposit for a property in Wales unless they first provide you with certain written information, including details about what you would have to pay for the tenancy.



How much is a holding deposit?


A landlord or letting agent cannot charge any higher than the equivalent of 1 weeks’ rent as a holding deposit.

If the rent is charged monthly, use the following calculation to work out the maximum amount of the holding deposit :

Monthly rent x 12 ÷ 52 = maximum holding deposit.

If you have paid anything above this limit since the 1 September 2019 then you should ask the landlord or letting agent for a refund.

A landlord or letting agent cannot charge more than one holding deposit for a property. If you are renting with someone else, the maximum holding deposit should be based on the total rent payable for that property. For example, if the total weekly rent for the property is £300 shared between 3 tenants, the maximum they could be asked to pay as a holding deposit would be £300 between them. They cannot be asked to pay £300 holding deposit each.


What information must the landlord or letting agent give me before I pay a holding deposit?


From the 28 February 2020, before a landlord or agent can ask you to pay a holding deposit, they will have to give you the following information :

  • the amount of the holding deposit
  • the address of the property
  • contact details of the landlord, and/or letting agent
  • the type of contract and how long it is for
  • the start date of the contract
  • how much the rent is and how often it will have to be paid (eg: weekly or monthly)
  • the amount of any tenancy deposit
  • whether a guarantor will be needed and, if so, what conditions will be attached
  • whether they will do any reference checks
  • whether they need any extra information from you
  • any extra or changed terms to the proposed contract.

This information must be given to you in writing. If you agree, they can send the information to you by email. Otherwise, they must send it to you in the post or hand it to you in person.

This information should help you decide whether to reserve the property.


What happens if the landlord or letting agent does not give me this information?


You should not pay any holding deposit until you receive this information.

If you pay a holding deposit and you are not given the right information, the landlord or agent must pay it back to you. Until it is paid back the landlord or agent cannot evict you using the ‘section 21 procedure’ .


What should happen once I pay a holding deposit?


Once you pay a holding deposit the landlord or agent should stop advertising the property.

What happens next depends on whether you enter into a tenancy agreement :

If you decide to enter into a tenancy agreement

You have 15 days from when you pay a holding deposit to enter into a tenancy agreement. This is called the deadline for agreement.

You can agree a different deadline with the landlord or agent in writing.

If you enter into a tenancy agreement, the landlord should either:

• return your holding deposit within 7 days of the date of the tenancy, or

• put it towards a tenancy deposit or the first rent payment.

If you decide not to rent the property

Your landlord or agent can normally keep the holding deposit if you either:

• decide not to go ahead with the tenancy, or

• fail to take reasonable steps to enter into a tenancy by the deadline (for example, you failed to give your landlord information that was needed in order to set up the tenancy).

If either of these things happen, the landlord or agent can only keep the holding deposit if they gave you all the required information about the deposit before you paid it.

If your landlord decides not to rent to you

You should normally get your holding deposit back within 7 days of the deadline for agreement if the landlord decides not to offer you a tenancy.

The landlord or agent can only keep your holding deposit if the reason for deciding not to rent to you is because you provided false or misleading information in order to get the tenancy (for example, you said your income was a lot higher than it is).


How to get your holding deposit back


Write to the landlord or agent if they keep a holding deposit when they shouldn’t do. Ask for your money back in full.

If you think the landlord or letting agent has unfairly kept your holding deposit get advice. You might be able to claim it back in the county court. Your council should be able to give advice on applying to the county court.


Restriction on eviction


Your landlord or letting agent cannot evict you using the ‘section 21 procedure’ if they have failed to repay to you a holding deposit which should have been returned.

See our pages on eviction of private tenants for more information and get advice as soon as you can if you have received a section 21 notice.


What other fees can a landlord charge me?


Most other letting fees for tenants in Wales are now banned. Find out here which fees are banned and what you will be able to do if you are charged a banned fee.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Letting fees

Letting fees


Most letting fees for tenants in Wales are banned.




Letting fees ban


The letting fees ban applies to new assured shorthold tenancies in Wales entered into on or after the 1st September 2019.

It applies to both private landlords and letting agents.


What fees are banned?


A landlord or letting agent cannot charge you fees for:

  • checking references or credit checks
  • administration
  • drawing up a tenancy
  • renewing a tenancy
  • amending a tenancy term, for example adding in more conditions
  • requesting or amending a tenancy if one joint tenant leaves and is replaced by another
  • viewing a property
  • drawing up an inventory
  • arranging a guarantor
  • inspecting a property at the end of the tenancy.

These are all banned fees. If your tenancy includes a term requiring you to pay a banned fee, then this term is not binding on you.

If you have paid a banned fee to your landlord they cannot evict you using a section 21 notice until the money is repaid. For more information on the section 21 eviction procedure, click here.


What you can be charged for


You can only be charged fees in the following situations:

  • you have broken a term of your tenancy agreement and the landlord or agent is entitled to charge a ‘default payment’ (see below)
  • you are late paying your rent (see below)
  • you want to a reserve a property and the landlord or agent is charging a ‘holding deposit’.
  • If you want to leave a tenancy early, the landlord or agent can ask you to pay the rent for the remainder of the tenancy but cannot charge an additional ‘exit’ or ‘check-out’ fee’.

Default payments


A landlord or letting agent can charge you a ‘default payment’ if you have broken a term of your tenancy agreement.

A default payment can only be charged if there is a specific term in the tenancy agreement allowing for such a payment. If there is no mention of the situation in your agreement, then any payment charged is a banned fee. Any demand for a default payment should be made in writing.

The amount that a landlord or letting agent can charge you for replacing a lock, key or other security device is limited to the the actual cost of the replacement. You should ask your landlord or letting agent to show you the receipt or invoice for the cost of replacement before you pay it.


Fees for late payment of rent


A landlord or letting agent can charge you a fee if you are late paying your rent.

The amount you can be charged for late payment is limited:

  • you must be at least 7 days late with paying your rent before a fee can be charged
  • any interest charged must not be more than the Bank of England’s base rate plus 3% APR. For example, a 30-day late payment of rent of £600, at a Bank of England base rate of 0.75%, plus 3%, would result in a charge of £1.85. You can check the base rate here.

Any late payment fee over these limits is a banned fee.

If you think you are going to be late paying your rent, for example, there is a delay in your benefit claim, make sure you tell your landlord as soon as possible. They are more likely to be sympathetic and not charge you a fee if they know it is going to be paid soon.


Other costs of renting


You can still be asked to pay:

Your landlord can also still charge you for utilities such as gas, electricity and water if they are included in your agreement. They can’t charge you more than they pay the supplier. Your landlord can also still charge you for energy efficiency improvements under a green deal plan.

You might also have to pay for a TV licence and any phone, internet or satellite TV charges.


Restrictions on the rent you can be charged


A landlord or letting agent cannot charge you different amounts of rent each month (or week, depending on when your rent is charged). The rent must be the same for each charging period (eg: £500 each month, rather than £300 one month and £500 the next).

If you are charged extra one month (or week), then the additional amount would be banned and you would be entitled to ask for it back.

If you are happy to have different amounts of rent, you and your landlord are however entitled to agree to it.


Restriction on eviction


Your landlord or letting agent cannot evict you using the ‘section 21 procedure’ if:

  • you have paid a banned fee and it has not been returned, or
  • they have failed to repay to you a holding deposit which should have been returned.

See our pages on eviction of private tenants for more information and get advice as soon as you can if you have received a section 21 notice.


If your tenancy began before 1 September 2019


The ban on fees will not apply to you if:

  • your tenancy began before 1 September 2019, and
  • you have not signed a renewal tenancy.

Your landlord or agent will still be able to charge you fees. This includes charges for:

  • admin costs for things like phone calls and postage
  • late payment fees
  • fees for changing your tenancy.

There is no limit on how much you can be charged if your tenancy began before 1 September 2019 but letting agents must advertise their fees on their websites and in their offices. They must tell you:

  • the cost of each fee including VAT
  • what the fee covers.

A letting agent can be fined up to £5000 if they do not comply with these rules.

If you disagree with the fees that are being charged, or they are hidden or unclear, you can complain to the letting agency. If they do not sort out the problem tell your local council’s tenancy relations officer or contact Rent Smart Wales who can investigate for you.


Where can I get more information?


Use our toolkit to find out what you can do if you have been charged a banned letting fee.

The Welsh Government has produced detailed guidance on the letting fee ban.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

What other help can I get if I am on Universal Credit?

What other help can I get if I am on Universal Credit?


There might be other financial help or budgeting support available to you if you are on Universal Credit (UC).



Help in a crisis


Budgeting advance
If you have been receiving UC for 6 months or more you can apply for a budgeting advance to help pay for emergency household costs (for example buying a new cooker or for help getting a job or staying in work). A budgeting advance is a loan which you will repay through your regular UC payments.

The minimum amount you can apply for is £100. The maximum amount you can get is:
• £348 if you’re single
• £464 if you have a partner but no children
• £812 if you or your partner claim Child Benefit.

To apply for a budgeting advance contact your UC work coach and to find out more, click here.

A budgeting advance is different to an advance payment of your UC, which is a payment to help you whilst you are waiting for your first payment of UC.

Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF)
In Wales, you may be able to get help from the Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF).

The DAF provides urgent grants to people as a last resort, and can include awards for certain electrical white goods, such as fridges and cookers, in addition to household items such as beds, bedding, curtains and kitchen items. Grants do not need to be paid back. In an emergency or disaster, small cash payments may be available. For more information on the DAF see our advice on cash in a crisis.

Food banks
Food banks provide food parcels to people in need. They are often run by church or community groups.

Some food banks offer a hot meal and advice. If you live in a rural area and cannot afford to travel to collect your box, some food banks offer a free delivery service.

Contact the Trussell Trust to find your nearest food bank and see what they offer in your area.

Energy bills
If you are waiting for a UC payment and run out of gas or electricity contact your energy supplier and ask for an emergency top up. You will have to pay any top up back though your meter.

Hardship payments
If your UC has stopped because of a sanction, you might be able to apply for hardship payments to help you pay for essential things like food and heating. You will normally have to pay back any hardship payment through your regular UC payments.

Ring the free UC helpline on 0800 328 9344 to ask for a hardship payment.

For more ideas about what to do in a crisis, click here.


Other financial help


If you are on UC you might also be able to get help with:

Council tax
You might qualify for a reduction in the amount of council tax you have to pay.

Childcare
If you are expecting your first child, or you already have a child or children under 16 years and you are having a multiple birth, you might be able to claim a Sure Start Maternity Grant.

If you receive UC you could qualify for free school meals for your child or children. Contact your school or local council to apply.

If you have a child under 4 or are at least 10 weeks pregnant you can apply for Healthy Start vouchers to get fruit, vegetables and milk – including formula milk – for free.

Housing costs
You can apply for help with payment of your rent as part of your UC claim. This is known as the ‘housing costs’ element of your claim.

If the help you get to pay your housing costs doesn’t cover all your rent you may be able to get a discretionary housing payment.

Health costs
You can have health costs such as prescriptions, eye tests and dental treatments paid for if you are on a low income. Take proof you claim UC when you get your treatment. You can print out statements from your UC account or ask for proof from the UC helpline.

Heating costs
In some areas you can get a cold weather payment towards your energy bills if you have:
• health problems
• a disability
• a dependent child under 5.

If you’re eligible, you’ll automatically get £25 in your account when the temperature drops below freezing for 7 days in a row between November and March.

Contact the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644 if you don’t get it.

Legal bills
You can get help with legal costs through legal aid.

You could get free advice or representation in court if you’re at risk of homelessness or eviction.

Find out about other sources of financial help at Gov.uk


Help with budgeting


Personal Budgeting Support
If you need help with your money when you are claiming UC, you should ask for personal budgeting support. Your work coach should refer you to Citizens Advice for help.

The Money Advice Service can provide more information on UC. You could also use their budget planner and debt test tool to help you organise your money and get things under control.

UC helpline
For help with your claim ring the UC freephone helplines:

Universal Credit helpline: 0800 328 5644
Universal Credit housing line: 0800 328 384
Welsh language line: 0800 328 1744
Text phone: 0800 328 1344
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm (closed on bank holidays).

UC info
For more information on UC, including some common myths, use this tool:






Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Challenging Universal Credit decisions

Challenging Universal Credit decisions


If you think a decision about your Universal Credit (UC) claim is wrong you might be able to ask for it to be looked at again.



Asking for a review


You can ask for the decision to be looked at, or ‘reviewed’, again. This is called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.

This could be because you were:

  • paid the wrong amount
  • sanctioned when you shouldn’t have been
  • refused UC when you should be allowed to claim.

You need to ask for a review within 1 month of the decision date. In some circumstances this can be extended to 13 months but only if you can show you have a good reason for asking for the review late (for example, you were in hospital or needed an interpreter to understand the letters).


How do I ask for a review?


You can ask for a review by:

  • writing a message in your UC journal
  • calling the number on the decision letter
  • completing a CRMR1 form and returning it to the address on the decision letter
  • writing a letter to ask for a review and sending it to the address on the decision letter.

If you ask for a review online or by phone, it is usually a good idea to follow it up with a request in writing.

You should also provide your work coach with a copy of your review request.

If your UC journal has been closed because it was decided that you cannot claim, your only option may be to write to: Freepost DWP Universal Credit Full Service.


What to include


When you ask for a review make sure you include:

  • your name, address and contact details
  • your National Insurance number
  • the date of the decision
  • the reasons why you disagree with the decision.

Provide evidence such as wage slips, bills or your tenancy agreement to back up why you think the decision is wrong.


What happens next?


You should be told that your request for a review has been received.

The person who looks at your claim again should not be the same person who made the original decision. They may contact you to ask for more information if they need it. You should provide this to them as soon as you can.

When they have considered your claim, they will send you a mandatory reconsideration notice. This will tell you their new decision and why they made it.

If you’re happy with the decision, you don’t have to do anything else.


If you don’t agree with the decision


You can challenge the decision at an independent tribunal.

The tribunal will listen to your arguments, look at the evidence provided and tell you their decision.

There are strict time limits for taking cases to a tribunal.  You should normally get your appeal in within 1 month of the date you received the mandatory reconsideration notice. In special circumstances this can be extended to 13 months (for example, if you were in hospital, needed an interpreter, or you live alone and had difficulty understanding the letters). Make sure you explain any reasons for applying late.

The easiest way for you to appeal is to complete a SSCS1 form.

Get advice straight away if you want to appeal. A benefits adviser might be able to help you fill in the form. Contact Citizens Advice or use the advicelocal guide to search for an adviser near you.

For more advice on how to take your case to a tribunal click here.





Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

Universal Credit key facts


  • One single payment to cover living costs and rent
  • Paid monthly
  • Claim online
  • Paid into your bank account

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Deductions from Universal Credit

Deductions from Universal Credit


Deductions can be made from your Universal Credit (UC) to repay money you owe to people like your landlord and energy company.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

Some deductions from universal credit (UC) were temporarily suspended during the coronavirus pandemic.  If you think you were having deductions taken from your UC, make sure you check if there was a break and if the deductions are currently still being made. Check your online UC journal.

If money was being taken to repay rent arrears and those deductions stopped, it might mean your arrears have increased. You will need to find another way to pay off what you owe. If you are unable to do that then you should contact your landlord immediately. You might be in breach of a court order if you don’t pay and you could risk being evicted.


When deductions can be made


Money can be taken from your UC to repay debts for things like:

  • rent and service charges
  • mortgage interest
  • gas, electricity and water
  • council tax.

How deductions are made


Your landlord, utility company or local council can apply for money to be taken from your UC if you owe them money.

In most cases, the money will be taken automatically and you won’t need to give your permission. The deduction will show in your online UC account.

If no information is given about what the money is being taken for, leave a message in your UC journal or ring the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644 (Welsh language : 0800 328 1744) to find out more.


How much can be deducted?


Only 5% can be taken from the main part of your UC – called the standard allowance – for each debt you owe.

The exceptions are:

  • rent arrears – anything between 10% and 20% of your standard allowance can be deducted (unlike deductions from housing benefit there is no longer a fixed amount)
  • court fines – deductions are made at a minimum of 5% of your standard allowance and a maximum of £108.

Usually the total amount of deductions that can be made is up to 40% of your standard allowance for only 3 debts at a time. (This will reduce to 30% in October 2019).

Sometimes, more than 40% of your standard allowance can be taken if it’s thought to be in your best interests. For example, if it could help you to keep your home.


Can I get the deductions reduced?


If deductions are being made from your UC and they are making it hard for you to manage, ask your work coach if they can be reduced.

If you can’t get hold of your work coach, leave a note in your online journal or ring the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644 (Welsh language : 0800 328 1744).

Explain if the reduced amount is making things hard for you, for example if you’re struggling to:

  • buy food
  • look after your children
  • pay your rent.

If you can show that you can clear the debt or rent arrears yourself the deductions might be stopped or reduced.


Where can I get more help?


Get advice from Citizens Advice or other benefit adviser. Use the advicelocal guide to find an adviser in your area.

If you’re in rent arrears or other debts get advice from Shelter Cymru as soon as you can.




Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Can I claim Universal Credit if I am homeless?

Can I claim Universal Credit if I am homeless?


Yes. Just because you are homeless does not mean that you cannot claim Universal Credit (UC). Take a look at the advice below to help you.



Making the application


Before you start, have a look at our advice on Applying for Universal Credit .

UC claims are normally made and dealt with online. If you can’t get online you can go into your local library or Jobcentre to use the computers there.

If you need help filling in the form online at the Jobcentre, make sure you ask a member of staff. They should refer you for help from Citizens Advice under the Help to Claim service.

It can take around an hour to fill in the form, possibly longer.


I do not have an address, email address or bank account


If you do not have an address, put on the form the address of:

  • a hostel you last stayed at
  • a family member you trust, or
  • the Jobcentre.

The form will ask you for an email address. If you do not have one the Jobcentre should help you set one up, or put you in touch with someone who can do that for you.

UC payments are usually made directly into your bank, building society or credit union account. If you do not have an account speak to the Jobcentre. They might be able to set up payments through the Payment Exception Service. Payments are put straight on to a card, voucher or text. You then take that to your nearest PayPoint outlet to collect the money.

The Jobcentre should also give you help to open a bank account.


What do I do next?


Once you have filled in the online form, use the Jobcentre phone to book your ‘Initial Evidence Interview’. This interview will be with someone called your ‘work coach’.

Ring the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644 to book your interview. (Welsh language : 0800 328 1744).

If you forget to book your interview, you should get a text or an email reminding you to do it.

When you go back for your interview you should take with you any documents you have, including any ID. See our checklist of things you can take with you. If you do not have everything, don’t worry – just take as much as you have.

If you do not have any identification the Jobcentre should still be able to help you. They may :

  • ask you some security questions (if you have claimed benefits before)
  • ask for a letter from a professional such as a doctor, social worker or support worker, or
  • check to see whether anyone who works in the Jobcentre knows you.

It’s very important you go to the interview, even if it is hard to get there. If you don’t go your claim for UC might be closed and you will have to start all over again. This will mean that you could lose out on money.

If you can’t get to the interview call the UC helpline straight away, or log on to your online account and explain why you can’t make it.


Your ‘Claimant Commitment’


Your workcoach will want to agree with you what you are going to do to look for work. This is called a ‘Claimant Commitment’.

It’s important that you can keep to what you agree in your Claimant Commitment. So make sure you tell your work coach about any issues you may have, such as problems with your mental health or addiction. Your work coach might be able to:

  • help you get some support
  • reduce the amount of time each week that you should be looking for work
  • change the type of activities you are expected to do.

If you are homeless, and actively looking for somewhere to live, your work coach might agree that you do not have to look for work for a temporary period. This could give you time to look for somewhere to live.

Make sure you tell your work coach if you are struggling to keep to what you have agreed. Your payments might stop if you don’t.


Help with your payments


You will normally have to wait at least 5 weeks before any UC payments are made.

Advance payments

If you haven’t got enough to live on before your first payment is made, you can apply for an advance payment. To ask for an advance, you will need to talk to your work coach at the Jobcentre, request one in your online journal, or ring the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644. (Welsh language : 0800 328 1744).

Changes to the way you are paid

UC is usually paid in to your bank account once a month.

If you are worried about getting paid monthly you can ask your work coach for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA). This could mean:

  • UC is paid to you more often
  • any payments for your rent go straight to your landlord.

Money advice or budgeting support

If you need further help with your money or you are struggling because of the way your UC is paid, speak to your work coach. They should be able to sort out some help and support for you. This is known as ‘Personal Budgeting Support’.


Keeping in touch


It is important that you stay in touch with your work coach. The best way of doing this is to regularly log on to your online account. If you do not have internet access or wifi go to your local library or Jobcentre and ask to use the computers there.


Help with housing


If you need help with housing, ask your work coach to contact your local council on your behalf. The council has legal duties to people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness and might be able to help you find accommodation.


Where can I get more help?


If you need more help sorting out your UC claim or you are struggling with money, get advice as soon as you can. There are organisations that can help. Contact Citizens Advice for support under the Help to Claim service or use the advicelocal guide to find an adviser in your area.

Have a look at this Guide on applying for UC if you are homeless.





Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Can I claim for help paying my mortgage?

Can I claim for help paying my mortgage?


Your Universal Credit (UC) claim can include a claim for help paying your housing costs, including mortgage interest payments.

These payments are known as Support for Mortgage Interest payments (SMI).



How much help will I get towards my mortgage payments?


UC can help you pay the interest on your mortgage. It cannot help you pay anything towards the capital sum of your mortgage.

You can usually claim help with interest payments on loans up to £200,000.

The amount you get is based on a set rate of interest on what’s left of your mortgage. The rate is set at the Bank of England’s average mortgage rate – currently 2.61%. Check Gov.uk for any changes in this rate.


Do I qualify for help towards my mortgage payments?


UC housing costs payments are only available for UC claimants who are not doing any paid work.

You will have to wait until your 10th UC payment (39 weeks from the date you claim) before any housing costs payments are made. This is known as the ‘qualifying period’.


How are the payments made to my mortgage?


Payments are paid straight to your lender.

The payments are paid as a loan. This means that you have to pay them back, with interest, when you sell or transfer ownership of your home. The current rate of interest added to the loan is 1.5% but this may go up or down.


What should I do if I cannot wait for 39 weeks, or cannot afford my mortgage?


If you are claiming UC but cannot afford your mortgage, you might have to reconsider your housing options. Have a look at our pages on mortgage arrears and mortgage repossession for further advice.





Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Can I claim for help paying my rent?

Can I claim for help paying my rent?


Your Universal Credit (UC) claim can include a claim for help paying your housing costs, including rent payments. If you are claiming UC there is no need to make a separate claim for housing benefit.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

If your income has been affected by coronavirus and you are currently getting UC housing costs you should report any changes to your income to the DWP as soon as you can. If you have an online account, send a message to your work coach. You can also call the free UC helpline on 0800 328 5644 (Welsh language : 0800 012 1888). Your benefit will usually increase if you report an income drop promptly.

If you are unsure if you are entitled to UC housing costs, you can find out more about what you can claim on the entitledto website.

If you have applied for UC housing costs but are worried about paying your rent in the meantime, use our sample wording to send a letter, email or text to your landlord.


How much help will I get towards my rent?


UC can help you pay:

  • rent
  • some service charges such as cleaning or maintenance of communal areas.

The amount of help you get depends on who your landlord is:

I have a private landlord
The amount you receive will be worked out using the local housing allowance rate (LHA) for your area.

Your LHA rate is based on:

  • where you live in the UK
  • the number of bedrooms you’re entitled to under the rules.

You can use the LHA Direct website to find out the maximum amounts allowed in different areas.

The council or a housing association are my landlord
The amount you receive will be based on:

  • your eligible rent, and
  • how many bedrooms you have in your home.

Eligible rent is the amount of rent you pay minus any service charges that UC doesn’t cover.

Service charges not covered include:

  • heating, water or lighting in your home
  • personal care and support
  • meals.

The number, age and sex of those in your household affect how many bedrooms you can claim for. The amount of help you receive will be reduced if you have too many bedrooms. This is sometimes known as the bedroom tax.

Use entitledto’s benefits calculator to get an estimate of how much you can claim.


Restrictions on the amount of help you can get towards your housing costs


Housing cost contributions
Deductions known as ‘housing cost contributions’ are made for each non-dependant in your household. Non-dependants are usually adults who live with you on an informal basis. For example, a friend or family member who doesn’t pay rent.

For every non-dependent in your household, a fixed amount will be deducted from the amount you get. This is currently £75.15 every calendar month.

Housing cost contributions won’t be deducted if you or your partner are:

  • certified blind, or
  • receiving certain disability benefits.

Housing costs contributions also won’t be deducted if the person living with you is:

  • under 21
  • receiving state pension credit
  • a carer
  • responsible for a child under 5, or
  • receiving certain disability benefits.

Under 35s renting from a private landlord
You can usually only get the shared accommodation rate if you are single, renting privately and under 35 with no children.

Housing costs on 2 homes
Generally you can only get help towards your housing costs for the home you normally live in. If you do have to pay rent on 2 homes, UC will only help you with the rent on both if:

  • you have left your normal home because of a fear of violence and are living somewhere else. You must intend to return to your normal home (UC can help you for up to 12 months)
  • you are waiting for disabled adaptations to be done on a new home and are living in your old home whilst you are waiting (UC can help you for up to 4 weeks)
  • you are a large family and the council or housing association has housed you in 2 homes.

UC will probably not help you pay rent on 2 homes if you have to do so for any other reason. So it is important you give in your notice at your old accommodation and move in to your new home as soon as you can.

Away from your home for a temporary period
Sometimes you can get help with your housing costs even if you are away from home for a temporary period, for example:

  • you are in prison (paid for the first 6 months)
  • you are away from home due to fear of abuse (paid for up to 12 months)
  • you are away for any other reason, you do not leave the UK and you intend to return home – for example, you are on holiday or in hospital (paid for up to 6 months).

Renting from a close family member
You can’t get help towards your housing costs if you pay rent to a close family member who you live with.

Use entitledto’s benefits calculator to get an estimate of how much you can get.


How will housing costs be paid?


Housing costs will usually be paid directly to you as part of your monthly UC payment. Payments will be made to you monthly in arrears. You are expected to budget for your rent and pay it from your single monthly UC payment and any other money you get.


Can I change the way housing costs are paid?


You can ask for housing costs to be paid in a different way if you have rent arrears or find it hard to budget. To do this you need to ask for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA).

This could mean that your housing costs are:

Paid directly to your landlord
If you find it hard to pay your rent on time, your housing costs can be paid to your landlord. This is called a ‘managed payment’.

Paid to you every week or fortnight
This is called a ‘more frequent payment’.

Split with your partner
If you claim as a couple, your monthly payment normally goes into 1 bank account. In exceptional circumstances it can be split between you. This could be where, for example, you feel you are at risk of domestic or financial abuse.

An APA is most likely to be agreed if you are vulnerable in some way, for example, if you:

  • are homeless
  • are in rent arrears
  • have an addiction to drugs or alcohol
  • have severe debt problems
  • have experienced domestic violence or abuse
  • you are in supported accommodation, or
  • have a disability.

To ask for an APA you will need to speak to your work coach, call the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644 (Mon-Fri 8am-6pm) or  ask for it in your online journal. It would help if you can provide information to show you’re struggling, such as:

  • proof you’re in rent arrears or have other priority debts
  • personal issues that make it difficult to budget.

A landlord can ask for an APA themselves if you have rent arrears (landlord guidance here and also available in Welsh here).

If you are told you can’t have your housing costs paid differently, you can ask for the decision to be looked at again but there is no automatic right to appeal.

Any APA that is agreed will be reviewed regularly.


Joint tenancies


If you have a joint tenancy and your partner leaves, you may find that UC will only pay half of your housing costs.

If this happens to you, give your work coach :

  • a letter from your landlord confirming that you have to pay all of your rent yourself
  • a copy of your council tax bill showing that you receive a 25% single person discount.

If you still have problems, get advice.


I am in rent arrears


If you are in arrears with your rent then you might be able to arrange for money to be deducted straight from your UC to repay the arrears.

Either you or your landlord can ask for a deduction.

For more information about deductions from UC, click here.

Remember to get advice if you’re in rent arrears.


When do I claim Housing Benefit instead?


If you live in a hostel, refuge, or supported accommodation you can claim UC but if you receive support you might not get your housing costs paid.

You will have to claim housing benefit as well to cover your housing costs.

Ask your landlord or housing provider if you don’t know whether to claim housing benefit at the same time as UC.


Where can I get more help?


If the help you get to pay your housing costs doesn’t cover all your rent you may be able to get a discretionary housing payment (DHP). DHPs can be paid even if you already have an APA in place.

Money Advice Service can provide more information on managing your rent payments on UC. You could also use their budget planner to help you organise your money and get things under control.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.