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.
How much help will I get towards my rent?
UC can help you pay:
- 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
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 £72.16 every calendar month and will increase to £73.89 in April 2019.
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.
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.
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 and debt test tool to help you organise your money and get things under control.