If you rent your home through a local council or housing association, you could receive help with your housing costs through Universal Credit (UC).
Your full housing entitlement is added to your Universal Credit award as a housing element and remains as part of your claim even if you work fulltime. This means that even if you've never been entitled to Housing Benefit before, your UC payment will be calculated taking into account your rent and the housing element will still be part of your claim.
Your total Universal Credit award (including all elements) is then reduced by deductions for wages, other income, etc.
This page covers information for social housing tenants, including:
How to report and verify your housing costs
When you first apply for Universal Credit (UC) you will be asked details of your housing situation.
If you're already claiming UC and move into a new property where you are responsible for the rent, you need to report this as a 'change of circumstances' and should do this on the day you move in. Remember the housing element will always be based on your circumstances on the last day of your assessment period.
When reporting housing costs to Universal Credit you will be asked:
details of your housing provider (their name and address).
how much your rent is and how often you pay.
about any services charges and how often you pay.
any rent-free weeks you may have.
how many people are tenancy holders.
who else lives in the property.
Unlike with private rentals where UC ask to see a copy of you tenancy agreement, UC will then verify your housing costs directly with your housing provider. If there is a discrepancy in what you have reported and what the housing provider has confirmed, UC will create a ‘to-do’ for you to agree or disagree with the information provided by your housing provider.
How much will I receive?
In social housing, your UC housing costs element will be based on your eligible rent. UC do this automatically when producing your statement.
If you would like to calculate your housing element in advance, you need to work out rent as a monthly amount – this is not 4-weekly. To calculate your monthly rent you need to consider if you have any rent-free weeks as UC will take these into consideration when working out your monthly average.
If you are charged rent weekly – Multiply your weekly rent by the number of weeks you pay rent per year and then divide by 12. For example, if you have to pay £100 per week and have 2 rent free weeks, you would do 100 x 50 and then divide by 12.
Note: Remember your housing element is the amount on your statement for rent and where applicable includes deductions such as non-dependant deductions and deductions for spare bedrooms (known as the 'bedroom tax'). Your UC full entitlement may have deductions for wages, other income, debts, etc.
When calculating your housing cost entitlement, UC will take into account the number of bedrooms your household requires.
You would be entitled to one bedroom for each of the following:
You (and your partner if you have one)
Any child 16 or over (qualifying young person) still on your claim
Any non-dependent who is not a child
Two children of either sex, who are under 10
Two children of the same sex, under 16
Any other child
You may be entitled to an additional bedroom for an overnight carer, disabled child unable to share or if you or your partner is disabled and unable to share with partner.
Your housing element may be reduced by bedroom tax which makes a deduction if you are classed as having spare rooms. 14% deduction for one spare bedroom, 25% deduction for two or more spare bedrooms.
Note: If you would like to work out your housing element after UC have applied the bedroom tax, multiply your rent amount by 0.86 for one 'extra' bedroom and 0.75 for two or more.
Note for Scottish Claimants: The Scottish Government have given funding to each local authority in Scotland to help those affected by the bedroom tax. This means that anyone that is affected by the bedroom tax, you can apply and be awarded a DHP to cover the shortfall.
Non Dependent Deduction (Housing Cost Contribution)
There may be a non-dependent deduction of £85.73 for any other adult who lives in your house, unless an exemption applies.
A non-dependent is someone who resides with you that is not a dependent child or a partner and is not liable for paying the rent.
It is not someone who you collect rent from as a sub-tenant.
It is normally a grown up son or daughter or elderly relative.
There will be no deduction if the non-dependent is:
receiving Pension Credit
receiving the care component of Disability Living Allowance at the middle or highest rate
receiving the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment
receiving Attendance Allowance
receiving Carer's Allowance
the primary carer for a child aged 4 or under
Or if the main renter (or partner) is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (middle/high rate care), Personal Independence Payment (daily living) or Attendance Allowance or you or your partner are registered blind.
Taking in a lodger can be a great way to offset any additional costs.
A lodger is not a non-dependent.
A lodger is someone who pays you rent on a commercial basis to live in your home but is not part of your household.
A bedroom will not be allocated for a lodger.
Income from a lodger is disregarded by UC, meaning it should not impact your claim.
For more information check out the Rent a Room Scheme.
Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP)
If you're struggling with your rent and need more help with housing costs, you may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from your local council. These discretionary payments are primarily to help with paying rent although they can also help with other housing-related costs.
To be eligible for a DHP you need to be in receipt of the housing element of Universal Credit.
A DHP can help if you have a rent shortfall due to:
Local Housing Allowance Rates being less than your rent
you are subject to the bedroom tax
you are benefit capped – this will show as a reduction in overall Universal Credit entitlement rather than a reduction in rent. You can still apply for a DHP as councils recognise that rent entitlement make up a large part of the reason someone is benefit capped.
You may also be able to access a DHP to cover a deposit or rent in advance to secure a home. Some councils also offer a DHP to help with moving costs, especially if you are downsizing.
Applying for a DHP
You cannot apply for a DHP until after the end of your first Universal Credit Assessment Period.
To make a claim for a DHP you need to contact your local council.
Market rent or mid-market rent
Occasionally, a tenancy can be labelled a 'market rent' and whether this should be treated as social housing rules or LHA rules (private tenancy) depends on who the landlord is.
If the landlord is a local authority, non-profit Registered Provider of social housing (applicable in England) / a Registered Social Landlord (applicable in Scotland or Wales) then UC housing element falls under the social housing Sector rules (as above).
If the landlord is a private company, or a profit-making registered provider of social housing and their rent is at market rents levels then the LHA rules would apply.
If you are unsure, speak to your landlord.