What about my housing costs?
If you rent a house or flat, you may get the housing costs element to help with the rent and other costs. Universal Credit (UC) does not include Council Tax Support, so if you are responsible for paying council tax you will need to claim council tax support from your council.
If you rent from the council or a housing association
If you don’t earn any other money apart from benefits, you can get help with your rent. UC will usually cover the whole of your rent if you live in social housing, which is council or housing association property, but you may have to pay towards your rent if:
- You have other income or savings,
- The local authority thinks you have more bedrooms than you need,
- Part of your rent pays for bills or services, such as electricity, meals or laundry services, or
- You have an adult child, friend or relative living with you. They will need to pay towards the rent.
Your housing costs element will be reduced by £73.89 per month for each non-dependant adult that lives with you. This will not apply if the person that lives with you:
- Is under 21 years old,
- Is under 25, claiming UC and who has no earned income,
- Gets pension credit,
- Could, or does, get the middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA),
- Could, or does, get the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP),
- Could, or does, get Attendance Allowance,
- Gets Carer’s Allowance, or
- Is responsible for a child under five years old.
Under-occupancy charge and Discretionary Housing Payments
You will not get all of your rent paid under Universal Credit if you have more bedrooms in your property than the government thinks that you need. This only applies to council or housing association properties and this has been called the 'bedroom tax'. Below is a list of the rules about bedroom tax:
- All adults and couples need their own bedroom.
- Boys under 16 should share a room.
- Girls under 16 should share a room.
- Boys and girls under 10 should share a room, although if one of your children is disabled and your children need their own room, this is possible.
If you have more bedrooms than these rules say you need, then you are ‘under-occupying’ the property.
From 1st April 2017 you are allowed one extra bedroom if you, your partner or your child are disabled and need a carer to stay over and provide overnight care. You do not have to claim any particular benefits to get this, but you must show evidence that you need the extra room for a carer and the carer must also stay over regularly.
From 1st April 2017 you are also allowed one extra bedroom if you cannot share a room with your partner because one of you has a disability. To get this, one of you must be claiming:
- Attendance allowance at the higher rate,
- The care component of DLA at the middle or higher rate, or
- The daily living component of PIP, or
- Armed Forces Independence Payment.
You also have to prove to the local authority that you cannot share a room.
If you still have more bedrooms than the rules say you need, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says you are under-occupying. If this happens, you will get less housing costs element. How much less you get will depend on how many extra rooms you have:
- 14% less if you have one spare bedroom, or
- 25% less if you have two or more spare bedrooms.
In Scotland if you have your Universal Credit Housing costs Element reduced due to the Under Occupancy charge you should be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from your Local Authority (Council) to make up the difference, but you need to apply by completing a DHP application form which you can get from your council. You will need to re-apply each April at the start of the new financial year.
Renting from a private landlord
If you rent from a private landlord, you will get a different amount of housing cost element – how much you get will depend on where you live, how many people you live with and how big the property is.
If you are single and under 35, you will only get enough to rent a room in a shared house but you will be able to get more help if you get:
- The care component of DLA at the middle or highest rate,
- Attendance Allowance,
- The daily living component of PIP at any rate, or
- Regular overnight care from a carer who needs his or her own room.
18-21 year olds and housing costs
From 1 April 2017, you may not be able to get the housing costs element of UC if you are aged 18 -21 and single. There are some exceptions to this rule and you can contact a welfare benefits specialist adviser for more information on this. In Scotland if you are between 18-21 and have not been awarded housing costs element of UC you can apply for your housing costs from the Scottish Welfare Fund which is administered by your local council.
What if I have a mortgage?
If you live in a house or flat with a mortgage and are not earning any money, you may be able to get help with your mortgage.
UC will help with the interest part of a mortgage up to the value of £200,000, for the loan. It will not help to pay back the amount you borrowed and the amount you get is based on the Bank of England’s standard interest rate. You can find out how much the rate is at any time by checking the Support for Mortgage Interest webpage.
You will have to wait nine months from the time you claim until you get your first payment and you will not get any help with your mortgage during this period.
If you have a repayment mortgage, you may have to find another way to top up the mortgage payments; you can ask your lender to switch to an interest-only mortgage.
What if I live in supported housing?
You may live in supported housing, which is when you get care and support as part of your housing. Different organisations can arrange this including:
- The council,
- A housing association,
- A registered charity, or
- Voluntary organisation.
If you live in supported accommodation, you will need to claim housing benefit. You will not get your housing costs paid through Universal Credit.
If you live in supported accommodation, you will need to claim housing benefit. You will not get your housing costs paid through Universal Credit. The rules around supported housing and supported 'exempt' accommodation are complicated, so if you need advice on supported 'exempt' accommodation, you can contact a specialist housing advisor.
- What is Universal Credit?
- How much can I get?
- What if I am working or studying?
- What if I care for someone or have children?
- What about my housing costs?
- How will income, savings and property affect my Universal Credit?
- Will the Benefit Cap affect me?
- How will I get my Universal Credit payments?
- What is the claimant commitment?
- Can I appeal if I disagree with a decision?
- When will I have to claim?
- Next steps