Universal Credit and paying rent

Your Universal Credit payment might include a ‘housing costs’ element to help towards the cost of your rent. In England and Wales, you’ll be responsible for paying your rent directly to your landlord. Find tips on managing your payments, working out the best way to pay your rent, and what to do if you fall into rent arrears.

Paying your rent if you’ve been getting Housing Benefit

In England and Wales

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Rather than having Housing Benefit paid directly to your landlord, your Universal Credit payment will include the money for your rent. This means you’ll need to arrange to pay it yourself.

Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears. If your payment date is different from the date you would usually pay your rent, speak to your landlord.

If you struggle to manage your money, or you’re vulnerable, you can ask for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA). This will mean your rent is either:

  • paid directly to your landlord, or
  • paid to you weekly or fortnightly as a More Frequent Payment (MFP).

In Scotland

After you get your first Universal Credit payment, you can choose to have your housing costs paid directly to your landlord or carry on paying them yourself.

In Northern Ireland

If you’re claiming Universal Credit in Northern Ireland, your housing costs will automatically be paid to your landlord. However, you can still choose to pay your landlord yourself if you want.

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How much rent will Universal Credit pay?

The housing element of Universal Credit is designed to cover some or all your rent and any service charges on the property. How much you get depends on whether you’re a private or social tenant.

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If you rent privately

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If you rent privately, your housing costs are based on the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) for your area. For example, if you’re single, aged over 35 and have no dependent children, the LHA will be based on the cost of renting a one bedroom flat locally.

The number of people who live in your home and the number of bedrooms is also important. If you have any spare bedrooms, you’ll only get housing costs to cover a smaller property.

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If you live in social housing

If you pay rent to a local authority, council or housing association, you’ll get your full rent as part of your Universal Credit payment.

However, this is reduced if it’s decided you have more bedrooms than you need.

Claiming Universal Credit for the first time

If you’re making a new Universal Credit claim, it takes five weeks to get your first payment. It’s a good idea to tell your landlord so they're aware of your situation.

If you’re worried about how you’ll pay the rent, it’s important to talk to them about what you can do until you get your first payment.

If you’re living in social housing, many housing associations and councils offer support to help you work out how to pay your rent on Universal Credit. It can be worth talking to them if you’re worried about how you’ll manage. Sorting this out early can help you avoid falling behind on your rent.

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Universal Credit advance payments

You can apply for an advance, which could help with your rent until you get your first payment.

Find out more in our guide Universal Credit advance payments and other help.

Working out how to pay your rent

Being responsible for your own rent payments might mean you’ll need to make some changes to the way you budget.

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Make rent your top priority

There are a few things you can do to make paying your rent easier. Choose what works best for you. Here are a few tips.

Move the day your rent is paid

Ask your landlord if it’s possible to move the day your rent is due closer to your Universal Credit payment day. Some will let you do this.

Set up a standing order or Direct Debit

When you’ve had your first Universal Credit payment and you know what day it will be paid, set up a standing order or a Direct Debit for your rent payment.

That way, as soon as the money comes in, the rent goes straight out again.

Open a separate account just for your rent

Then set up a standing order so that as soon as your Universal Credit payment goes into your main account, your rent goes out to the separate account. It will sit there until rent day.

Use a prepaid card

Use this for your spending money and leave the money for your rent, and other bills, in your bank account. Be aware that you’ll be charged fees for using a prepaid card.

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If you know you’ll be tempted to use your rent money for other things, try to come up with an arrangement where you don’t have access to it. For example, by asking someone else to look after it for you.

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Universal Credit and rent arrears

Talk to your landlord if you’re having trouble paying the rent.

It’s important to:

  • keep them updated on your situation
  • always open their letters and return their calls
  • try to talk to them and find a practical solution.

This will show you’re trying to deal with the situation. And it might prevent your landlord from taking further action, such as eviction.

It might be possible to come to an agreement with your landlord where you pay off the arrears month by month. If you do this, make sure you agree on an amount you can afford.

Be realistic. It’s better to make small regular payments than to agree to larger payments only to miss them because you don’t have the money. It’s a good idea to keep track of how much you owe in arrears.

If you’re really struggling with rent arrears, either you or your landlord can ask for your rent to be paid directly to your landlord until you can sort your finances out.

Ask your work coach or contact the Universal Credit helpline to set this up.

If you need support and help managing rent arrears or other debts, you can get free, confidential debt advice online, over the phone or face to face.

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Help with claiming Universal Credit

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If you need help with your claim, call the Universal Credit helpline free on:

Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344

8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (closed on bank and public holidays). Calls are free.

The helpline is currently very busy because of the coronavirus crisis. So you might prefer to use your online account if you can. Sign in on the GOV.UK website

Where to get help

Find out more about dealing with rent arrears:

If your situation is getting out of hand or your landlord is threatening you with eviction, get urgent advice. These organisations can help:

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MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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