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Applying for Universal Credit to help pay your rent

Universal Credit is a benefit that can help pay your rent and other living costs. You could claim if you're on a low income or have no income.

Universal Credit has replaced Housing Benefit for most people.

Apply for Housing Benefit instead if either:

  • you’ve reached State Pension age

  • you live in supported, sheltered or temporary accommodation

Check if you can get Universal Credit

To get Universal Credit, you usually must:

  • be over 18 and under State Pension age

  • live in the UK

  • have less than £16,000 in savings

Even if you’re in work, you could be entitled to claim if you’re on a low income.

Check if you can get Universal Credit on GOV.UK

If you’re already getting other benefits

Some benefits could stop if you apply for Universal Credit, and there’s a risk you could get less money overall.

To check if you’ll be better off on Universal Credit, contact the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service.

If you’re not a British or Irish citizen

Your right to claim benefits depends on your immigration status. You can usually get Universal Credit if you have:

  • settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme

  • refugee status or humanitarian protection

  • right of abode

  • indefinite leave to remain, unless you’re sponsored by a family member

  • a visa under the Ukraine family scheme or the Homes for Ukraine scheme

If you have a different status, check your rights on Citizens Advice.

If your residence document says “no recourse to public funds”, you cannot get Universal Credit. Use the NRPF Network's tool to check what support you can get.

How to apply for Universal Credit

You can apply for Universal Credit on GOV.UK. You’ll need to provide information about:

  • your income and savings

  • people who live with you

  • any circumstances that affect your living costs, like disabilities or childcare

Make sure all the information you give is correct. If you’re overpaid because of wrong information in your application, you’ll have to pay back the money and you could be fined.

How long it takes

You’ll usually get your first payment 5 weeks after you apply.

If you need the money sooner, you can ask for an advance payment. To pay this back, some money will be deducted from your benefits each month for 24 months. Check how to get an advance payment on GOV.UK.

If you’re struggling to pay your rent, talk to your landlord as soon as possible. Tell them you’re claiming Universal Credit and are waiting for the first payment. Check our advice if you have rent arrears.

If you’re moving from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit

You’ll keep getting Housing Benefit for 2 weeks after you apply for Universal Credit. This helps with your costs while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment.

Check how much you can get

The total amount you'll get on Universal Credit depends on your income and your circumstances. For example, you could get extra help if you have children or you’re disabled.

Use the Turn2Us Benefits Calculator to check how much you could get overall.

How much you'll get for rent

Housing costs are included in your Universal Credit claim. This is called the housing element.

If you rent from the council or housing association, the housing element will usually cover the full cost of your rent.

If you rent privately, the maximum you'll get is based on the Local Housing Allowance rate in your area.

If Universal Credit does not cover your full rent

You can apply for Discretionary Housing Payment to cover the difference. The council will tell you if you’re eligible.

How Universal Credit is paid

You’ll receive a single benefit payment into your bank account once a month. You need to pay the rent to your landlord.

You can ask for your housing costs to be paid directly to your landlord. This can make it easier to budget and help you avoid falling behind on rent.

If your circumstances change

To make sure you keep getting the right amount, report any changes that might affect your benefits. If you’re overpaid, you could have to pay the money back.

Report these changes in your online Universal Credit account as soon as possible:

  • your marital status changes, or you start living with your partner

  • someone moves in or out of your home, including children

  • you move house

  • you start a new job or leave a job

  • you become a student

  • you have a child or become a carer

  • your rent goes up or down

  • your health condition changes or you become disabled

  • your immigration status changes

  • any changes to your or your partner’s other benefits, pensions, savings or investments

  • your bank details or contact details change

When your Universal Credit can be reduced

Your housing element could be reduced if:

Money can also be taken from your Universal Credit for:

For help with debt and benefits problems, get money and debt advice as soon as possible.

If you disagree with a Universal Credit decision

You can ask for the decision to be looked at again. This is called a mandatory reconsideration. You must do this within 1 month of the date on your decision letter.

Check GOV.UK guidance on asking for a mandatory reconsideration

If you still think the decision is wrong, you can make an appeal. A tribunal will look at all the evidence and decide if the decision should be changed.

Check GOV.UK guidance on appealing a benefits decision

Last updated: 8 May 2024

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England