Universal Credit and help to pay rent
Find out if you could be entitled to Universal Credit for help to pay your rent and how to apply.
Universal Credit is a new way of paying benefits. It brings together several 'elements' depending on your needs and combines these into one monthly payment. This payment goes straight into your bank account.
Universal Credit replaces most new claims for:
Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credits.
If you already get one of the benefits above you will usually stay on it until your circumstances change, but if this happens get advice. Not every change means your benefits need to change.
Help to pay rent
Most people making a new claim for benefits get any help with their housings costs paid as part of their Universal Credit claim. The sections below explain this in more detail.
But there are some people who still need to make a claim for Housing Benefit to get help with their rent. If:
you or your partner have reached State Pension age
you or your partner have been getting Pension Credit since before 15 May 2019
you live in temporary homeless accommodation
you get care or support from your landlord and they are a charity or a housing association - for example sheltered housing
If any of these situations apply to you see our page on Housing Benefit.
If you don't fall into one of these categories then any help to pay your rent will be paid through your Universal Credit claim.
Who can claim Universal Credit
You could be entitled to Universal Credit if you are
working but on a low income, or have expensive childcare costs or,
if you are looking for work, or
if you care for someone or
you can't work due to health problems or a disability
To be able to claim Universal Credit you need to:
be 18 years old or over – if you are 16 or 17 in limited circumstances, for example, if you have a child
be under State Pension age
live in the UK - there are extra rules if you’re not a British citizen
have less than £16,000 in savings
If you live with a partner, their income and savings are taken into account too.
If you live with other adults this might affect how much you get. For example, if you live with your parents you might get less help with housing costs.
You can claim Universal Credit if you’re working on a low income, this includes being self-employed. The amount of money you’ll be entitled to will be reduced in proportion to how much you earn.
How the amount you get is worked out
Universal Credit is made up of a 'standard allowance' for you and your partner if you have one and five additional 'elements' which you might get depending on your circumstances:
child and disabled child additions
disability or health needs
How to claim
Claims for Universal Credit are made and managed through an online account.
If you need help making a claim you can call the universal credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.
It's very important that you provide the correct information in your universal credit claim. If you get an overpayment because of wrong information in your claim you could be fined.
How to check if you're entitled to benefits
Turn to Us has an online benefit calculator. You can use this to check if you are entitled to any extra money. It can be useful to have information with you about any money you have coming into your household already and what your monthly rent payments are before you use this tool.
Scotland’s Financial Health Service Advice offers lots of useful information about money and finances and has helpful links to services by council area.
Universal Credit payments are made monthly and they'll go straight into your bank account. This means that you need to make a monthly budget to make sure that you can afford important payments, like your rent, food and bills.
Once you apply it will usually take 5 weeks to get your first universal credit payment.
You can ask for an advance payment of universal credit if you don't think you'll have enough money to live on while you wait for your first payment.
How to work out your budget
National Debtline Scotland has an easy to use online Budgeting Tool which you can use to work out your monthly budget.
It can be useful to have all the details of what money you have coming into your home along with details to hand of your rent, bills and any other expenses when you use this tool.
The tool allows you to save a copy and/or print out the information for later use.
Paying your rent
If you pay rent, some of your universal credit will be for your housing costs. Usually, this will be included in the Universal Credit payment that goes into your bank account so you will need to arrange to pay this to your landlord.
If you're already on housing benefit when you apply for universal credit, you’ll still get this for 2 weeks after you make your claim. You don’t need to pay this back.
If you think your rent will be late because you’re waiting for your Universal Credit payment, talk to your landlord. They might agree to wait for payment if you explain the situation.
If your payment doesn't cover all your rent
If there is a shortfall between the amount of rent you need to pay and the amount covered by universal credit, check if you can apply for Discretionary Housing Payment.
If you start work or increase your hours
If you start work or start working more hours, you need to update your online account but your benefit won't automatically stop. The payments will be gradually reduced the more you earn.
Last updated: 27 January 2021
Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.