Universal credit

Universal Credit and rent

You may be able to get help with your rent costs under Universal Credit.

The amount you receive will depend on factors such as your income, what your rental charge is, if you have spare bedrooms and if any non-dependants (aged 21 or over) live with you. Any payment you receive towards your rent is called ‘housing costs’.

Housing costs are generally paid with your Universal Credit award, however there are other ways your housing costs can be paid.

Paying your rent

The tenant(s) named on your tenancy agreement are responsible for ensuring that the rent is paid in full and on time. You should consider setting up regular payments via your bank or building society.

Your first UC payment

New UC claimants will have to wait approximately five weeks until their first payment. If you think you will experience financial difficulties during this period we would encourage you to apply for an advance of UC.

You can apply for this at your first appointment or contact the Universal Credit helpline. These advance payments will be recovered from your future UC payments.

Verifying your rental agreement

When you make your online Universal Credit claim you will be advised what verification you need to bring along to your initial meeting at a local jobcentre. If you are unable to gather all the required documents then you should still attend your appointment and the jobcentre staff will discuss the verification process with you. You may be asked to contact your landlord for an updated rental agreement.

Reporting changes in your rental charge

As soon as your landlord provides you with documentary evidence that your rent amount is changing, you should note the details on your UC Journal immediately so that you receive the correct amount of housing costs. Make sure you keep the landlord's letter as you may be asked to bring it to a future JCP appointment.

Changes in household circumstances

Any changes in your household circumstances must be reported on your UC Journal immediately. Failure to do so could lead to an overpayment and possible prosecution. You must also keep your landlord informed of such changes and if you have council tax liability you must also report your changes to the Council Tax Department.

Deductions from Universal Credit for rent arrears

If you have rent arrears you should liaise with your landlord and agree a suitable repayment plan (in addition to paying your full rental charge). Landlords can apply for deductions from your UC award; however you may be able to negotiate a more affordable plan directly with your landlord.

Spare bedrooms

If you live in social housing and are deemed to have more bedrooms than you require, then your housing cost award will be reduced by either 14% (if you have one spare bedroom) or by 25% (if you have two or more spare bedrooms).

This is commonly referred to as the ‘bedroom tax’. If you are affected by this then you should apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Tenancies with ‘rent-free’ weeks

If you have any ‘rent-free’ weeks then your housing cost element will be averaged out to give a monthly equivalent. For example, if you have 4 rent free weeks each year then your weekly rent amount will be multiplied by 48 then divided by 12 to get a monthly rental figure. That figure would then be used in your UC calculation.

Supported Housing

Depending on the classification of your supported housing (eg temporary/specified accommodation) then you will either receive ‘housing costs’ through Universal Credit or you will have to claim housing benefit in additional to your Universal Credit claim.

Ask your landlord if you are unsure of what type of supported housing you are in.

Service Charges

You may be able to receive housing costs for eligible service charges (eg – provision of a laundry facility or for garden maintenance. Such services must be for the use or benefit of people occupying the accommodation)

Rent liability for two homes

Housing cost support through Universal Credit can be paid on two homes in specific circumstances, such as waiting for disability adaptations to be made, or if you had to move to another property due to domestic violence.

Tenancy rights

Information on housing issues, such as problems with repairs or tenancy rights is available from Shelter Scotland.

Council Tax reduction

If you are liable to pay Council Tax then you could receive a reduction in the amount you pay. You can make your claim online.

Rent arrears and other problem debts

Our welfare rights service or your local Citizens Advice Bureau can provide you with free and confidential advice on a range of options available to you.