Universal Credit and paying rent

Money Advice Service

In England and Wales if you’re claiming Universal Credit and rent your home, you’ll be responsible for paying your rent directly to your landlord. If you’ve been getting Housing Benefit you might have to plan how to do this. This page tells you more about what you need to think about, including working out the best ways to pay your rent and what to do if you fall into rent arrears.

Paying your rent if you’ve been getting Housing Benefit

Get personalised help on paying your rent when you’re on Universal Credit with our Money Manager tool.

If you’re getting help with your rent now, and it’s being paid directly to your landlord through Housing Benefit, this will stop when you claim Universal Credit.

Instead your monthly Universal Credit payment will include the money for your rent and you’ll need to arrange to pay it yourself.

However, if you have significant support needs (for example, with budgeting or are vulnerable) either you or your landlord could ask for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) until you get back on your feet.

This means your rent could be:

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

In Scotland

After you receive your first Universal Credit payment, you can choose to have your housing costs paid directly to your landlord or carrying 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. You can still choose to pay your landlord yourself if you wish.

How much rent will Universal Credit pay?

Did you know?

If you’re moving from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit, you will continue to get Housing Benefit for two weeks after your UC claim starts to reduce the risk of rent arrears.

The Universal Credit housing element is designed to cover some or all of your rent payments. How much you get depends on where you live, the size of your home and whether you’re a private or social tenant.

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

Housing costs for social tenants is based on your eligible rent. If it’s decided you have more bedrooms than you actually need, your eligible rent will be reduced.

You will be responsible for using this money to pay your landlord.

If you live in social housing

If you’re living in social housing your housing association or council might contact you to let you know that you will start receiving money for your rent directly rather than having your rent paid for you.

It can take up to five weeks to get your first payment if you’re moving onto Universal Credit from existing benefits. You will have to cover your rent payments now your Housing Benefit has stopped.

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 are worried about how you’ll manage. Sorting this out early can help you avoid falling into rent arrears.

If you rent privately

If you rent privately you may have to tell your landlord that you’re moving onto Universal Credit. If you’re worried about how you’ll pay the rent, it’s really important to talk to them about what you can do until you get your first payment.

Budgeting Advances

If you will have no money at all until your first payment you can ask your work coach or the Universal Credit helpline for a Budgeting Advance, which could help with your rent until you get your first payment.

Find out more in our guide Support while waiting for benefit payments.

Watch our video – Worried about paying your rent?

Read a transcript of this video

Working out how to pay your rent

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

Use our Budget planner to work out your income and outgoings including your rent.

Make rent your top priority

It’s your responsibility to pay your rent in full and on time.

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

Move the day you 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 received 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: and 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 and sits there until rent day.

Look into opening a jam jar account: Sometimes called a budgeting or rent account – these can make it easier to manage all your bills, including your rent but there is usually a monthly fee.

Find out more about jam jar accounts in our guide Choosing a bank account for your benefit payments.

Use a prepaid card: For your spending money and leave the money for your rent (and other bills) in your bank account. Bear in mind that you will be charged fees for using a prepaid card.

Find out more in our guide Prepaid cards.

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.

Universal Credit and rent arrears

Talk to your landlord if you are having trouble paying the rent. You should:

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

This will show you are making an effort to deal with the situation and may 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 Direct Payments to be set up as part of an Alternative Payment Arrangement,

This means your rent will be paid directly to your landlord until you can sort yourself out.

Ask your work coach about Direct Payments, or contact the Universal Credit helpline.

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.

Eight out of ten people who get debt advice say they feel less stressed and anxious and more in control of their money.

Help with claiming Universal Credit

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

Telephone: 0800 328 9344
Textphone: 0800 328 1344

If you already have an online account and journal you should call the Universal Credit full service helpline on:

Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344

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

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, seek urgent advice.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

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