Social housing landlords with tenants on Universal Credit
A tenant may be able to get help with their housing costs if they are entitled to Universal Credit. Housing costs are usually paid to their landlord. Landlords will need to give their tenant proof of their housing costs. Universal Credit doesn’t pay housing costs for people in supported or temporary accommodation.
About Universal Credit
Universal Credit is a payment for people who are:
- 18 or older (16-17 in certain circumstances but under State Pension age or
- are on a low income or out of work.
It includes support for the cost of housing, children and childcare, and financial support for people with disabilities, carers and people too ill to work.
Universal Credit replaces the following six benefits and credits:
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit (rental)
If your tenant receives any of the benefits that Universal Credit replaces and their circumstances change, they may need to move to Universal Credit from the date of the change of circumstances.
People may get Universal Credit when they are in work. The amount of Universal Credit they get will be based on their circumstances, including their earnings. If their earnings go up, their Universal Credit payment may reduce or stop.
What Universal Credit means for social rented sector landlords
Money for housing costs
If a tenant is entitled to Universal Credit housing costs, this amount is usually paid to the landlord each month. However some tenants can have the housing costs paid to them.
The amount of Universal Credit your tenant receives depends on their individual circumstances. The exact amount is calculated every month and may change. This is known as the assessment period.
The Universal Credit housing costs amount for your tenant is paid per calendar month.
Tenants who can get help with housing costs
To get Universal Credit help with housing costs, a tenant must:
- pay rent for the property
- be liable for the property
- live in the property
A tenant is liable for a property when their name is on the tenancy agreement.
If a person living in a property is not named on the tenancy agreement but is paying rent to the landlord (for example, after their partner, who was the tenant, has died), they must provide evidence from their landlord which confirms that they must pay rent in order to continue living in the property.
A tenancy agreement should include:
- tenant and landlord’s name, address, contact details,
- property address
- start date of the tenancy and how long the term is for,
- amount of rent and how often it is paid,
- deposit amounts (if relevant) and
- signatures in all relevant places by all tenants and landlord (or agent)
Universal Credit doesn’t pay housing costs for people in exempt supported or temporary accommodation, for example a hostel. For more information go to: Northern Ireland Housing Executive
Help with eligible service charges
Social housing tenants could get help with eligible service charges if:
- they are liable for the service charges, and
- their tenancy agreement states that they must pay the service charges.
The service charges and cost of the service or facilities must be reasonable compared with other similar service costs in the area. Service charges the tenant can get help with include those for:
- maintaining the accommodation;
- general maintenance of shared areas;
- shared services, such as lighting and emergency lighting in communal areas; and
- specific charges for the accommodation, such as necessary domestic appliances owned by the landlord.
Paying costs for two homes
Universal Credit can pay housing costs for two homes if any of the following apply:
- a tenant is liable for a second home because they have had to leave their usual home because of fear of violence. If this happens, Universal Credit can pay housing costs for both homes for up to 12 months, as long as there is an intention to return to their original home.
- a disabled person can’t move into a new home because it needs to be adapted. Universal Credit can pay housing costs for the current and new home for up to one month, as long as the tenant can show that the delay is reasonable.
- Where a household is split between two homes because of the size of the family, it can be treated as a single home and Universal Credit will pay housing costs for both. This is not time-bound.
If someone cannot live in their home while essential repairs are carried out, Universal Credit can only pay housing costs for one of the homes, not both.
If someone cannot move into accommodation immediately because they are in hospital or a care home, then the Universal Credit housing costs can be paid for the new accommodation for up to one month.
How Social Sector Size Criteria affects money for housing costs
The Social Sector Size Criteria (SSSC) was introduced in Northern Ireland in 2017. This means if a tenant lives in a Housing Executive or Housing Association property which has more bedrooms than they need, the amount Universal Credit can pay for housing costs will be reduced.
The housing costs amount will be reduced by:
- 14% for one spare bedroom
- 25% for two or more spare bedrooms
A Welfare Supplementary Payment (mitigation) will be paid, by the Department for Communities, to all eligible tenants that are impacted by the introduction of SSSC to ensure that no household is negatively impacted.
Welfare Supplementary payments will normally be made to landlords unless the claimant has opted out of the default arrangement, and manages their own payments to their landlord.
If a tenant currently living in a home that is larger than they need, decides to move to another social sector house and they do not reduce the number of spare bedrooms, it may affect their entitlement to Welfare Supplementary Payment.
For further information see: Transfers and exchanges
Tenants moved to Universal Credit from other benefits
If your tenant moves to Universal Credit from any of the following benefits they will continue to be paid that benefit for 2 weeks after they claim Universal Credit:
- Jobseeker’ Allowance (income-based)
- Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
- Income Support
If a tenant was getting Housing Benefit just before they claimed Universal Credit, they may be entitled to an extra two weeks’ Housing Benefit when they first claim Universal Credit. It will be paid to whoever was receiving the Housing Benefit payments, usually the tenant’s landlord.
If your tenant has rent arrears, you can use this extra money to pay towards these arrears. If your tenant has no arrears they can ask you for this money (or the amount remaining after you use the extra money to pay off their rent arrears).
For support on budgeting or housing, tenants on Universal Credit can visit any independent advice office or contact:
How Universal Credit is worked out
Universal Credit housing costs are based on the claimant’s circumstances on the last day of each monthly assessment period. The first assessment period begins on the date they submit their claim. It runs for a calendar month and the claimant will receive their first Universal Credit payment seven days after the end of their first assessment period.
Future assessment periods:
- start on the same date each month,
- end on the same date each month,
- all payments will be made by the same dates each month
A claimant makes a claim on 4th of July, so their assessment period ends on the 3rd August. The claimant will get their first payment by 10th August (i.e. 7 days after assessment period ends) and their next payment by 24th August. From then on will get their twice-monthly payments by 10th and 24th of each month.
If your tenant pays rent weekly, the monthly amount for housing costs is worked out by multiplying the weekly rent by 52 weeks (to get the total paid over a year) and dividing by 12 (to get the total paid every calendar month).
If your tenant pays rent every four weeks, every month or once a year, the calculations are:
- the amount paid every four weeks is multiplied by 13 and divided by 12
- the amount paid every three months is multiplied by four and divided by 12
- annual rent is divided by 12
Universal Credit is worked out based on rent being due every week in a year. If your tenant has rent-free weeks, the monthly housing costs are worked out based on the number of weeks rent is charged for. For example, if a tenant has four rent-free weeks, so they only pay rent for 48 weeks in the year, Universal Credit is calculated as the weekly rent multiplied by 48 and divided by 12.
Changes to your tenants rent/service charges
If you know of any changes that might affect your tenant's Universal Credit payments like changes in rent and/or service charges, you can help by reminding tenants to report these changes through their online Universal Credit account. These changes could affect their Universal Credit payment.
If your tenant has difficulty managing their Universal Credit account, you should tell them to contact Universal Credit.
Further help for tenants is available at any independent advice office or by contacting:
Tenant has issue with rent payments
You should attempt to resolve any rent payment issues directly with your tenant.
If your tenant has a query about housing costs they can contact Universal Credit:
- through their online journal Sign in to your Universal Credit account or
- by calling the Universal Credit Service Centre Contact Universal Credit
How Universal Credit housing costs are paid
The Universal Credit housing costs amount is usually paid to a tenant’s landlord.
Paying housing costs directly to landlord
Landlords should use the Landlord Portal online system so payment of housing costs can be made as quickly as possible.
The Landlord Portal is a safe way of updating tenant information directly to Universal Credit.
Using the Landlord Portal
If someone claiming Universal Credit or reporting a change of circumstances declares they live in a social rented sector property, this may trigger action for you on the Landlord Portal.
If your tenant makes a claim to Universal Credit, you will be asked to:
- verify their rent and eligible service charge
- provide a breakdown of housing costs, rent and rates
The Landlord Portal will match your tenant’s property details with a landlord and the tenant will be asked to confirm you are their landlord.
If the information provided by the landlord is exactly the same as that provided by the tenant, this gives the proof required.
If the information provided by the landlord does not match that provided by the tenant, the tenant will be asked to confirm their housing costs.
Landlords can also use the Landlord Portal to request:
- an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) to allow housing costs to be paid to the landlord, and
- deductions for rent arrears (in certain circumstances)
If the Landlord Portal is not triggered, Universal Credit will request the information from:
- NIHE - by email
- Housing Associations – by post, using a Social Rented Sector form.
Tenant moves home
If your tenant moves home, the housing costs will be paid to the landlord whose details are held by Universal Credit at the end of that assessment period.
The housing costs can only be paid to one landlord and no part payments are possible. Any discrepancy in rent payment is between the landlord and their tenant to resolve.
A tenant's Universal Credit housing costs amount may not always cover all of their rent. The responsibility for rent being paid in full lies with the tenant and they should be the landlord’s first point of contact.
Landlord Rate Rebate account
Social sector landlords do not need to register a landlord Rate Rebate account online.
Land and Property Services will contact the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and Housing Associations (HAs) to confirm information about their tenants.
For information about the Rate Rebate Scheme go to: Rate rebate scheme for people on Universal Credit
Universal Credit housing costs does not include money for rates.
Paying housing costs directly to tenant
Housing costs are usually paid to a landlord. In some circumstances, tenants can get their housing costs paid to them.
However, a tenant getting Universal Credit cannot get their housing costs amount paid to them when:
- they have rent arrears
- they are repaying rent arrears
- they are repaying a benefit overpayment or budgeting loan
- they have a Social Fund debt
- they have a Discretionary Support debt
- they live in a hostel, refuge or residential care
- the Universal Credit payment is split between two members of the household
If any of these apply, your tenant’s housing costs will be paid to you.
Six months after a tenant has repaid rent they owe you, they can ask for their housing costs to be paid to them again.
Tenant rent arrears
If your tenant gets their housing costs amount paid to themselves but they are not paying their rent, you can apply online for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA), to allow housing costs be paid to you.
A social rented sector landlord can only request a deduction through the Landlord Portal, if they make the request at the same time they request an APA. Otherwise, they have to make their request with a TP1 form which is then posted to Universal Credit Freepost address.
If you do not have access to the Landlord Portal, a landlord will need to request a direct payment for housing costs using a UC 47 form
For more information on arrears, go to: Third Party Payments Creditor/Supplier Handbook.
Universal Credit overpayments to landlord
If an overpayment of Universal Credit is made to a landlord, they are responsible for repayment even if the overpayment is not the landlord’s fault.
Universal Credit will tell a landlord if an overpayment was made. Legal action can be taken to get this amount from the landlord.
Repaying an overpayment
The Department’s Debt Management team will contact landlords directly to inform them of the ways to repay the overpayment.
The available methods of payment for landlords are Cheque, BACS transfer or Bank Standing Order instalments.
Payment made to
Payment of housing costs made direct to landlord and the overpayment is due to a change of address.
Overpayment is recoverable from the landlord unless the overpayment is a result of misrepresentation or failure to disclose.
Payment of housing costs made direct to landlord and the overpayment is a result of a misrepresentation or failure to disclose.
Overpayment is recoverable from person(s) who failed to disclose or misrepresented.
Payment of housing costs made direct to landlord and payment made in excess of rent.
Overpayment is recoverable from the landlord only.
There is no time limit for contacting landlords to recover an overpayment.
- Universal Credit and information for landlords
- Landlords with tenants claiming Universal Credit
- Landlords and tenants responsibilities