Universal Credit FAQs for Landlords

Many families we find homes for claim Universal Credit (UC), which includes a housing element. The housing costs are usually paid to tenants but can also be paid direct to landlords in some situations.

 

UC is for people of working age who are on low incomes or unemployed. UC encourages people to work and reduce unemployment. UC replaces benefits covering unemployment, child benefits, working tax credits and housing benefits.

Landlords can encourage their tenants to make an online application for Universal Credit (UC) as soon as they have signed the tenancy agreement. Any delay in applying will delay payment and could lead to rent arrears.

Landlords should provide the tenant with a signed assured shorthold tenancy agreement (AST). You should also write a letter to confirm the following details: name of the tenant; address of the property, date moved in, how much the rent is.

 

Include your name and contact details such as telephone and email.

Most claimants manage their benefits online, with support from a Work Coach and Case Manager. Claimants without internet access can use a library, council office or a job centre (known as Job Centre Plus, or JCP).

Approximately six weeks for the application to be processed and the first payment to arrive. However, it can take longer if any information is missing or incorrect. Capital Letters can help landlords and tenants sort out problem claims.

UC is paid one month in arrears.

Yes. Once the application is approved payments, are backdated to the start date of the claim.

The ‘housing cost’ element of UC replaces housing benefit. UC also replaces benefits covering children, employment and caring.

Yes, but it is being phased out. Some people receive housing benefits, for instance, if they are living in temporary accommodation.

UC has been set up to make payments directly to tenants.

 

However, there are some circumstances where the housing cost can be paid directly to the landlord. For instance, if the tenant has mental health problems or a history of arrears, the housing element can be paid to the landlord direct.

The tenant can make a request for housing cost to be paid directly to the landlord if they have any problems such as debt, health concerns or were previously previously homeless. They need to provide evidence to support this.

However, if the tenant already has two months of arrears, the Landlord can ask for housing cost to be paid directly to them. The request is more likely to be approved if the tenant and landlord both make a request, and Capital Letters can help with that.

Landlords are required to make an online application to request direct payment here: https://directpayment.universal-credit.service.gov.uk

 

It’s a simple application and usually takes a month for a decision.

Yes. Tenants can also request this by leaving a message on their journal to their case manager. Claimants usually know how to do this, and Capital Letters can support them if necessary.

Or the tenant can call UC on 0800 328 5644.

If tenants have rent arrears, the landlord can mention this in the online application.

If direct payment of the housing cost is agreed, UC will also recover rent arrear from tenants UC entitlement and pay directly to landlords.

No, this is discretionary, and Universal Credit decides. Landlords should not assume that housing costs will be paid directly to them when renting to families on benefits.

There is a cash limit on the total benefits a household can receive, including the housing element. The cap is the same across London and varies depending on the size of the household.

The cap can mean the rent is covered by the housing element, but the family is not left enough to live on. Councils assess affordability before properties are offered to a household affected by the cap to ensure that they are able to afford the rent and have enough money to live on.

No, unless tenants have given explicit consent on their journal stating the name of their landlord and contact number.

 

However, this consent is limited to the assessment period. Once this period ends, the tenant will have to give explicit consent once again.

 

Landlords are allowed to speak to UC if their tenant is also present.

Yes, if the tenant gives permission. Our tenancy support advisors have a lot of experience in dealing with UC and may reach a solution more quickly.