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Universal credit

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universal credit

In this article

  • What is meant by Universal Credit and how it affects housing benefit
  • What housing benefit is used for
  • Who is eligible for housing benefit

Introduction

Universal Credit is a benefit that will be introduced nationwide at the beginning of October 2013 to 2017.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is basically an-all-in-one benefit that replaces the 6 following benefits:

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit

Universal Credit will be paid once per month into your bank, building society or Post Office account. The idea behind the scheme, for those receiving housing benefit, is that you pay your landlord yourself from the money that goes straight into your account. This change in the way that benefits are paid is part of a government drive to encourage people to be more independent.

Housing benefit as it is now

Housing benefit is basically a benefit that helps you meet your rental payment each week or month (or whenever it is due). It can also help to pay for service charges or to cover caretaker costs. It isn’t meant to be used to pay for heating, hot water, lighting or cooking. Nor is it to help pay for any meals or food or care/support.

It is strictly to help you pay the rent if you rent a home or if you have a lease agreement in place under a shared ownership scheme. Housing benefit cannot be used to meet mortgage payments (though you can receive assistance in other ways for this).

Who is eligible for housing benefit?

Only one person per rented household can apply and receive housing benefit, though there are other circumstances where this can be different; for example, if someone who should pay the rent can’t because they are away or in hospital. There are other conditions in place if you are a student, in prison and aged over 35.

You can receive housing benefit if:

  • You are the tenant of a rented house or your partner is
  • You are on a low income
  • You are claiming other benefits
  • You have less than £16,000 in savings

How to make a claim

Making a claim for housing benefit is fairly straightforward and can be done by applying in the following way:

  • Using a housing benefit application form or applying in writing
  • Contacting the benefits department of your council
  • Applying online if your council has a system set up

Anyone who believes they may be entitled to receive housing benefit should apply as soon as they find themselves needing financial assistance. It is best to apply as soon as possible because processing applications almost invariably takes a few weeks and housing benefit is always paid a month in arrears.

Currently, if you live in social housing your housing benefit is paid directly to the landlord, who in this case is the council.

If you are renting from a private landlord, then the benefit goes to you first and it is your job to ensure you pay the landlord. However, it is possible to have the benefit go straight to the landlord if you request it. Or alternatively the council may decide that is the best arrangement if they think it in your best interests.

An important point to remember

The council might decide you are eligible to receive housing benefit – but that doesn’t mean you will necessarily get ALL of the rent you need. As stated above, it all depends on your income and other factors. If you are in work, you probably won’t get all of the rent paid.

However, if you currently receive other benefits and live in a council house, then you usually can expect all the rent to be covered. But bear in mind that may all change when Universal Credit is implemented nationwide.

Where to go for further help and advice

You can get further assistance from the official Gov.UK website and the Shelter website has in depth information about Universal Credit which you can access here

In summary

  • Housing Benefit (and 5 other benefits) is going to be replaced by a new system called Universal Credit
  • The change occurred in Cheshire and Greater Manchester in April 2013, and will be phased in across the UK from October 2013 to 2017
  • You can still apply to your council for housing benefit via the normal methods – phone, writing or online

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