Universal Credit and rented housing: guide for landlords

Updated 13 May 2020

If you’re a private or social sector landlord you can:

  • consider how Universal Credit may impact your business
  • consider how you might need to adapt any policies or processes
  • engage with your tenants early to identify any support needs making sure they understand they need to make rent payments

Get local information and advice about Universal Credit by contacting your regional partnership manager.

Helping tenants prepare for Universal Credit

Universal Credit claimants have an online Universal Credit account to manage their claim. They use their account to report changes, send messages to their work coach and find support.

If your tenants do not have access to the internet or are not confident using a computer, their jobcentre can tell them about local services that can help.

Landlords can help tenants to get ready for Universal Credit by encouraging them to:

  • go online and set up an email account
  • open a bank account to receive their Universal Credit payments
  • know how much their rent and eligible service charges are (including rent-free weeks) and who their landlord is
  • set up Direct Debits for housing costs
  • claim Universal Credit as soon as possible to reduce the risk of their rent payments being delayed

You could use Universal Credit and you to guide your conversations with tenants.

Tenants may also be eligible for other help with housing costs.

Universal Credit payments

In most cases Universal Credit is a single, monthly payment which is paid in arrears directly into the claimant’s bank account.

The first payment is usually received one month and 7 days after they submit their claim.

Find out about Universal Credit payment dates for people living in Scotland.

The amount of Universal Credit your tenant gets depends on their individual circumstances each month. These are called ‘assessment periods’.

Your tenant’s housing support is based on their circumstances on the last day of each monthly assessment period. This means that if they are not paying rent at that point, they will not get help towards their housing costs for that month.

You should make your tenant aware of this, so they can plan to pay any outstanding rent.

The Universal Credit additional amount for housing costs helps tenants with their rent and service charge costs. Payments include all eligible housing costs.

To qualify for help with their housing costs, a tenant must:

  • be liable to pay rent for the property
  • live in the property

Private rented sector tenants

For private rented sector tenants, their Universal Credit additional amount for housing costs will be whichever is lower out of their actual costs or the relevant Local Housing Allowance rate.

Social rented sector tenants

For social rented sector tenants, their Universal Credit additional amount for housing costs will be their actual eligible housing costs. This is their actual rent and any service charges covered by Universal Credit.

Universal Credit will not provide support for personal utility costs, such as water or electricity.

If a social rented sector tenant has any spare bedrooms, their additional amount for housing costs will be reduced by:

  • 14% for one spare bedroom
  • 25% for 2 or more spare bedrooms

The amount a tenant gets will not always cover the whole of their rent

For example, if their private sector rent is more than the relevant Local Housing Allowance rate, they will need to pay the difference themselves.

And tenants in the social sector who have a spare bedroom may see a reduction in the amount they receive towards housing. They will also need to make up the difference.

Tenancy and rent evidence

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will ask the tenant or their landlord to provide appropriate evidence to support the Universal Credit claim.

Private rented sector tenants

Your tenant must provide evidence of their rent liability and proof that they are living in your property. If a tenant does not have a written tenancy agreement or a rent book, DWP may accept a letter from their landlord or letting agent confirming the current rent and service charges.

This evidence should confirm:

  • tenant and landlord’s name, address and contact details
  • address of the property
  • date the tenancy began and how long the term is
  • amount of rent and how often it is paid
  • any deposit amounts payable

Your tenant may also ask you to confirm in writing that they are living in your property if they do not have any other evidence of this.

Social rented sector tenants

If you’re a social rented sector landlord and your tenant has made a claim to Universal Credit, we will ask you to verify their rent and eligible service charges by either:

  • a Landlord Portal verification request - if you have access to the portal

  • an email to you from your tenant’s case manager asking for verification of housing costs

Notifying landlords that tenants are claiming Universal Credit

Private rented sector landlords

DWP does not have legislation to allow us to inform private rented sector landlords that their tenant has made a claim to Universal Credit.

Social rented sector landlords

If you’re a social rented sector landlord and your tenant has made a claim to Universal Credit, you’ll be notified by either:

  • a Landlord Portal verification request - if you have access to the portal

  • an email to you from your tenant’s case manager asking for verification of housing costs

This is in line with the Social Security (Information Sharing in Relation to Welfare Services Amendment) Regulations 2015 that will enable the sharing of limited relevant information with social landlords.

The supply of information and its appropriate use is governed by requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018. Social rented sector landlords will have an obligation only to use the information supplied by DWP for its specific intended purposes.

Calculating rent

Calculating monthly rent if rent is paid weekly

Universal Credit is paid monthly. If rent is paid weekly, a monthly amount will be calculated by multiplying the weekly rent by 52, then dividing by 12.

Other rent payment frequencies

Other payment frequencies will be calculated as follows:

  • 4 weekly payments are multiplied by 13 and divided by 12
  • 3 monthly payments are multiplied by 4 and divided by 12
  • annual payments are divided by 12

53-week rent payment years

Universal Credit is calculated based on a 52-week year, unless rent is charged over fewer than 52 weeks.

Rent-free weeks

If a tenant has rent-free weeks as part of their tenancy, the monthly payment is calculated by deducting the number of rent-free weeks from 52.

For example, if there are 4 rent-free weeks in a year, the 4 weeks are deducted from 52. Universal Credit will be calculated as weekly rent multiplied by 48 and divided by 12.

Tenants should be made aware of any rent-free weeks they have so that they can notify DWP, this will help to avoid confusion and ensure payments are accurate.

Service charges and Universal Credit

Any eligible service charges will be paid directly to tenants as part of the single Universal Credit payment.

Ensuring tenants are aware of what service charges are eligible for Universal Credit

Landlords in the social rented sector are responsible for clearly setting out to the tenant which of their service charges are eligible, in line with the eligible service charges regulations and guidance. The tenant will report this as part of their claim.

In the private rented sector, a tenant’s total rent is usually made up of both rent and service charges, which are not separately identifiable.

DWP will not need to collect separate service charge information for private rented sector tenants. This is because DWP will pay the lesser of the total rent or the appropriate Local Housing Allowance.

Paying rent

Ensuring that rent is paid

Universal Credit payments are paid monthly in arrears in the same way a wage is. Tenants will be expected, where possible, to arrange their own rent payments.

If landlords have previously received direct payments of Housing Benefit from the local council, they will need to speak to their tenants to agree arrangements for collecting rent from them. Setting up a Direct Debit or standing order may help your tenant manage their rent payments.

Paying rent while waiting for their first payment of Universal Credit

Many new claimants of Universal Credit will be coming from work and will be able to support themselves in the first month using their final earnings payment.

However, where needed, a claimant can ask for a Universal Credit new claim advance to help pay their rent if they cannot manage until their first monthly payment of Universal Credit.

Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs)

APAs are for tenants who have difficulty managing their single monthly Universal Credit payment or paying their rent. The landlord, tenant or their work coach can apply for an APA at the start of a claim or at any time.

The following APAs are available to help tenants who need additional support:

  • paying housing costs of Universal Credit direct to their landlord, known as a Managed Payment to Landlord
  • more frequent than monthly payments
  • split payment of an award between partners

Find out more about Alternative Payment Arrangements.

Managed Payment to Landlord (MPTL)

If a tenant experiences difficulty in managing their single monthly payment or gets into difficulty paying their rent, the tenant, their landlord or their work coach can apply for a Managed Payment to Landlord (MPTL).

Managed payments pay the tenant’s Universal Credit housing costs directly to their landlord.

A managed payment may apply from day one of their Universal Credit claim or at any point throughout their claim.  

The amount of any managed payment you receive may change from month to month depending on the tenant’s Universal Credit award, usually up to the maximum value of their eligible housing costs.

Managed payment eligibility

Universal Credit staff will consider the need for a managed payment using the APA tier 1 and tier 2 factor guidance.

The factors could include the following:

  • addiction problems
  • tenants in rent arrears
  • mental health issues
  • learning difficulties
  • previously homeless

This list is not exhaustive. More detailed information about the tier factors are in the Alternative Payment Arrangements guidance.

All APAs are regularly reviewed to ensure that any managed payment remains in the claimant’s best interest.

Apply for a managed payment

If your tenant receives Universal Credit you can apply at any time by using the Apply for a Direct Rent Payment service.

If you’re a social landlord you can also apply for a managed payment as part of the housing costs verification process, either by:

Once the application has been processed you’ll be advised of the decision. If the application is refused, DWP cannot tell you the reason why. This is because of data sharing regulations and claimant confidentiality.

How managed payments are paid to landlords

Private rented sector landlords

For private landlords, a Bank Automated Clearing System (BACS) payment will be paid into the bank account nominated by the landlord 7 days after the end of the claimants Universal Credit assessment period, monthly.

The tenancy reference provided when requesting the managed payment, or the tenant’s postcode and full name, will be used as the BACS identifier. This will appear on the payment transaction.

Social rented sector landlords

For social landlords the Third Party Deductions (TPD) Scheme will be used to pay the managed payment.

The scheme has a 4-weekly payment cycle.

Universal Credit payments are paid calendar monthly and equate to 12 assessment periods each year. This means:

  • DWP will assess what deductions (such as managed payments) can be made from Universal Credit payments 12 times each year at the end of each assessment period
  • the managed payment is paid in the TPD payment cycle following a Universal Credit payment
  • when a TPD payment cycle ends before DWP assess what deductions can be made from a Universal Credit payment, then any managed payment will be paid in the next TPD payment cycle
  • 12 managed payments will be paid in 12 of the 13 TPD payment cycles

The first managed payment from the third party payments system is normally received within 6 to 8 weeks from the date deductions start, for example, from the end of the assessment period in which managed payments began.

The managed payment is paid on the same day that landlords normally receive any third party rent arrears deductions. It will be paid into the bank account nominated by the landlord.

If you have multiple properties with managed payments, then you’ll receive a single aggregated payment for all your tenants on a 28-day cycle. A schedule will be sent to you with a breakdown of all payments.

DWP will use the landlord’s creditor reference number to pay both rent arrears and the managed payment to the landlord.

Payments will be shown as individual transactions, and will include an identifier to show whether the payment relates to rent arrears or a managed payment.

A remittance note will be sent to the landlord which shows how the payments have been broken down.

When a managed payment or rent arrears deduction is paid through third party deductions, their claimant or tenant reference number will be added to the end with either:

  • RA’ for rent arrears payments
  • MP’ for managed payments

The claimant or tenant reference number shown on the third party payment schedule are 18 characters.

To help with identification of the 2 types of payments, the tenant reference number is 16 characters long, allowing for the RA or MP suffix.

Third party payment contact centre

If you have queries about your third party payment schedule once the APA has been set up, you can contact the third party contact centre:

Telephone number: 0800 328 0128
(Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm)
Find out about call charges

Enquiring about a managed payment

In the first instance the landlord should engage with their tenant about the issue.

The tenant can use their Universal Credit online account to access and notify their landlord of any information they wish to provide to their landlord.

The tenant can share the information from their account with their landlord or other representative, if they wish to, as this contains information about housing payments made. The tenant should never share security details of their log in access to their online account with their landlord or provide the landlord with access to their online account.

The landlord must not:

  • request the log-in details from the tenant

  • make disclosing these details or allowing access to the tenant’s online account a condition of the tenancy

If more help is needed, the tenant can seek this using their journal, face-to-face with their work coach or by contacting the service centre by telephone.

For landlords, the tenant must provide explicit consent to share their personal information with their landlord or other representative. They can provide this consent using their journal, face-to-face with their work coach or by contacting the service centre by telephone on an instance by instance basis.

When contacting Universal Credit, the tenant’s representative will be asked to confirm their identity so the work coach can speak to the landlord direct. If you’re unable to engage with your tenant, you can phone 0800 328 5644.

Find out about call charges

When calling the service centre using the business as usual telephone number 0800 328 5644, the integrated telephony system will filter to an agent dealing with the claim.

These include:

  • the telephone number the tenant has registered with Universal Credit
  • their post code
  • the first line of their address
  • their date of birth

The tenant should be to hand when any representative contacts the Universal Credit service centre on behalf of the tenant they are supporting.

The Housing Queries Routeway has more information.

Get local information and advice about Universal Credit by contacting your regional partnership manager.

Recovering rent arrears from a Universal Credit claim

Universal Credit can only make deductions of rent arrears for a debt owed on the tenant’s current address. If the tenant changes address any deductions being made will end.

Arrears of rent and service charges for the property the tenant is currently living in are included in the list of deductions that can be made from a Universal Credit payment.

If your tenant has accrued rent arrears to the value of 2 months’ rent or more, you can request a managed payment or rent arrears deduction.

The maximum rate at which deductions for rent arrears can be made is 20% of the Universal Credit standard amount. This amount may differ depending on whether other deductions, or any sanctions or fraud penalties apply.

The rate used will depend on the claimant’s circumstances. Only the claimant can request a change to the percentage rate by contacting Universal Credit.

How rent arrears deductions are paid to landlords

If approved, rent arrears deductions will be paid under the Third Party Deduction (TPD) Scheme.

Creditor Reference Number

It is important that you provide your Department for Work and Pensions Creditor Reference Number (if you have one). This can be found on your last payment schedule proceeded by 5 zeros. If you do not provide this number, it can mean significant payment delays.

For details of how to receive electronic payment schedules, an information pack or further information email:

Reporting changes

Changes that might affect a Universal Credit payment

Claimants are responsible for telling DWP of any changes that might affect their Universal Credit payment. This includes things like:

  • annual rent changes
  • changes to eligible service charges
  • separating from a partner

You should encourage your tenants to report a change in circumstances, to ensure we pay them the correct amount.

Where a managed payment is in place, landlords are equally responsible for telling DWP of any changes they could reasonably know might affect the tenants’s Universal Credit payment.

Changes which may affect or end the managed payment

While a managed payment is in place the landlord must notify DWP of any changes which a landlord can be reasonably expected to know, which might affect the tenant’s entitlement to Universal Credit and the amount awarded. For example, the tenant changes address.

When a tenant changes address the managed payment will cease from the end of the assessment period before the claimant changed address

If your tenant moves home and you need to end a managed payment, contact the service centre immediately on 0800 328 5644.

Find out about call charges

If the managed payment is overpaid due to a change that has not been reported by either the tenant or landlord, the landlord may be asked to repay the overpaid benefit. Universal Credit payments are made every calendar month and take account of changes during that month.

If a tenant has earnings in a particular month that are higher than normal they may get a lower Universal Credit payment for that month. This will reduce the value of any managed payment that is in place. Or no payment at all will be paid to the landlord if the tenant’s earnings are high enough for them to no longer qualify for Universal Credit.

The tenant is responsible for paying any shortfall in their rent to their landlord.

DWP should notify you when the managed payment ends, but we cannot tell you the reason why. This is because of data sharing regulations and claimant confidentiality.

Paying for 2 homes

Support through Universal Credit can be paid on 2 homes if:

  • liability for 2 homes has arisen because of fear of violence in the normal home – in this case, both liabilities can be paid for up to 12 months as long as there is an intention to return to the original property
  • a disabled person cannot move into a new home because it needs adaptations – in this case the claimant must show that the delay is reasonable and if so, both liabilities can be paid for up to one month
  • a family has been housed in 2 homes because of the size of the family. This is not time-bound

The Universal Credit additional amount for housing costs can also be paid where someone is not able to occupy their home because of essential repairs. But this amount will only cover either the housing costs of the other accommodation or the accommodation which they normally occupy as their home (not both).

If someone cannot move into accommodation immediately because they are in hospital or a care home, then the Universal Credit additional amount for housing costs can be paid on the new accommodation for up to one month.

Specialist accommodation

Supported housing

Universal Credit does not provide housing costs support for claimants living in Specified (Supported) Accommodation. In such circumstances, claimants will need to apply for Housing Benefit from their local council for help with housing costs.

Temporary accommodation

Universal Credit does not provide support for housing costs for claimants living in local council temporary accommodation due to homelessness. In these circumstances, claimants will need to apply for Housing Benefit from their local council for help with housing costs.


You can provide feedback on the service you’ve received by using the online complaints service.

Although the complaints service refers to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Universal Credit customers, landlords can also use it to comment or make a complaint.

The complaints service will request a National Insurance number. You’ll need to enter a reference number in the format of a National Insurance number to proceed.

You can also contact us using the information contained within the Housing Queries Routeway.